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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 43.7687, 11.2569DAY ELEVEN (8/12) — Florence, Tuscany
"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." ~~ Michelangelo
Florence is just lovely. It's beautiful; it's dense; it's easy to find your way around. It has art; it has architecture; it has fashion.
Because there is so much to see and because I wanted to see it all, I made an elaborate plan to keep my knee from ruining my day. I popped a fistful of Ibuprofen, I wore a knee brace and I even broke out the folding cane. The trio of prophylactic measures helped me make it from 8:30 to 4:30 today. Note: The streets are mostly of cobblestone, so bring comfy shoes to negotiate the back alleys.
We started with a lecture by Rocky Ruggerio, a professor of art history from Rhode Island but now a permanent resident of Florence and faculty member for Kent State and Syracuse Universities. He was fascinating (one of our tour group – to be left nameless – said that, if all of his college teachers had been as interesting, he would have attended class more often.) Rocky pointed out that almost all the important
buildings in Florence were begun in the late 1200's, so the town is mostly medieval, despite its reputation as THE Renaissance city.
Next we visited the Accademia Gallery (first art school in Europe) where Michelangelo's “David” is housed. Wow. David is awesome and very large: 17 feet tall and 5 tons.
Our guide, Fabiana, loves her city and this statue and transferred her passion to the rest of us. Of course there was a no photo rule, but not to worry. The guards were on to me, which just made my mission more thrilling. I got a GREAT shot!
We then walked to the center of town where she explained more about Florence's glorious Duomo (Cathedral) which dominates the skyline. In the 13th century, Florence was quickly becoming the dominent city-state in Tuscany, and so the Florentines wanted to show off their wealth and power by building the greatest cathedral ever. Work on the cathedral took 170 years and three different architects: Cambio, Giotto and Brunelleschi.
The Campanile, known as Giotto's Bell Tower, is decorated with 16 sculptures, and 57 bas-reliefs. All original artwork was replaced by copies and is on display at the Duomo Museum.
Battistero Di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John),
built between 1059 and 1128, is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. The present octagon, dedicated in 1059, was where all Florentines were baptized. The building is famous for its bronze doors, which mark the birth of the Renaissance, when in 1411, Lorenzo Ghiberti won the commission to replace the gothic doors with bronze panels. Once again, the originals are in the Duomo Museum.
Fabiana then took us to the Palazzo Vecchio (City Hall), and talked us through the many famous statues there, including a replica of “David”, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna and Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Cellini.
We left our guide and followed Len to three stores that did special demonstrations for us: buying leather in Florence, introduction to Florentine gold and jewelry design (The Gold Corner), and an olive oil, vinegar and wine tasting. All stores offered discounts to Tauck participants. We bought a reversible leather belt for Patrick and a beautiful white gold necklace for me, which sparkles like the noonday sun.
Lunch was at Finisterrae, a Mediterranean restaurant on the Piazza Santa Croce. It was very nice.
We were then released to explore Florence on our own. We decided
to visit the Basilica of Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church here. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli.
There is a straw market and a flea market where bargains can be had … but not on the designer brands that this city is so famous for. One, Salvatore Ferragamo, has offices in a 16th Century castle and there is a fascinating shoe museum with 10,000 pairs of shoes that some in our group visited and loved.
We were on our own for dinner tonight and tried for a reservation at Il Latini that Kit Daniher, Sylvia McLaughlin and Siobahn Brace all recommended. Unfortunately, they were closed for vacation.
We met Doug and Patty Halvorsen and walked a short distance to 13 Gobbi (13 Hunchbacks), the concierge's recommendation for a restaurant. We sat in a porch area and had some tasty food. We wandered several blocks in search of gelato, but alas, no luck. We retired with only Michelangelo to fill our hearts and souls, and no gelato for our stomachs.
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