Visiting Florence – what an experience. Two days only gave us time to visit the highlights as there is so much to see. I tried to give an overview of what we were able to take in, but the photos definitely do not do it justice. It actually was so overwhelming that we split up our visit here with a day in between as a “down” day doing our regular chores such as provisioning as it was a sensory overload in Florence the first day. It worked out well with giving us a break so the 2nd
day back was just as enjoyable as the first.
Florence was close enough to where we were staying with Tsamaya that we were able to easily get there by train, a type of travel that we never tire of. Europeans are fortunate to have such extensive train systems and we try to take advantage of it as much as we can.
When you approach the area where the Cathedral and Baptistery is located you are first impressed with the polychrome marble panels made up of green, pink and white marble, it is quite unique. The stone statutes and the mosaics seem to
The Florence Cathedral - An Impressive Sight
with its green, pink and white marble exterior
pop out next at you. With the baptistery and the Cathedral located so close together as well as the crowds that surround both make it somewhat difficult to get a good view of it as you have to keep looking up to see many of the details. Even with that the more you walk around it and look at the details, it impresses you even more. The first day we were in Florence the crowds were almost overwhelming, but fortunately we had much less of a crowd the second day giving us a better look at the details.
The Cathedral was started in 1296 and not completed until the dome was in place in 1436. The dome was a challenge in itself with it taking 16 years to complete. The octagonal design choice for the dome was made in 1296, but the designer had not yet figured out how to construct it as no external buttresses were planned to prevent it from spreading and falling under its own weight.
The Italian Renaissance was definitely marked by this idea of not having the typical Gothic flying buttresses that had been used in the past. The buttress was not only
viewed as “ugly” by Italian architects, it actually was not allowed in Florence as it was the style used by the northern enemies of Florence. For ideas of how to build it they looked to the Pantheon in Rome, but that had used a central support system while the concrete was curing. This could not be used as that would have rendered the Cathedral useless during that time as well as due to the size of this dome there was not enough timber to build the scaffolding. The dome was to be 144 feet across and start at 171 feet above the floor. The final solution was developed by Brunelleschi by using arches for support with internal horizontal stones and chains to link together to create the “barrel hoop” to keep the dome from spreading. He also used brick for the dome as it was a lighter weight material and could be formed easier than stone. In order to lift the materials which included 4 million bricks he had to also invent hoisting machines. His structural innovations as well as these lifting machines were Brunelleschi’s chief contribution to architecture. A lantern was installed at the top of the dome which
has a bronze ball and cross which brings the total height of the Cathedral to 375 feet. Leonardo di Vinci was an apprentice in the workshop of del Verrocchio who had the commission for the bronze ball at the top of the dome. It appears that Leonardo was impressed by the designs of the hoist that were invented by Brunelleschi and took sketches of them which seems to have given Leonardo credit for them. Impressive indeed!
When you enter the Cathedral the high arches are what strike you as you also realize that they also serve as an important structural feature that was used to help with building the dome.
With our limited time in Florence it was hard to decide which museums to limit ourselves to after seeing the Cathedral and the Baptistery. We finally decided on two, the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Museum of Opera del Duomo.
We had booked a reservation before coming to the city at the Galleria dell’Accademia as we knew that the statute of David by Michelangelo was located there as well as numerous others that we wanted to see. David was created between the years of 1501 – 1504 and
stands 17 feet tall. It was originally to be one of a series of statues to be located along the roofline of the Cathedral, but instead was placed in a public square near the seat of government in Florence. David, a biblical hero, embodied for Florence the defense of civil liberties as Florence was an independent city-state with rivals on all sides. The beauty of the statute cannot easily be described and you stand in awe as he appears so realistic that you could imagine him walking off the base that he stands on. The amazement is further enhanced when you stop to think that this was created out of a non-forgiving material, marble.
The penitent Magdalene sculpture by Donatello also is located in this same museum. It was a little unusual in that it was carved from wood, while many of the others here were of stone. This sculpture was thought to be commissioned to be housed in the Baptistery, but fortunately for us it has been preserved in the museum for us all to admire.
There is a section of the Galleria dell’Accademia that contains musical instruments from the Grand Ducal collection. There were the instruments
that most would recognize such as the harpsichord and violin, but there were a few unusual ones that we hadn’t seen before. Music played an important role in the everyday life of the Medici court and this part of the museum let you in on the history of this part of their culture.
The Museum of Opera del Duomo was started in 1891 in order to house the works of art removed from the Cathedral and Baptistery in order to preserve them from any damage they might receive. They did an excellent job of creating an area that duplicated the courtyard between the Cathedral and Baptistery in order to display the artwork where they would have originally been located. In this way we were able to see the original Ghiberti bronze doors that he created for the Baptistery and the numerous statutes that would have been placed in locations not easily accessible to see in detail. The curator of this museum has done us all an excellent service in providing us a glimpse at what it would have looked like with the original artwork in place.
We didn’t actually go through the Bargello Museum which is known for
The Cathedral Made of Marble is Covered
with examples of craftsmanship in the stonework
its display of sculpture and was established in 1859. Here you could view works by well known artists such as Donatello, Ghiberti and Michelangelo as well as others that you may or may not have recognized. We felt we were on a sensory overload and were also running out of time as we explored a few other places in the city as well. We had read that the entrance of this museum is through an impressive courtyard with a central fountain, mosaics and intricate stonework columns and that you were welcome to see the courtyard even if not planning on going through the museum. We found out that the building is one of the older ones in Florence built in 1255. In the 16th
C. it became the residence of the head of the police and in the 18th
C. it was a prison so has seen numerous uses over the years.
We are finding that when visiting a city such as Florence with its wealth of cultural sites to see we would rather take our time with each museum rather than race through many so we can just check it off a list of places seen. This
system works well for us with breaking up our museum visits with wandering the streets of the city to get a flavor for it. One place that we had heard of was the Ponte Vecchio, the medieval bridge that was originally built over the Arno River back in 1218. It was the only bridge across the river at that time, but a flood damaged it so the current bridge is from 1345. During WWII this is the only bridge that the Germans that were retreating did not destroy, but they blocked crossing it by destroying buildings on each side of the bridge.
The bridge is somewhat unique in that it still has the small shops on either side of the bridge. They originally were run by the butchers, fishmongers and tanners, but with the waste going into the water it wasn’t the most pleasant of places therefore in 1593 Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers could operate in these shops. Today the shops that line each side offer jewelry and other fine gold and silver pieces. If you wish to buy jewelry while in Florence you will definitely have to check out the Ponte Vecchio.
is hard to do Florence justice in photos or in a blog write-up as it has so much to offer in history, artwork and overall beauty. We only had 2 days to spend in this wonderful city, but could easily have used more time so if you find yourself in Italy, be sure to put Florence high on your list of places to visit.
Tot: 0.055s; Tpl: 0.021s; cc: 8; qc: 24; dbt: 0.009s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb