Florence – Reminiscence of the Renaissance

Before you get busy with tongue-twisting title of this post, go back to the fancy first word – Florence.

Nice as it sounds, the city of Florence is a vast and breathtaking monument to the Italian Renaissance. Firenze in Italian comes from Florentia, the city of flowers. The city has witnessed a string of influences in the fields of knowledge, art, literature and philosophy, that turned Florence into one of the world’s greatest artistic capitals.

Florence is best known as the city that was patron to writers like Dante and Petrarch, and artists like Michelangelo, Donatello and Botticelli and their works can be experience at this old World Heritage City.


The Colorful Steets of Florence


Much as we would’ve loved to spend more time in a place of this stature, our trip to Florence was one of the briefest I did to any city – about 5 hours, lunch included. But since it was a guided tour, we should believe that we managed to cover the highlights of the city – mainly the domed cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo, the Campanile tower, the Baptistery and the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) on River Arno.


The Duomo

We went to Florence by road from Rome, it took us about 4 hours to cover the 173 miles (278 kms) and we were in the city, just by the lunch time. After a sumptuous Italian Lunch we rushed to the Duomo. The cathedral is notable for a huge brick dome on the top, placed on green and pink colored marble panels that form the exterior walls. It has been constructed in various phases in gaps of centuries, aspiring th stature of basilicas like St. Peter’s in the Vatican and the Milan Basilica. While the exteriors are a perfect display for Italian marble in various shades, placed most aesthetically, the interiors display murals, mosaics and stained glass art in the classic Gothic designs.


The Bapistry and the Campanile Tower


The Dome from Inside


Stained Glass inside the Basilica – more than 5 centuries old!


After gaping at the breathtakingly beautiful pieces of art, we were asked to step out to see the campus from outside. And just to pay an ode, there was a group of three young (at heart) men, who decide to climb all the 450 stairs to the top of the dome where the whole city of Florence could be seen. While they all were young (at heart), I wonder which one was actually young (at lungs)!


Panoramic View of Florence city atop the Dome


Another point-of-view


The Young at Lung

So we all went to the Gates of Paradise – the beautiful, descriptive, golden doors of the octagonal baptistery. They were beautiful and were given this name by none other than Michelangelo. They were not the originals, since there were various floods (the most recent one being in 1960s), and the original gates of paradise could not be risked any further. We could not go inside for a reason, I seem to have forgotten.


The Gates of Paradise

After passing by various designer stores in the Piazza that fell on the way, we reached Piazza della Signoria. Piazza is the Italian for Plaza, and this one was an L-shaped open area in the front of Palazzo Vecchio. Palazzo is Italian for an old palace and this Palazzo Vecchio is an old Town Hall of the city of Florence. It has now been converted into a museum and houses the original David by Michelangelo, amongst the other original sculptures. We did not go inside, but were free to ogle at the open air museum that had all the replicas and more. Here are some pictures of the monumental art.


David stands tall at Palazzo Vechhio


Palazzo Vechhio – the open air Art Gallery


The Bell Tower

We then walked another half-a-mile to the Ponte Vechhio. Ponte, Italian for Bridge, are very common all over Italy, as there are many rivers and like all the other architectural masterpieces here, the bridges, too, have been restored over the centuries. The Ponte Vechhio was made on River Arno some 22 centuries ago first, and got destroyed twice over. The structure now standing, has been around since the 14th century. It was definitely old world, and romantic as well – to see an old narrow boat, oared by a man standing on one corner of it, waving at the passers-by.


Ponte Vechhio

And before we could realise, our time was up and we had to once again assemble at a point to head back. There was an overdose already, and we still craved for more.

  • Rajeev

    Smita, Probably I am the first one to comment on your fabulous account o Florence. It is a fantastic peace of writing providign all the background alongwith translations as needed.

    Photographs are all briliant, though I am not sure whose is the hand behind those:-)

    Looking forward to more form you.

  • Patrick Jones

    Florence. The name itself is so romantic; you made it even more so with your beautiful post. Sure the passing on of genes did happen ?

    Couldnt go inside paradise? Miltons got company…….

  • Patrick Jones

    oh, No!

    The ? is supposed to be a smiley. Copying from Word played the trick

    :-)

  • Sudhir

    The theme is “beautiful”. So I will say- a beautiful post, beautiful place and beautiful pics.

  • Beautiful pics. Its really amazing to realize that they have been able to conserve this place, for so long.

  • Rajeev

    Nandan, this was precisely what came to my mind after seeing the beautiful pictures. So much effort would have gone into it.

    Unfortunately here, we are not able to even timely put up the cases to the world body for declaration of our treasures as world heritage sites. I read they missed the bus this year, though Neral Matheran railway was one of teh sure shot contender, among many others.

    One more thought that came to me seeing the last pic, whether we cannot have our river/rivulets in cities like out there. Riversides can be developed as a beautiful passage along the river, through the cities. But, even at the slightest hint of soem alteration of the riverbed there are voices from all the quarters. Can we not have har ke pauri kind of river shores elsewhere? I know, that is one small stream, but still…we have similar thing in the swargashram area in Rishikesh along the main river. I concede that hydrology is a complex subject, though.

  • Thanks, everyone for encouraging comments.

    Rajeev – Not my hand behind all pics – a few, not all. Like I mentioned in one of your comments, it is better to take pics from everyone else and make a pool. And I did not go all the way up, so it was taken by Deepender or Siddharth, my friends.

    Patrick – Ya, it really sounds pleasant, classy and romantic :)

    Thanks, Nandan and Sudhir. Conservation and restoration is mind-blowing in these places. And sometimes, our (Indians’) claims on the richest culture, heritage and civilization seem shallow… when one recalls the good old red-fort and the likes.

    It was a rather quick post, procrastinated for a long time since I was there for a short while. And only now I remembered a corrigenda in the post – the shortest visit was not to Florence, but to Pisa that I need to write next. That one was 3 odd hours – dinner included!

  • Ram Dhall

    Simply splendid. A fabulous account of Florence, a place I always loved to visit.

    The description of Duomo is simply amazing. The Duomo has a very charming history too. The construction of the Duomo was completed in 1400 A.D. except for the cupola. The enormous expanse that the dome was required to cap surpassed the architectural and engineering abilities of the Duomos architects. The conventional scaffoldings could not span the 140 feet diameter and the conventional building techniques could not support the size and weight of the required dome. When Lorenzo Ghiberti embarked on his second set of baptistery doors (The Gates of Paradise), another great architect, Brunelleschi became the one who solved the problem of the cupola of the Dome. It is interesting to note that Brunelleschi lost the competition for the bronze doors to Ghiberti, after which he went to Rome to carefully study the ancient building techniques, especially scrutinized the Pantheon and submitted a solution for the cupola in the year 1417. Brunelleschi is also accredited with the designing of Pitti Palace, another masterpiece in the vicinity of Pallazo Vecchio, about which you have mentioned.

    The pictures are awe inspiring, especially the Dome from the inside, the stained glass inside Basilica, the gates of paradise and the Young at lungs.

    Your mention about the great artists, Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli, etc., sent me packing down the memory lane to the winter of 1988, when I visited Italy. On coming back I wrote a note on my visit to Pitti Palace Museum (those days we were using electrical typewriters only) and circulated amongst few of my like minded friends. I am tempted to lay my hands on that note, edit it and show it you all.

    God bless you.

    And before I forget thanks Patrick for your sweet words.

  • Chetan Saxena

    A refreshing experience….indeed……
    It is indeed full of information and gives a cople of perspectives on this city ‘Firenze’.
    Firenze, I always wanted to go for one more reason. I wished to see the cultural center in Firenze of SGI, which is the only one in Italy. Hopefully, I will go next time to Firenze.

  • Ram – I am sure that if we do a Poll on whether we want you to write on Pitti, I dont think there would be many who would say ‘No’ :)

    Does folks agree ?

  • Patrick Jones

    Ram’s kitty is full of jewels.

    Polishing and displaying one would be a wonderful idea.

  • Nice post. I’ll visit for the sculpture and architecture. Was contemplating a trip combined with Pisa this year but didn’t happen.
    How much do you think is optimal time required to visit and explore, 3 days (including Pisa) ??

  • Smita

    Thanks, Rahul.

    Florence + Pisa can be done in 3 days, I’ll suggest you add venice to it as well and make it 4 days.

    I should write on Pisa… hopefully before your travel plans take a shape…

  • Geetha Saravanan

    Awesome, Smitha… The pictures and the beautiful story. It is very difficult indeed to combine all the experiences you went thru in such a beautiful and ancient city in a neat account as you have done.
    Whew! I never knew, the statue of David was more than double life size! Is the one in the picture a replica? And the original inside the museum?

    YESSS! to vote for poll on getting to read Ram uncle’s gems.

  • Smita

    Gee… thanks, Gee-tha Gee!

    For the size of David, make it THREE times. They’re all really big in size, made with the intention to be displayed at a height. Ya this was a replica. I guess, going inside the meuseum meant few more euros and an hour more – we were short of both.

  • deepender

    nice pix baki i wl read and post comments soon rgds dpndr

  • If I go to Venice I’d probably end up spending more than 4 days there itself!!… :)

  • manish khamesra

    Your post reminded me of our stay in florence that was right around the circle(Plaza) of which the first picture is taken. Thanks Smita for helping me to re-visit this beautiful city :)

    Contrary to what Rajeev and Nandan felt, I think Italian too are behind in conserving such marvels and area around Duomo is a stark example where traffic is moving so near to Duomo that you struggle capturing the complete Duomo in one frame.

    Thanks again Smita for taking us to the journey of Florence :)

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