Friday, July 22, 2011

Exploring Florence

My favorite Italian city, after Rome, has to be Florence. This place is pure Renaissance and one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. Nine years ago when I was here, circumstances beyond my control (pouring rain, long lines, limited time) crushed my plan (and a little bit of my soul) of visiting David, so I was ecstatic to finally see him on this trip. In fact, the night before we visited the Galleria dell'Accademia, I cried a little bit in my bed thinking about finally being able to see him in the flesh, so to speak...

We started our trip back in time to Renaissance Florence by visiting Santa Croce, begun in 1294. On the outside, this is a pretty unassuming building in Florence, as beautiful as its marble facade is (above). But inside, it's pretty much the Westminster Abbey of Italy and home to the tombs of some of Italy's most famous men--Machiavelli, Dante, Galileo, and Michelangelo, to name a few. The church also has beautiful frescoes by Giotto, who is often called the father of modern painting--his use of perspective was ahead of its time, he combined portraiture and landscape in totally new ways, and he was one of the first artists to use blue to color the sky. Giotto's pictorial decoration aimed to instruct the poor/illiterate on redemption and the lives of the saints. There are also beautiful stained glass windows and altarpieces inside the church.

Central nave of Santa Croce...

...with its beautiful Gothic arches.

This is Michelangelo's tomb, designed by Vasari in 1570. No big deal. The bust is a portrait of Michelangelo and the three sculptural figures sitting around the tomb represent Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, since Michelangelo did it all.

Inscription on the tomb.

These are two frescoes by Giotto, the Apparition of St. Francis and the Death of St. Francis. It's hard to capture the solemn intensity of these frescoes, but they were so beautiful and moving.

Hayley and I spent a lot of time in this square, just hanging out and watching people. One of the things I enjoyed about Florence was that although it was full of people and gearing up for a big holiday in honor of the city's patron saint (St. John), it never seemed uncomfortably crowded, intimidating, rushed, or overwhelming. In Venice and Rome, personal space was often nonexistent and an elbow might have been jabbed into a rib cage here or there as we fought our way through churches or museums. But Florence encourages relaxing and wandering. There are only a few main squares and they're all close to each other, so meandering around the compact city is easy.

Anyway, this square is called Piazza della Signoria. There are statues all over the square commemorating the city's history. The statue above is the Fontana di Nettuno, a fountain of Neptune surrounded by water nymphs.

This is Cellini's Perseus and Medusa.

Don't get too excited just yet...this is a copy of David. But this is where the real David originally stood until 1873.

Our first night in Florence, we had a delicious pizza dinner. (Oh, and that's Diet Coke, in case you're wondering.) Our second night? McDonald's!

This is me trying not to have an excitement-induced seizure in front of the Uffizi, the most amazing museum in Italy. The paintings here are unbelievable and so, so famous--Titian's Venus of Urbino, Caravaggio's Bacchus, and of course, Boticelli's Birth of Venus and Primavera, just to name a few. I had the best time here.

This is the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, built in 1345. It crosses the Arno River and is lined with shops. Most of them sell gold jewelry.

I felt like I was in medieval times on this bridge with its flags. It was so cute.

Ponte Vecchio. (Gosh, I love shutters.)

This is the marble facade of the front entrance to the Duomo. The exterior of the Duomo reminds me of the facade of It's a Small World at Disneyland. I don't know if that's tragic of kind of funny.

The orange-tiled dome of the Duomo is the symbol of Florence, and the city's tallest building. It was designed by Brunelleschi.

In front of the Duomo.

From left to right is the Baptistry, the Duomo, and the Campanile (bell tower), designed by Giotto in 1334.

Just some cool, giant, awesome looking doors on the side of the Duomo.

These are the famous east doors of the Baptistry. Why are they famous? I'm so glad you asked...

Andrea Pisano had made a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistry in 1300-1330, but in 1401 sculptors were invited to compete in making a second pair of doors. This was pretty much the first public competition in the history of art! And the winner was...Lorenzo Ghiberti! An impressed Michelangelo called them the Gates of Paradise. The perspective and detail used in each panel is incredible. Each square tells an Old Testament story. The doors were given a place of honor on the Baptistry--they face the cathedral.

For lunch--insalata capresa, my absolute favorite. Squisito!

After lunch we headed to the Galleria dell'Accademia, founded in 1563, to visit David. David is a colossal statue (17 feet tall!) and was commissioned by the city for Piazza della Signoria, but he was moved here in 1873 for safekeeping. There are other important art collections at the Accademia, but no ones cares because they're too busy looking at David.

I'm not going to say much about him because he's getting his own post,

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