Friday, June 29, 2007

Firenze - The City of Flowers

Florence, Firenze, the city of flowers, greeted us upon our arrival the Sunday afternoon around 1:00 PM, 30 minute hour late (Italian trains aren’t known for always being on time) with a downpour of rain. We had an hour to kill before we had to meet the lady to give us our keys to the apartment. We had lunch at the train station to wait out the rain, bought some umbrellas, and walked the 10 minute walk from the station to our apartment on Borgo Ognissanti in a light drizzle. The apartment was much better equipped for tourists than the one we had in Rome. By the time we unpacked, the weather cleared and we went downstairs and bought the necessary groceries and then we started out to explore Florence.

Florence is a city that oozes old age and is famous, not only as the birthplace of the Renaissance, but also for all its well known personalities that were born or worked here during the ages: the Renaissance artists Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, the poet Dante, the De Medici family that ruled here for more than 2 centuries, the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, and many more. We stopped at the Church of Ognissanti, fondly called the Jewel of Florence, just down the road from our apartment, to view some frescoes. The church was first completed in 1250 and totally rebuilt in 1627 in a Baroque style, and boasts works by Botticelli, who is buried inside the church and known for his Primavera and Birth of Venus (which we would see during our visit to the Uffizi Museum) and Ghirlandaio, who was Michelangelo’s teacher.

From the church we walked all along the Arno River, which dissect the city into a north and south side, to the Ponte Vecchio, the famous Florentine bridge built in 1345 and the only bridge in Florence to survive the bombing of World War II. Ponte Vecchio is not your normal bridge. Along one side of the bridge is a row of gold and silver jewelry shops and along the other side, the Vasari Corridor, built by the de Medici to allow for free movement from their home, the Pitti Palace to the government palace, Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi. Click here and follow the path of the Vasari Corridor by viewing the photos. We crossed the bridge, ate some gelato on the south side of the river, then meandered back towards the marketplace on the north side where they sell locally made jewelry and quality leather goods. (Florence is famous for its leather goods and specialized, high quality paper.) Monica bought herself some ear jewelry while I browsed the curios and leather goods. We promised ourselves to come back during the next 3 days.

We let ourselves get lost in the narrow streets, ancient buildings, and incredible architecture, much of it dates back to the 1400 and 1500’s. We were hoping to get to the Duomo, but it was getting late and most of the churches close at 7 PM. We ended up in the massive square, the Piazza della Signoria, the gathering place for citizens of Florence since the medieval times, where the Palazzo Vecchio (the Old Palace) and the Loggia dei Lanzi (an open air sculpture museum) and Italy’s most famous and most important art museum, the Uffizi, are located. Also in this square is where Michelangelo’s original David use to stand before it was moved to the Galleria d’Accademia. Today a replica of the David stands in front of Palazzo Vecchio.

After viewing all the sculptures in the loggia we sat on its steps, amazed at the scene around us and just took it all in. You can look at as many pictures or TV programs you like, but I don’t think you really know what places like Florence would be like before you actually see and comprehend it with the combination of the panoramic view of the human eye and interpretation of the human mind. We decided to make the best of the environment and atmosphere on the square and had dinner on the terrace of Ristorante “Il David”, located on the square next to the Piazzo Vecchio. On our way back from dinner we were at the place the tourist’s books will tell you to be: Sunset at the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio.

Monica with the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in the background.

The crowds on Ponte Vecchio. Top left is the Vasari Corridor and on the right are the jewelry shops. Monica is the blond with the pink rugsack and her back to the camera on the right.

The Loggia dei Lanzi on the Piazza Della Signoria.
The Loggia Sculptures: Jean de Boulogna's The Rape of the Sabine Women. The amazing thing about this sculpture is the fact that it was created from a single block of marble. The detail work on the sculpture is absolute magnificent.

The Loggia Sculptures: Benvenuto Cellini's bronze of the mythical Greek hero Perseus with the head of Medusa. Cellini worked for nearly 10 years on this sculpture.

The Palazzo Vecchio, the old Palace. It was originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the ruling body of medieval Florence. At the entrance of the 13th century palace is Michelangelo's David and on the left of the picture is the Fountain of Neptune.

Monica at the foot of Michelangelo's David at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio. This is a copy. The original is at the Galleria d'Accademia.

The entrance hall of Palazzo Vecchio.

Sunset over the Arno River.

Andre standing at the window of our apartment looking down at the busy street below.

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