Having grown up hearing and then later read “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, Florence was one of my places to visit before I die.
And one could not be blamed if they thought they had died and reached an art lover’s heaven in Florence!
And then to find myself in the same frame as David! So what if it’s a copy: one can’t photograph the original. That is captured by the mind and kept in my memorable memories)
We I had booked a walking tour and it was led by an excellent guide : an art student earning some extra pocket money.
Alternatively you could buy a Firenze/ Florence card and for 50 EUROS which is a 72 hour card that gives you free admission to the major museums in Florence. You will have access not only to permanent collections, but also to exhibitions and all other activities held in that museum without further cost.
The first thing we saw was Il Duomo : a magnificent church which dominates Florence.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.
Description courtesy: Wikipedia
Built by Filippo Brunelleschi who won the competition for its commission in 1418, the dome is egg-shaped and was made without scaffolding. The raising of this dome, the largest in the world in its time, was no easy architectural feat.
The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
The exterior walls are faced in alternate vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble from Carrara (white), Prato (green), Siena (red), Lavenza and a few other places.
The painted dome .The biggest artwork within the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9): they were designed by Vasari but painted mostly by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari by 1579.
The sinners tumbling into hell
The octagonal Baptistry stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza di San Giovanni, across from the Duomo cathedral and the Giotto bell tower (Campanile di Giotto). It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built between 1059 and 1128.
The entrance called the gates of Paradise because of their fine carving by Micheal Angelo can be seen in the background.
In Dan brown’s latest book, Inferno, it plays a prominent part as Dante was baptised here.
From here we proceeded to Piazza della Signoria. This is indeed an art lover’s Paradise with magnificent sculptures on display, including a copy of Micheal Angelo’s David.
David was originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Il Duomo. In fact because it was to be viewd from below Micheal Angelo prroportioned it in such a way that it would look normal,the figure has an unusually large head and hands. What a pity that would have been, as it may never have got the kind of attention perfection like that deserves.
However, instead of being put up on the roofline of the cathedral,the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504.In 1873 the statue of David was removed from the piazza, to protect it from damage, and displayed in the Accademia Gallery, Florence, where it attracts many visitors. We managed to go in to the gallery.Tickets are hard to get in the season and I had booked it online a month before we were to visit. I was spellbound by the perfection of the human form in stone. The statues eyes were looking towards Rome with a warning in them and because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defence of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family.
A replica was placed in the Piazza della Signoria in 1910, which is the one in the photograph above..
Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio. It is the focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political hub of the city
Entrance of the Palce flanked by the magnificent statue of David and Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus is the town hall of the city. This massive, Romanesque fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the square with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy, and it host cultural points and museums. The palace also plays an important role in Dan brown’s latest book Inferno.
Lunch in the Piazza del Signoria
The Loggia dei Lanzi consists of wide arches open to the street, three bays wide and one bay deep. The arches rest on clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The wide arches appealed so much to the Florentines, that Michelangelo even proposed that they should be continued all around the Piazza della Signoria. The vivacious construction of the Loggia is in stark contrast with the severe architecture of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is effectively an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art including the Medici lions.
Benvenuto Cellini’s statue Perseus With the Head of Medusa
One of the many exquisite staues in the Loggia dei Lanzi
Bartolommeo Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus on the left and Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women on the right
The fountain of Neptune was commissioned to built as a tribute for the marriage of the second Grand Duke of Tuscany Francesco I de’ Medici to the Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria. The assignment of building this fountain was given the famous Renaissance sculptor Bartolommeo Bandinelli, but shortly after he had finished a model of the fountain died. The job of creating the fountain was quickly given to the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati and his assistant Giambologna.
The sculptors of this fountain paid great attention to detail as well as significance when building this fountain. They made the figure of Neptune the Greek God of water have the face of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de’ Medici. The reason they choose to do this was to portray the ruling power of Florentine people over the sea.
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Byzantine Pagliazza Tower, the oldest building still standing in the historic center of Florence. In the XII century it was used as a women’s prison, hence the name “Pagliazza” which derives from the beds of straw of the prisoners. Today it’s a restaurant :Santa Elisabetta Restaurant in Hotel Brunelleschi.
The famous bridge over River Arno. Once a meat market now a jewellry market.
The emblem of the powerful Medici family which ruled over Florence and can still be seen in many houses in the city.
The Granary or Orsanmichele is famously known for the sculptures of saints placed in the niches or tabernacles on all four sides of the church by the various guilds of Florence.
We also visited the famous Uffizi Gallery and spent quite a few dumbstruck moments in front Of Botticelli’s ‘birth of Venus’ but unfortunately no photography is allowed.
I couldn’t visit the Vasari corridor or the Pitti palace but then maybe , next time InshaAllah