Tag Archives: Florence

Florence

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!

Palazzo Vecchio

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.

Room of Cosimo il Vecchio
Room of Cosimo il Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio
Ceiling panel of the Audience Room
Ceiling panel of the Room of Cosimo il Vecchio

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!

Mural depicting Cosimo returning to Florence after being exiled for a year
Mural depicting Cosimo returning to Florence after being exiled for a year
Ceiling of the Chapel of the Priors, Palazzo Vecchio
Ceiling of the Chapel of the Priors, Palazzo Vecchio
Audience Chamber, Palazzo Vecchio
Audience Chamber, Palazzo Vecchio
Ceiling of the Audience Room
Ceiling of the Audience Room
Uffizi Gallery
Ufizzi Gallery. Four corridors lined with sculptures.
Ufizzi Gallery. Four corridors lined with sculptures.
Painted ceiling in the Gallery
Adoration of the Magi – 1487 – Domenico Ghirlandaio. Ufizzio Gallery
The Holy Family with Infant St. John the Baptist, known as ‘Doni Tondo’ – 1507 – Michaelangelo. Ufizzi Galery

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
Chapel ceiling, Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
Chapel ceiling, Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
Sala Luca Giordano, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Sala Luca Giordano, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Santa Maria Novela

Santa Maria Novella
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
Duomo main facade
Decoration above main door of the Duomo
Decoration above main door of the Duomo
Dome of the Duomo
Roman mosaic beneath the 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
La SS Annunziata di Firenze – not much from the outside …
Nave

Palazzo Pitti

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.

Palazzo Pitti from the Giardino Boboli

Almost every room was magnificently painted with ceilings to match, each one more spectacular than the last.

Sala dell'Iliade
Sala dell’Iliade
Sala di Marte
Sala di Marte
Sala di Apollo
Sala di Apollo

This is one wall and the ceiling, painted.   The top of the wall is where the two spotlights sit.

3D painted ceiling
Santa Croce

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.

Santa Croce
Tomb of Galileo, Santa Croce. The Galileo Museum has an awesome collection of old scientific instruments
Altar
Apse, behind the Altar

 

 

 

Convent of Santa Croce
Flood heights as recorded in the Cenaloco Refectory
The Academia

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.

Michelangelo's 'David' - apparently carved from a scrap lump of marble ....
Michelangelo’s ‘David’ – apparently carved from a scrap lump of marble ….

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.

First day in Florence

Piazza di San Firenze
Complesso di San Firenze

Tuesday, the 20th, was our first full day in Florence and we went for a wander to get our bearings.

Cathedral Bell Tower

Although Florence is a maze of narrow streets these suddenly open out into large piazzas allowing you to actually stand back and see the monumental architecture, not always possible in other places!  Once you get your bearings navigating between the churches and palaces is not too difficult.

San Lorenzo Cathedral
Upstairs at the Central Market is a ‘Food Court’; great selection of food at reasonable prices, so good we ate here twice.
Ponte Vecchio – Old bridge with new boutique jewellery shops each side of the road
Ufffizi Gallery from the south side of the river
Copy of Michaelangelo’s ‘David’.

Without our Firenze Card at this point we decided to head for the free stuff, of which there is not a lot.   The most obvious is the Piazzale Michaelangelo on the south bank of the river offering spectacular views across the city.   There is also the Abbey of San Minato al Monte above the Piazzale.  The facade is impressive but the interior not so much.  We also followed a recommendation for a restaurant and had dinner in the Trattoria La Casalinga – the meals were great and the fillet steak was excellent!

The tower of the Palazzo Vecchio dominates the skyline
View from the Abbey steps
The Abbey facade.
Valeria making new friends everywhere!

So with an better idea of what to see and where to see it we decided to take Wednesday and Thursday to see some of the countryside around Florence and then dedicate the weekend to seeing the city itself.

 

Arriving in Florence

We left Lugano on Monday, 19th March on the train to Florence having planned a week in an Air B&B guest house in the centre of town.   We knew there was a lot to see there but now, having done it, realise that is a massive understatement.

Ponte Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio from the end of our street!

Normally I like to find out a bit about the history of the places we visit, but Florence is all history, masses of it.   All I can honestly remember, other than it was of Roman origin, is that Cosimo Medici, 1389-1464, the Father of the Nation, founded the Medici dynasty; there after it is a blur.   The Medici family ruled here for centuries and were so rich they couldn’t store all their money and so had to build palaces and cathedrals, collect statues and art and endow artists and scientists instead.  Possibly an overstatement but the Medici appear to have funded the Renaissance.

River Arno

We bought ourselves Firenze Cards, which are 72 hour passes giving access to all the museums and monuments and each one was grander than the last.  But I get ahead of myself.

We arrived on Monday afternoon and with our planned bus stop programmed into Google Maps set off from the train station …. into a building site; the bus stop was under a large pile of bricks!   We managed to find the temporary stop and then caught the small electric shuttle bus that runs around the tiny back streets of the city.  These buses might be environmentally friendly, but they are the most uncomfortable vehicles in existence.   They have elliptical wheels, no suspension and run on cobbled streets.   It dropped us off a short walk from our Air B&B, on the top floor of a building right alongside the Palazzo Vecchio.   It was quirky place but ideal for our needs and it was entirely central.

Il Duomo

With 7 days in town and the Firenze Card only lasting 3 days we decided to reconnoitre on Tuesday, take a bus tour into the Tuscan countryside on Wednesday, and on Thursday, the best forecast weather, a day trip on the train to Cinqueterra, 5 coastal villages in a National Park near La Spezia.   On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we would ‘do’ Florence on the Firenze Card before catching the over night bus back to Roccella.