“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” – Henry James
What does sculptor Donatello, painters Rafael and Michelangelo, Amerigo Vespucci the explorer, Niccolo Macchiavelli the philosopher, Galileo Galilei the astronomer, Florence Nightingale the famous revolutionist in the field of nursing and haute couture fashion designers such as Guccio Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, and Salvatore Ferragamo have in common with Leonardo da Vinci? One word – Florence! They are famous artists and celebrities came from or made Florence their home.
We arrived in capital city of the province of Florence and the Italian region of Tuscany in a gloomy morning and started our tour on a walk from Florence’s Humanist Academy where Michaelangelo (statue of David, ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) studied. Touring Italy made me get more acquainted with famous Renaissance artists’ names far from that of teen-age mutant ninja turtle’s characters I grew up with.
A few minutes stroll more we arrived in Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Our Lady of the Flower), the main church of Florence, Italy. Also known as Il Duomo di Firenze dedicated to Saint Reparata, a virgin martyr denounced as a Christian during the times of persecutions. She was tortured and thrown into a furnace but miraculously survived the flames. She refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods and the Romans beheaded her. You will never miss this humungous church of Florence seeing it standing in a gloomy and Smokey morning was like a dream or a travel back in renaissance era. A prominent on the back wall of the cathedral’s interior was a clock. Paolo Uccello designed this twenty-four hour clock. Paining’s on it depict four male saints. The clock actually works, and its hands run in a “counter clockwise” direction.
Florence’s cathedral ranks as the 3rd largest in terms of length of the church’s nave Christian church in the world. The largest is St. Peter’s in Rome, and second is St. Paul’s in London. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and nearly 140 years in the making from September 8, 1296 to the consecration on March 25, 1436
In a few steps that sits directly in front of the Il Duomo stood Florence’s Baptistry, a Romanesque (late Medieval) structure, is an octagonal structure. The Baptistry is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were done by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the “Gates of Paradise”.
A few meters away were a market or the Il Porcellino (Italian “piglet”) is the local Florentine nickname for the bronze fountain of a boar. We were asked to rub it’s snout for luck.
Near the market was, Ponte Vecchio (Lovers’ Bridge) The Ponte Vecchio is the only bridge in Florence that survived World War II. Hitler said it was too beautiful to destroy. This medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. The Ponte Vecchio’s two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alle Grazie. Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw away the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. 5,500 love padlocks affixed to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge were removed by the city council. According to the council the padlocks both pose an aesthetic problem as well as scratch and dent the metal of the bridge. Today, there is a hefty penalty to all who are caught locking or attaching anything to the Ponte Vecchio. These days, lovers simply come to the famous bridge and simply touch the remaining padlocks that have not been removed.
Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square) the civic centre of Florentine life where large naked statues displayed and surrounded by other important buildings: the Loggia della Signoria and the Palazzo degli Uffizi on the south side, the sixteenth century Palazzo degli Uguccioni on the north side and the Palazzo del Tribunale di Mercanzia (about 1359) on the east side.The David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) by Michelangelo was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus (1534) to the right of the David were appropriated by the Medici to show their physical power after their return from exile. The Nettuno (1575) by Ammannati celebrates the Medici’s maritime ambitions and Giambologna’s equestrian statue of Duke Cosimo I (1595) is an elegant portrait of the man who brought all of Tuscany under Medici military rule.
St. John is the patron saint of the city, known as the birthplace of the Renaissance due to Florence’s artistic and architectural culture thus, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.The saying goes that all roads lead to Rome, but the Eternal City wasn’t the first city to have actual roads. In 1339, Florence became the first city in all of Europe to have paved streets. What are the chances that Florence experienced two floods on the same date of November 4 one on 1333 and 1966.
Never in my life I have imagined that one morning I will have a stroll in the cultural epicenter for Early Italian Renaissance art. I felt blessed, the tour doesn’t cover this city but we went anyway even for half a day.