Florence Journals

Florence, Birth-Place of the Renaissance

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A March 2008 trip to Florence by Liam Hetherington

Piazza della Signoria Photo, Florence, Italy More Photos
Quote: Florence has one of the most remarkable legacies of any city. An artistic and philosophical melting-pot, it gave the world the renaissance.

Florence, Birth-Place of the Renaissance

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Overview

Framing the Dome Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
The Renaissance, the 'Re-birth', was a great flowering of knowledge. Artists, writers, thinkers and rulers diverted their gaze from static church dogma, and looked once more to the greats of antiquity. The poets, philosphers and sculptors of classical Greece and Rome came once more to the fore (hence 're-birth'). Mythological scenes appeared in paintings, humanistic thinking checked papal power, columns of all three classical orders started to decorate architecture, the Medici Venus was held up as the epitome of beauty and grace. Some historians date the birth of the renaissance to one place, and one date - 1401, and the public competition to design the new east doors of Florence's Baptist...Read More

Palazzo Vecchio

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Attraction | "The Civic Heart of the Florentine 'Republic'"

Palazzo Vecchio Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
This building, a high, thin, crenellated stone keep topped with an elegant tower (the Torre d’Arnolfo) has had many names over the years. Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo Priori, Palazzo della Signoria, Palazzo Ducale; it only became known as the Palazzo Vecchio (‘Old Palace’) in 1549 when the Medici decamped to the Palazzo Pitti across the river. It still keeps much of its 15th and 16th decoration, despite its current use as the seat of the town council, and its use for six years as the home of the young Italian state’s Chamber of Deputies and Foreign Ministry.A visit to the Palazzo Whateveritsnameis is interesting rather than essential. I have to say I did not feel as though I learnt a...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza Della Signoria
Florence, Italy 50122
+39 0552768325

Piazza della Signoria

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Attraction | "Ars Gratia Artis"

Piazza della Signoria Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
The endless parade of art that is Florence continues outside the museums in the Piazza della Signoria. This square is like an open-air art gallery. It is as fine a civic diplay as you could ever hope to see. A reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ stands just outside the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio. The original was set up here to celebrate Florence’s vistory over tyranny (eg the Medici). The original now stands in the Accademia, and costs €6.50 to view. Personally I’d advise you just to stick to viewing its identical simulacrum in situ for free. He is flanked by a copy of Donatello’s ‘Marzocco’, the heraldic lion. Adjacent to this is the raised Loggia dei Lanzi, or Logg...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Piazza della Signoria
In Front of the Palazzo Vecchio
Florence, Italy

Uffizi Gallery

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Attraction | "Do not Miss the World's Foremost Repository of Renaissance Art!"

Uffizi Gallery Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
The Uffizi is one of the world’s greatest repositaries of art, no question. The jackdaw collection of the Medicis whose offices (‘uffizi’) these were, it is particularly rich on medieval works and is THE place to see the explosion that happened here in Florence, known as the Renaissance. Perspective and realism were signs of renaissance art, vigorous signs of movement, the incorporation of Greek and Roman mythology, breaking away from the static, formal, posed figures so characteristic of Byzantine (and Sienese) iconography. While it ranks up there in the pantheon of the world’s great...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Uffizi Gallery
Piazzale Degli Uffizi, 6
Florence, Italy 50122
+39 05523885

Museo del Bargello

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Attraction | "The Brilliant Bargello"

Museo del Bargello Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
At only €4.00, the Bargello is one of the better deals in town. A surprisingly large museum devoted to statuary and objets d’art hived off from the Medici bequest that formed the basis of the Uffizi collection it is certainly much better value than the scanty Accademia. From the exterior it is an unpreposessing fortress of a building. Until 1502 this was the seat of the town’s governing magistrate or Podesta. In George Elliot’s ‘Romola’ the heroine’s kindly godfather is executed here, accused of plotting the return of the Medici. The building served as police headquarters and prison until Florence’s assimilation into the Kingdom of Italy. The visitor enters into a tall courtyard emblazone...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Museo del Bargello
Via del Proconsolo, 4
Florence, Italy 50122
+39 0552388606

Santa Maria del Fiore & Baptistery (Il Duomo)

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Attraction | ""Brunelleschi is Magic""

Santa Maria del Fiore & Baptistery (Il Duomo) Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
The ensemble of the Piazza del Duomo is stunning. It is weird to think that the cathedral’s distinctive frontage was not completed until the 19th century. I found it hard to imagine it without the green banding you see down its length, and which reflects and echoes that on the Baptistery and on the campanile. The main structure of what you see though dates from the original plans (though with some later modifications) by Arnolfo di Cambio; the first stone was laid on this work in 1296. It was designed as a show of one-upmanship against rivals Pisa and Siena. And when completed in the 15th century this church was the largest in Europe, ‘broad enough to cover with its shadow all the peoples of Tu...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Santa Maria del Fiore & Baptistery (Il Duomo)
Piazza Del Duomo
Florence, Italy 50122
+39 055294514

Campanile di Giotto

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Attraction | "Florence from on High"

Campanile di Giotto Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
A reflection of duomo and baptistery, the thin and spindly campanile is lovely. A puzzle of white arches, green banding and red lozenges, it is a wonderful symmetrical upended cuboid. Work was commenced on this bell-tower by the artist Giotto, better known for his frescoes. You can climb the campanile between 8.30 and 6.20 daily. I arrived fairly early in the morning, only some 45 minutes after it had opened, which meant that the usual queues were not in evidence. I paid my €6.00 and started to climb. The stairs here are considerably steeper than those up to the cathedral’s dome, a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Campanile di Giotto
Piazza Duomo
Florence, Italy 50122

Baptistry (Of Saint John)

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Attraction | "Paradise in the Piazza del Duomo"

Baptistry (Of Saint John) Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
The Piazza del Duomo presents a harmonious ensemble, all green and white marble. Yet it is with the Baptistery of San Giovanni that this fashion originated. The Campanile’s green banding was designed to match that of the Baptistery; the octagonal dome of the duomo was designed to reflect the octagonal form of the Baptistery. This is the oldest building in the Piazza. Indeed, it is the oldest religious building in Florence.€3.00 to enter is well-worth the outlay. Inside golden bands of Byzantine-style mosaics ring the dome, with a Last Judgement over the ‘apse’. Hell here is depicted with a central squatting Satan. Like the Lucifer I had seen that morning at Pisa’s ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Baptistry (Of Saint John)
Piazza Duomo
Florence, Italy

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

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Attraction | "The Duomo's Treasures"

Quote:
If you are unable to get a good look at Ghiberti’s Gates Of Paradise due to the ever-present crush of tourists, you can see the original panels – and not the 20th century copies that now take their place – in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The Museo is located on the eastern flank of the Piazza del Duomo and is housed in the very building where Michelangelo carved his famous ‘David’. Of that artist’s work, here you can see his ‘Pieta’. This is a sculpted group of figures, centred on the body of Christ brought down from the cross and his mother’s grief. Michelangelo found fault with it obviously, and he attacked it in an artistic tantrum. Jesus’ leg is still missing, although a later scu...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Piazza Duomo
Florence, Italy 50122

Basilica of Santa Croce

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Attraction | "Florence's Pantheon"

Basilica of Santa Croce Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
Santa Croce is my man. This Franciscan basilica is located in a low-lying district formerly home to lower-class artisans to the east of the other attractions of Florence. Yet a visit is highly recommended. The piazza out front (constructed to hold overflow from church services) is a lovely old thing, full of life. It is here that the games of Calcio Storico (a kind of medieval football match) take place in summer. With sparser crowds than the Piazza del Duomo, Piazza Santa Croce wins the prize for best square in town. (It’s only serious rival is Piazza della Santissima Annunziata; spotlit at night, its daytime aspect is spoiled by wheely-bins and tramps). The church has a distinctive frontage, ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Basilica of Santa Croce
Piazza Santa Croce
Florence, Italy 50122
+39 055244619

Galleria dell'Accademia

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Attraction | "Fame Out of all Proportion to its Worth..."

Quote:
The Galleria dell’Accademia is well on the tourist trail. It houses possibly the most famous sculpture in the world, ‘David’, fashioned by the then 29-year-old Michelangelo Buonarroti.I found that not having pre-booked was not an issue when I visited the Accademia. To be honest, I didn’t think there was an awful lot there for your €6.50. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is of course the star attraction, a huge block of a man. It towers to the roof of the gallery, over five metres tall. But… and here’s where I can get into trouble… while I can recognise that this massive sculpture is of course a masterpiece, with such well-defined musculature and veinage, I have to say… it really isn’t ...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Galleria dell'Accademia
Via Ricasoli 60
Florence, Italy
055 238 8609

Cappelle Medicee

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Attraction | "Who Says you Can't Take it with you?"

Cappelle Medicee Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
The only two places in Florence where I was particularly vexed by queues were the Uffizi, and the entrance to the Cappelle Medicee, or Medici Chapels. Events constantly conspired against me visiting them. I had read in no less than two sources that the chapels were open until 16.50. That’s fairly early, so I didn’t try to visit them on my first two days in Florence. I made for them on my third day, but stopped for lunch first. Well fed and watered I finally reached the plain and otherwise unadorned entrance beside the Basilica of San Lorenzo, only to find that they do not close at 16:50. They close at 13:50. Ten minuted before I reached there (if only I hadn’t stopped for lunch!). So I thought ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

Cappelle Medicee
Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini
Florence, Italy
+55 294883

San Miniato al Monte

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Attraction | "A Pleasant Walk and an Amazing View"

San Miniato al Monte Photo, Florence, Italy
Quote:
I think that if I were to recommend just one thing to any visitor to Florence it would be to pay a visit to the little church of San Miniato al Monte. I care not whether you are in town for a month or a day – go. It contains no great renaissance work of art, it is not architecturally ground-breaking, it has very little historical import. Yet it is a pretty little thing: one guide describes it as ‘the finest of all Tuscan Romanesque basilicas… one of the most beautiful churches in Italy’. Even better, it is from here that you get THE classic view over Florence. I had originally set off through the tight-packed crowds jamming the Ponte Vecchio. I could soon understand why one friend h...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 10, 2008

San Miniato al Monte
Via Monte alle Croci, 34
Florence, Italy 50125
+39 0552342768