History and art in Florence

By now you may be wondering if we spent any time at all in Florence with all the day trips we had been doing.  Since it was our home base, we managed to squeeze in some sightseeing after our excursions to Pisa and Sienna but we hardly did the town justice.  A case in point, we stayed across the street from Santa Croce Basilica and didn’t have time to visit it!

As you probably know, Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area.  Florence is famous for its history and is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.  It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982, and it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, due to Florence’s artistic and architectural heritage.

The best-known site of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo, whose dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi. Some 600 years after its completion, the Duomo is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world. The cathedral has an imposing presence in the centre of the historic district. When we entered the cathedral, the sombre notes of an organ echoed throughout the cathedral.  While I loved the exterior of the Duomo, the interior was a disappointment for me.  Sure it was huge and had some beautiful mosaic pictures on the walls, but the overall architecture was just not very inspiring, at least not to me.  I still can’t say whether or not the music, which I must admit was a nice touch, was live from the huge organ or whether it was just piped in, no pun intended.

A visit to the Uffizi Gallery marked our last afternoon in Florence.  Imagine, for centuries, people have been walking the hallways I was standing in, admiring the very paintings I was admiring.  Next to each painting, after the artist’s name, title and date of the painting, was the date the painting was acquired by the museum.  I was intrigued to see paintings that had been acquired as far back as the 16th century and as recently as the 1970’s.  As for the art, well I think Sonja summed it up rather nicely:  “If I see one more painting of the virgin and baby, I’m going to scream!”  Yes, the renaissance artists loved this theme and we saw it repeated in room after room.  This was the first museum where I have seen paintings represented in relief format next to the original painting for the visually impaired.

My favourite part of the gallery was the temporary exhibit of tapestries that left me perplexed as to how it could be possible to create such magnificent masterpieces on the loom.  One tapestry was hung backwards to demonstrate the original, vivid colors which had long since faded from the front.  Much effort and expense is expended annually to restore these beautiful pieces of art to their original glory.

We elbowed our way through hordes of tourists and tour groups in the museum.  You could barely move without bumping into someone.  I hate crowds like that, especially in a museum because it is so difficult to see anything (notice the crowds in the photo above).  Florence in general was inundated with tourists.  I shudder to think what it is like in the middle of summer at the height of the tourist season.  No wonder the locals flee the cities to escape the heat and crowds.

“Pinocchio”, a classic of children’s literature and Italy’s second most read book after Manzoni’s “The Betrothed”, was written by Tuscan writer Carlo Lorenzini who was born in Florence in 1820.  He wrote under the pen name of C. Collodi and the story was first published in Rome in 1881. Naturally, there is an abundance of shops selling everything imaginable with a Pinocchio theme.  While very touristy, Sonja and I found this particular shop (photo above) to be very charming, filled with hand made wooden Pinocchio paraphernalia.

Sonja, posing with the artist of the artwork she bought.  
The Duomo is in the background.

Sonja’s photo – she was obsessed with bikes – and
had lots of photo opportunities to indulge her passion.

Our time in Florence was far too short, as there was much more to see.  I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to visit the Accademia Gallery where the original “David” sculpture by Michelangelo was on display.  I guess we’ll have to go back one day.

Category: Europe, Italy
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3 Responses
  1. Marc says:

    Hi guys,

    Florence was one on my favorites too when we were there about 20 years ago. Two of your pictures are the same ones we took back then! The facade of the Duomo (except ours show the scaffoldings and renovations that were under way back then) and the photo from the side, showing the copolla. Did you climb to the top? Hope you did, the climb is narrow and sinuous through the copolla’s inner walls but the view of Florence’s red tilled roofs is pretty breathtaking, much like in St-Peter’s in Rome!

    We didn’t the chance to visit the Uffizi but we did see Michaelangelo’s David and it is a matserpiece! You are right about going back, Italy has so much too offer you just can’t take it in in one trip!

    It’s still fun to read you and see the wonderfully pictures (great job on the Gallery!)

    Take care and happy trails

    • christina says:

      Hi Marc,
      It’s been a while since I heard from you – hope all is well with you and your family. We didn’t climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence because it was raining all the time. Now that you mention what a great view it was, I regret we didn’t do it anyways. When we went back to Siena, I made a point of going to the top of the clock tower for the view, and we’re glad we did because the views were fantastic and probably quite similar to what we missed in Florence. So thanks for the tip!
      Take care,

  2. sonja says:

    reading the posts is bringing back all the awesome memories of our trip. Can’t wait to read about the rest of our trip 🙂