Thursday, September 4, 2014

Florence: at the feet of the Masters

We have been saving Florence because it was the most beautiful of the places we visited. We were completely overwhelmed by the craft and care that had gone into every part of this Renaissance city. We already know we will have to post another blog for more details on church interiors and gardens.

Even before we arrived in the city proper, a long avenue of well-kept shrubs and walls of vertically growing greenery advertised the Florentine's dedication to beautiful environments.

San Miniato al Monte

Overlooking the private cemetery and Firenze

Our whole family in front of San Miniato al Monte

The first place we visited was the Basilica of San Miniato. From the courtyard we could see the whole city, with the Duomo presiding over it.

The impressive Romanesque facade of the basilica.

The mosaic depicting Christ between the Virgin and St. Minias.
The inscription reads: S. MINIATUS REX ERMINIE.

The inside of the basilica is kept dark to preserve the paintings and mosaics, some of which date back to medieval times: the mosaic was created in 1260 by an unknown artist but the floors and screened pulpit were done earlier in 1207.

The older streets of Florence are so narrow that the blue sky overhead resembled another street, reflecting the one we were walking down.

We shuffled along the long queue of art lovers waiting to get into the Galleria dell'Academia and pay our homage to Michelangelo's David. Photos are not allowed in the museum which was alright since no photo can ever truly capture the magnificence of the art or the colossal timelessness of David's beauty.

Outside there were endless interesting details to record out on the street.

Queues at the Galleria dell'Academia
Galleria dell'Academia Entrance

Many of the apartments in the older part of Florence still have their gorgeously painted ceilings.

Others have decorative letterboxes or hooks of wrought iron outside.

It was worth it to see David and the four roughly-carved 'Slaves' that gave such insight into Michelangelo's process.

Of course in this day of crowd sourced opinions, the tourists had to have their say somewhere, and we found many reactions to the art (some of them unprintable) scrawled on walls and even the museum toilets.

We walked along the Arno, where people were sunbathing on the narrow banks, and got a look at the Ponte Vecchio, the crowded bridge that used to be a thriving jewelry market in the Renaissance.

The Arno River
View of the Ponte Veccio from the Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Public Art

Along the way we passed by several shops selling gelato (we tried the tiramisu) and chocolate bars carved with David's likeness. There were even mini statues made of chocolate!

But the main attraction was the Basilica di Santa Maria di Fiori - the Duomo. This building is a masterpiece of architecture and most of the techniques used in building it were invented by Filippo Brunelleschi.

Basilica of St. Mary of the Flower

Giotto's Campanille

Baptistery of St. John

The nearby Baptistery is famous for its bronze doors by Pisano and Ghiberti.

Interior of the dome.

Giorgio Vasari begun this fresco in 1568 but it was to be completed by Federico Zuccaro in 1579.

Piazza della Signoria and the Loggia

The Loggia dei Lanzi is not as impressive as the churches and palaces of Florence, but we were just as excited to get there to see another David. Here's a video link that shows the piazza's perimeter.

Fountain of Neptune

Repro of Michaelangelo's David and Bandinelli's Hercules with Cacus
Donatello's Judith with Holofernes

Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabines guarded by local carabinieri.

There is a replica David in his historical spot outside the Palazzo Vecchio, but we were much more interested in the famous bronze of Perseus with Medusa's head by Benvenuto Cellini.


When I was just a wee wonder woman, I loved to read Greek mythology, and one of my favourite pieces of art in the world was that statue. Cellini loved it just as much - he nearly beggared himself to make it, sacrificing his own furniture as kindling to melt the bronze.

We were so happy to stand under that statue together. It was the best part of our first joint trip to one of the most inspiring cities in the world.

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