Few Things are Better than Florence

May 5, 2010

My Italian vacation continued with 2 days and 1 night in Florence, where I soaked in sunshine while doing a power-art tour! I said goodbye to Mom on Wednesday morning and then took a train, arriving in Italy’s most famous artistic city just in time for lunch. Wandering through Florence’s easy to navigate streets I chose a random little tourist café where I enjoyed a good (but expensive) lunch of bruschetta and caprese salad between a table of French tourists and an American family, so I felt doubly at home. And what a shock to notice halfway through lunch that the building across the street were the Medici Chapels, home to some very famous Michelangelo sculptures!

Pinocchio's on the street

Being a solo tourist is an interesting thing-on the one hand it’s nice to see what you want to see, stop when you want to stop, and go for as long as you want to go without having to ask anyone’s opinion. But it’s also sad to see amazing things and then turn around to find nobody to share them with. However, I was fortunately not alone for dinner at night, since Elizabeth, the daughter of a neighbor from the U.S, is studying abroad in Italy for the year, and she invited me out to a birthday party at a restaurant with all of her friends, and in addition taking me out for gelato the next afternoon. We had so much fun, and it definitely made the trip a lot more fun!

Church of Santa Maria Novella

Florence is one of my top cities in Europe. I loved the feeling in the streets, I loved that it was easy to walk almost everywhere in 30 minutes or so, I loved that in spite of its small size it is packed with some of the world’s most famous and beautiful architecture and art objects, and I loved all of the sunshine!

The one thing I didn’t love was how expensive it was to see every museum, gallery, and even church, but seeing Michelangelo’s David in person was well worth whatever I paid-the price is already forgotten, but the memory of seeing the David is still giving me goosebumps! I saw the original-now inside of the Galleria dell’ Accademia-before seeing the copy that stands in the original location, the Piazza Della Signora. There is no comparison between the two. Maybe it was the lighting in the Accademia, or maybe it was Michelangelo’s personal touch, but if you ever go to Florence-pay to see the original!

The one good thing about the copy is that you're allowed to take pictures of it

Besides having the David and a host of other Michelangelos and the like, Florence is home to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Titian’s Venus of Urbino, both of whom are located in the Galleria Uffizi, and both of whom are more extraordinary than any reproduction prepared me for-if you don’t recognize them from the names, type them in online-they are two images that have been reproduced, parodied, and widely disseminated throughout western culture (my favorite painting, Manet’s Olympia, is a direct play off of Titian’s Venus of Urbino).

Cellini's 'Perseus and Medusa' in the Piazza Della Signora

There are no corresponding pictures for much of what I am talking about, but the problem is that photographs were not allowed in most of the museums and many of the churches, so you get Cellini instead of Titian and Botticelli. Not that Cellini isn’t wonderful, but Medusa’s bloody severed head isn’t quite as lovely as the 2 Venuses. But c’est la vie!

The Cathedral of Saint Maria del Fiore and the Duomo however, (usually collectively referred to as the Duomo) did allow pictures, and the building was astonishing! I came upon it by accident, which happened to me a lot in Florence, and it is the most beautiful surprise, sort of like seeing someone really famous in person, except better, because beautiful buildings and artwork are much less likely to disappoint!

The pink and green façade

Giotto's Bell Tower

Part of the dome

The outside of the building is like something made out of candy-it’s the biggest white, pink, and green building you ever saw, and it stands out from the rest of the city in several ways; partly because of the colors, but also partly just because of sheer size! The photographs here don’t really show how massive and impressive it really is, the Duomo takes up an enormous amount of space, and every inch of it is so Italian…I think it’s all the colored marble.

Part of the marble floor

Some of the interior-all that could fit in my camera lens!

It may be a tourist spot, but it is still a holy place first

The next thing after seeing the interior was braving the 463 steps to the top of the cupola, which was exhausting, but worth the climb. The view from the roof was even prettier than the view of Rome from Saint Peter’s in my opinion, mostly because of all the red roofs and green hills!

When you're about halfway up they reward you by letting you stop and see the inside of the dome from up close

Picture taking exchange at the top! The German couple did a good job I think

Yes, Florence is my favorite

The other building located by the Duomo is an incredible Baptistery, where Dante was baptized, and where you can see Ghiberti’s golden doors of paradise, so named by Michelangelo who thought them lovely enough to suit that purpose. The mosaics on the inside are also breathtaking-but then again, what in Florence isn’t?

Gates of Paradise

I could tell you much more about the other places I visited and the other masterpieces that I am still dreaming about, but then I’ll never get to the part about Venice, so I’ll leave you for now with the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge covered in gold shops and jewelers, just as the Medici ordered!

One of only 3 bridges in the world that has shops on it!



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