Spotlight on Florence, Italy


             Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and once one of the most powerful city-states in Italy, may have more Art per acre than any other city in the world. Ruled by the powerful Medici family, patrons of the arts, for hundreds of years, the city became the home base for icons of the art world such as, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli, etc. Much of their art remains on display in this wonderful city.

            The Duomo of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, has one of the most beautiful and most recognized exteriors in the world.  Its Brunelleschi Dome was the largest, built without scaffolding, in the world when it was completed in 1463. It has become a symbol of the city with its red roof and distinctive shape.  The outside of the church itself is covered in pink, green and white Tuscan marble.  Many statues adorn the facade. Unfortunately, the Piazza in front of the Duomo is crowded and narrow, preventing visitors from getting a more distant perspective.  Immediately across from the Duomo entrance is the Baptistry, with its beautiful, Ghiberti bronze doors (on the North and East sides of the building).  The panels depict scriptural subjects, such as, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, etc.  Inside are colorful mosaics. 

            The Piazza della Signoria is a spectacular example of the incorporation of great art into a public space to make it more than special.  There are three notable statues in the square:  1. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambologna, 2. Perseus, by Cellini, and 3. a copy of the David, by Michelangelo.  Bordering the piazza is the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence, with its imposing bell tower, a landmark of the city’s famous skyline, and the Neptune Fountain. What a fantastic environment in which to have lunch or a glass of wine or beer al fresco!.

            Beside the palazzo is the famous Uffizi Gallery. The Degli Uffizi contains the greatest collection of Italian paintings in the world.  The lines can be incredibly long and slow-moving, so make reservations ahead of time.  Inside the Uffizi, marvel at the beautiful frescoed ceilings of the hallways, and enjoy the great art of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotti, Raphael, Titian, and others. 

            Must sees include the Botticelli room with his Birth of Venus, and Michelangelo’s Holy Family.

            To the west of the Duomo is the church of Santa Maria Novella, with its distinctive, striped exterior.  Also check out the interior of the Gothic structure which dates to around 1300 AD. 

            Continue on to the river for some shopping on the Ponte Vecchio, a covered bridge over the Arno which is lined with shops. It is the oldest (1345) surviving bridge in the city and another symbol of Florence. 

            Another famous house of worship is the church of Santa Croce which, besides another gorgeous marble façade, and some beautiful artwork, such as frescoes by Giotto and a chapel dome by Brunelleschi, contains the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli,  and other notables.   

            Another of the must-sees of the city is housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia.  Here visitors will experience the true impact of Michelangelo’s original David, one of the most important sculptures in the world. The David is extremely tall and imposing, on a large pedestal, and one marvels at the detail, such as the toenails, and the veins of the wrist. This statue stood in the Piazza della Signoria until 1873 when it was moved indoors to the museum for safe-keeping.


            Gary’s Gem:

                        1.  The third David sculpture is displayed at the Piazzale Michelangelo, across the River Arno, south of the city.  Besides the presence of the sculpture, the spot provides a postcard view of Florence’s skyline and is a favorite stop for tour buses on their way into or out of the city.
                        2.  I have a great walking tour of the Renaissance city, posted on 9-8-08, in the archives.


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