Day 4: Firenze (Florence)

28 Jul
Hello! Welcome back to the Travel channel, better known as this here blog. Sorry I didn’t get this post up yesterday, but while writing these posts and all the Flickr info is fun, it is really very time consuming.

As a reminder, I finally have the Flickr set up for both Trastevere & the Vatican and the day trip to Florence. Find those pictures here.

At about 7:30 am we boarded a train to Florence. The trip took about an hour and a half, and the surrounding countryside was beautiful! Florence is definitely at a higher elevation – our ears kept popping as we climbed through the country side.

We arrived around 9, and immediately started out to explore the city. Florence is much smaller than Rome, so one or two days is more than sufficient to see most of the highlights. One of which was right across the street from the train station, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. The build was begun in 1279 and finished in 1348. The structure has a very gothic look, and the bell tower was done in the Romanesque Gothic style in 1330. The facade was being cleaned, so we have no pictures of it, but it is similar to the facade of Santa Croce and the Cathedral of Florence, pictures of which are further down the page. The facade was remade between 1456 and 1470.

Unlike our days in Rome, we had no plan our outline of what we would do that day, so more than anything, we wandered around and stumbled upon great pieces of architecture. I’ll show you some of my favorites here, but be sure to check Flickr for many more pictures, and for some views of the city from one of the highest points, Piazzalo Michelangelo.

As we began to wander, one of the first things we stumbled across was this church, the church of San Lorenzo. This is the oldest church in Florence, as it was originally consecrated in 393! It was rebuilt in 1060, and again in 1423, which is the structure seen here. The facade (the left of the picture) is one of the most simple that we saw. Michelangelo had designed a marble facade for the church, but its construction was never carried out. Its simple exterior belies its grand interior, which houses a number of sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello, as well as some beautiful paintings. Unfortunately, it was closed when we arrived.

We could see the bell tower of this next church from quite farther away. This is the Cathedral of Florence, and a number of pictures of both its exterior and interior are in the flickr set. I think the people in the foreground give a nice idea of the scale of this building! And if you look to the left of the picture, you can see where the cathedral almost ends. The structure, its interior, and its exterior are the result of a collaboration of a number of artists over centuries. A church had originally stood on this site from the 4th to 5th century. However, in 1296, work on this new cathedral began, resulting in the demolition of the old church to make way for this one. That demolition raised the ground by over 2 meters, requiring that some of the work on the cathedral had to be torn down and redone! Finally, it was finished and work on the dome began in 1420, finishing in 1436. So, it took 140 years to finish the Cathedral of Florence.

The exterior is comprised of marble of various shades of pink and green bordered by white. All over are life sized sculptures (look under the main rose window) and twisted columns. It is more elaborate than this picture can begin to show. Inside the Cathedral are some amazing works of art on walls, floors, and ceilings. The dome is covered in a beautiful painting of the last judgement, sculptures, frescoes, and paintings adorn the walls, and the floor is covered in intricate tile work. One of the paintings on the walls was Dante Alighieri by Michelino, painted in 1465. Essentially, it depicts the Divine Comedy (see the 7 levels of hell in the background there?).

We then crossed the Arno River by way of Ponte Vecchio (which translates to Old Bridge). Florence’s oldest bridge, the actual 3 arch structure has remained unchanged since it was built in 1345. Buildings were added on either side much later, and are filled with shops. We did some window shopping and some real shopping as well! The bridge is reserved for foot traffic only, making it a very quaint and charming part of the city.

Another interesting place we visited was Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace, very creative name). It was originally built as a fortress with work begun in 1294. It is now a museum, with exhibits consisting of the great art within the structure. Rooms were painted and frescoed by numerous artists. In fact, the main courtyard was frescoes with Views of the Austrian Cities by Vasari on the occasion of the wedding of Francesco de Medici (who owned the building at the time) with Joan of Austria in 1565. The square surrounding the palace was full of its own artwork, the Fountain of Neptune and a statue of Cosimo de Medici are here, as well as the Loggia. The Loggia is a gothic structure that houses some great sculptures depicting acts of greco-roman mythology, some of them by some very famous artists.

The last church we visited was the Church of Santa Croce. Built in the 13th century in a fairly Gothic style, the neo-gothic facade was added in the 19th century. Like all the other churches, this one boasts some beautiful artwork by famous artists. I can’t remember if it was open to the public when we arrived, but at any rate, we had seen enough churches by this point in our journey that we were okay with not going in this one. I have to admit, though, that the beauty of these old churches is dampened for me by the addition of these facades. The facade just seems too ornate for this and the Santa Maria Novella. GP really liked them, though, so I guess it’s all just a matter of taste!

After having seen our fill of churches and palaces (several not mentioned here can be found on flickr), we got in line to enter the Galleria dell’Accademia. We waited in line for about an hour and a half simply to see this:

Michelangelo’s David, and arguably the greatest sculpture surviving. Pictures were forbidden here, and security was actually running around telling people off for taking pictures. But I didn’t care, seeing as how this is at the top of my”things to see before I die list” and it’s not a painting. So I blocked the camera from site and GP snapped a few pictures.

Sculpted from a single block of marble – a single block! The whole thing is one big piece! – it took 3 years for Michelangelo to complete (1501-1504). He stands 17 feet high, and is perfectly proportioned. I have no idea how long we stood staring and saying things like, “look at how perfectly he got the shoulder” “look at the kneecap” “you can see all the tendons and ligaments in his feet!” If you’ve ever taken an anatomy class, you can appreciate the work it took to make a solid piece of marble look like it was cast from an actual human body. I can’t even begin to describe how perfect it is.

GP admitted to me afterward that, unlike myself, he was never a great fan of sculpture. That is, until he saw the David. Now he is a converted man.

Tune in tomorrow, folks, for what will be the last edition of Rome by Blog. Our last 2 days were spent exploring the ancient ruins of Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli and the ancient Roman Forums (you know, Julius Caesar and all them) and the Coliseum. I’m combining them into one post because I’m lazy and because I am tired of sitting in front of the computer for so many hours a day.

Until tomorrow then, Ciao!


One Response to “Day 4: Firenze (Florence)”

  1. Elke July 28, 2007 at 9:08 pm #

    I know it’s a lot of work to compile these entries and photosets. Thank you for taking the time to share a taste of Italy with us.

    My question is, when did you do the research for these entries? Were you studying these structures before you left, did you get all the information when you were in Italy, or did you do your reseach after you got home? The posts & picture captions are so informative – I’m really enjoying them!


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