For our last few days in Florence we bought a pair of 3 day ‘Firenze Cards’. These were quite expensive and so we were determined to get the maximum use of them, although I am not sure that it is actually possible to see everything worth seeing in three days, but we tried. The challenge is that there is so much there and so little time to appreciate it all!
Our guest house, Affittacamere Nel Cuore qDi Firenze, was right alongside the Palazzo Vecchio, home to the Medici family, and as such was really centrally placed for seeing the sights.
Although chilly it was really pleasant wandering around between our chosen destinations. It was also unexpectedly crowded, in March; what it would be like in the height of the tourist season I shudder to imagine. Florence is generally quite expensive but it is a University town so there are cheaper alternatives, the Central Market for one and near our guest house a series of ‘street food’ restaurants that sold enormous meat sandwiches.
The Medicis originally came to Florence from a small Tuscan village, Cafaggiolo, in the 12th century and made their money in banking. Cosimo went to work for his dad at the family bank which, by the 15th century, had branches all over Europe. This made it the bank of choice for the Papacy; local churches could easily find a Medici Bank to pay their contributions into and get it transferred to Rome! Early in his political career Cosimo was banished from Florence in 1434. He left and took his bank with him, as you do. This resulted in other financiers and artists seeking patronage following him to Venice. His banishment lasted for all of a year after which he was asked to come back, with his bank!
In 1737 the last Grand Duke of Medici descent died without an heir ending 300 years of family rule. In that time the Medici sponsored virtually every Italian scientist, artist, architect or philosopher you have ever heard of and most of the ones you haven’t; as a result the city is pretty magnificent.
Palazzo Richardo Medici
Santa Maria Novela
Santa Maria Novella
Almost every building is spectacularly decorated, with a heavy emphasis on painted ceilings; we needed neck braces after three days of looking up!
Florence Cathedral, Il Duomo
The only ‘disappointment’ was the Duomo. Externally it is a magnificent building but internally it is relatively plain, being free should have given us a clue, and we could have given it a miss and not missed a lot. The saving grace were the extensive Roman ruins in the crypt. There is a Duomo Museum which is more interesting than the actual Duomo itself!
La SS Annunziata di Firenze
The Medici weren’t the only wealthy bankers in Florence. The Pitti family were pretty well off too and had a small place, sorry palace, on the south bank of the Arno. The Pitti and Medici were not the best of friends and the Pitti were amongst those who banished Cosimo.
Almost every room was magnificently painted with ceilings to match, each one more spectacular than the last.
This is one wall and the ceiling, painted. The top of the wall is where the two spotlights sit.
The Church and Convent of Santa Croce was built in what was a poor area of Florence and is below the level of the River Arno; it floods dramatically, with water height reaching 5 metres or more.
Michaelangelo’s ‘David’ in the Academia was magnificent. We didn’t find the rest of the museum so impressive, but then we’re not art historians.
So far I think Florence was the most impressive Italian city we have visited. Rome the most historic, Venice the most romantic (I proposed to Valeria there) and Pisa the most iconic, but Florence is the one we would definitely return to. There is still so much to see.