Burra had visited Florence previously in the 1920s while his sister was studying art at a finishing school and went back to visit his friends, the novelist Jennings Rice and his wife Marie, in September 1965, when the present work was painted. Distant View of Florence is typical of Burra's later work as he increasingly favoured large-scale empty landscapes.
Andrew Causey comments, 'Burra's isolation of houses and farmsteads as tiny white spots on a hillside or flat plain defined in effect the cultivated, civilised world as a series of enclaves in the midst of boundless nature. Even if the lonely farmhouse can be seen as a metaphor for the condition of the individual in an unfriendly world, it does not imply that Burra necessarily sympathized with the Romantics' sense of nature as a divine manifestation, and landscape therefore as a bridge between man and cosmos. Burra clung to reality, painful though it was, rather than engage in building cosmologies he did not believe in, and landscape remained for him ... a place of last resort for the disenchanted' (op. cit., p. 78).
The reality that Burra depicted in his paintings, however, has a strangely unsettling effect. Distant View of Florence is peopled in the foreground by a strange gathering of other worldly figures, including an accusatory group who point at a cloaked figure emerging from the forest.