Firenza - Finding Resemblances to Madrid and Santa Fe
During the 15th century, as Venezia was blooming through global trade, Firenza (Florence) was becoming a financial capital with the success of the Medici family's banking prowess. This prowess brought great wealth and power to the Medici family heads, particularly Cosimo il Vecchio, Leonardo il Magnifico, and Giovanni who became pope Leo X. Through their commissions, Brunnelleschi, Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were able to create the great works of art and architecture we treasure today.
We traveled to Firenze from Venezia by train, across the coastal plain of the Veneto and through the mountains surrounding the city. Our hotel, Anna's, was just a block from the train station. We discovered that it was one of perhaps 6 or maybe more small hotels in an expansive building. We met Anna and settled into a nice room.
We immediately began to explore this city renowned as the place where the Renaissance began by walking to the Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo with its stunning facade clad in white, rose and green marble and topped by Brunnelleschi's great dome along with the Baptistry and bell tower glowed in the afternoon light.
The gilded bronze doors of the Baptistry offered us a small view of the art of the Renaissance while the Duomo's great dome offered proof that the science of structural engineering had progressed well by 1436.
The next day, we walked to Mercato Centrale, the city's main food market, to look longingly at the frutas e verduras, meats and cheeses
We continued on to the Palazzo Bargello, home of the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. Inside, we discovered a wonderful collection of sculpture, ceramics and jewelry including works by Michelangelo, Donatelli, Ghilberti and Cellini.
After lunch, we walked along the Fiume Arno for views of the Ponte Vecchio, the "Old Bridge" with its buildings, three stories or so and shops (mostly selling tourist stuff) at street level.
A short walk further brought us to the Museo Uffizi, said to hold Italy's greatest collection of art, including the Medici's collection of Renaissance art.
As the key attraction of Firenze it is a magnet for almost every visitor, so perhaps we shouldn't have been dismayed by the masses of tourists, but we were.
Instead of joining the crowds, we decided to spend the rest of the day and the next exploring the city.
A bus took us across the fiume and up into the hills above the city to Piazzale Michelangelo where there are great views out over the city (pictures below) as well as a copy of Michelangelo's David. For some, this might not be an adequate substitute for the original, but for us it was fine.
The following day we walked to the Duomo to visit the inside. The great interior space, while grand in scale is pleasantly less ornate than many of the other large churches we have visited. The views up into the dome are spectacular and we thought we heard the ghost of Savonarola preaching against the decadence and corruption of the city as he did back in 1495.
Back outside, we resumed our city exploration by returning to the Piazzale Michelangelo for more views, now in morning light (see above), and a stop for lunch at the cafe of the campground just below the piazzale. Maybe we'll camp here next time! A walk to the bottom and across the Arno brought us into pleasant neighborhoods with 4 to 5 story residential apartment buildings, retail shops, cafes, bikeways and a shady park.
In Firenza's neighborhoods, we were reminded of Madrid and concluded that life here, away from the press of tourists, would be pleasantly urban. We imagine that residents just stay away from the Centre during the tourist season, rather like Santa Fe!
Click here to return to More Travels in Europe - Summer 2008 page