Another satisfying popular history from Hibbert in which a mass of historical fact is simplified but not distorted; where there is a neat chronology of major personalities and events; and the timbre of the times is indicated by highlight references to contemporary arts and letters. The Medici on the whole are a much more attractive lot than say the warrior Sforzas or the fevered Borgias, and the quasi-republican government of Florence in the 13th and 14th centuries, along with the increasing political sophistication of the Papacy, provided both the freedom and a power base for these remarkable, relatively stable and shrewd mercantile bankers to maneuver with stunning effect. Hibbert sketches out the careers of the great Medici -- the first Cosimo, whose impact on foreign policy reflected the Florentine bent for juggling alliances to avoid, rather than promote, conflict which might endanger the city; Lorenzo, another brilliant diplomat, who brought the Papacy decisively under Medici control; Hero, who fled before the army of Charles of France in 1494; two Medici Popes, etc. Along the way Hibbert reviews the family's contributions as patrons of the arts; and the appendix supplies notes on buildings, sculpture and painting as well as a complete listing of Medici portraits. The power struggles within and without Florence, isolated phenomena like the ascendency of Savonarola, and processions -- formal grand appearances -- are all introduced with discretion and some panache. Ideal for the serious tourist and helpful for amateur Florentine enthusiasts.