Thursday, October 25, 2012


The Ponte Vecchio and other bridges crossing the Arno
Florence!  Started as a Roman colony in 59 BC, by the thirteenth century Florence was a powerful city with wool and textile trading and a powerful banking business. The Medici family, who became bankers to the Pope, held the power in Florence for three centuries beginning with Cosimo de' Medici.  The Medici family were powerful patrons of the arts who turned Florence into Italy's cultural capital.  Today, Florence has the best Renaissance art in Europe.

Take a look at the Ponte Vecchio above.  It was built in 1345 and has always been lined with shops. Originally they were butcher shops that used the Arno River below to dispose of their waste. In 1565 the Medici family built the red-tile topped corridor over the bridge from their palace across the river to their offices on this side which now is the Uffizi - Italy's greatest art gallery. This walkway was lined with Medici portraits and provided a private and comfortable walkway for the Medicis to get  to work.  After it was built the butcher shops left and the gold and silversmiths moved onto the bridge - and they are still there today.

We arrived in Florence at about 9 in the morning and hurried to the Uffizi.  We had tried to reserve advance tickets, but were unsuccessful.  When we arrrived at the Uffizi we saw - lines, loooong lines.

We found out that the museum was opening about two hours late because of a meeting discussing a possible strike.

  So we waited.....

and waited.......

and waited.....

For three hours - and finally we staggered into the museum!  And just as our group was allowed entry, a couple of women who had not been waiting in line tried to sneak in with the rest of us.  Needless to say, a large group of us started  yelling at them and they moved back.

I have to say, the wait was worth it - the art was breathtaking!  I almost cried when we went into the rooms with the Gothic altar pieces - amazing.  There was an entire room of Botticelli's including The Birth of Venus. There were works by Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian, and Michelangelo.  It was an incredible experience!

We had a nice lunch at the restaurant on top of the Uffizi and I was able to take these pictures of Florence landmarks:

The Palazzo Vecchio - town hall

A peek at the Brunelleschi's famous dome on the Duomo 

Giotto's bell tower

 After lunch we wandered out of the Uffizi and into the Piazza della Signoria.  This is where the Palazzo Vecchio is located.  Michelangelo's David was originally going to be placed on top of the Duomo, but later it was decided to place it here in this Piazza.  It stood here until 1873 when it was removed to the Academia.  Today this copy stands where the original stood.

      In the Loggia dei Lanzi located in this same Piazza we saw Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women.

 And this statue by Cellini of Perseus holding the head of Medusa

Here are Bob and George standing in front of the Neptune fountain.

Next we walked over to the Duomo - Florence's most famous symbol.  The Duomo was built before they knew how to make the dome.  There was a hole in the roof awaiting the technology to built a dome to span the space.  Brunelleschi responded to a call by the city to reward anyone who could find a way to build the dome - and here is the result - the first Renaissance dome.  There are actually two large domes - an inner dome and an outer dome.  

The pink, white, and green marble facade of the Duomo was added in the 19th century.  

Compared to the very busy exterior of the church, the interior actually seems quite plain.

And here is the interior of the dome.  The fresco is of the Last Judgment by Vasari.

After touring the Duomo, we took at look at the baptistery.

There are three sets of doors leading into the baptistry, but the most famous are the gilded doors done by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Michelangelo called them the "Gates of Paradise."  The doors on the baptistery are copies, and the actual doors are in the Duomo Museum.  They have only recently been put back on display after a restoration and we were delighted to see them!

Joseph sold into slavery

Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden

 Next to the Duomo is the bell tower designed by Giotto.

Finally, we visited the Duomo Museum.  It is a treasure house filled with items that were once in the Duomo.

Model of the dome

Donatello's Mary Magdalene

A della Robbia terra cotta

And this wonderful choir loft by Luca della Robbia

Finally, there is this unfinished pieta by Michangelo.  It was done very late in his life and it is thought that he carved it for his own tomb.  The figure at the back is widely believed to be a self-portrait.  Michangelo was not happy with the work and smashed off Christ's arm.  His students rescued it and replaced the arm.

Our day in Florence came to an end before we had time to see Michangelo's David at the Academia, but George and I were able to spend part of another day in Florence on our way back from Tuscan hill towns and did get in to see David.  Amazing!

We also spent time in a very old garden in an attempt to escape the Florence crowds.

Done in 1545 - we think maybe they haven't had much time to weed it since!

My souvenir from the garden was about 20 mosquito bites - ouch!

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