Florence is both ordinary and absolutely fantastic. At first glance, it is a little dull, a little dingy, and everywhere we looked things are surrounded by plastic sheeting and scaffolds. However, look a little deeper and the real gem is revealed. Many of the buildings are medieval, built in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. These buildings are simple, but if you look closely, there are details worth noting. For example, look at the original palace built by the Medici Family in the mid-1100’s.
I know, it doesn’t look like much, but look again. Start at the base of the building where you can see between the cars. There is a bench built into the building along its entire length. Believe me, as a tourist today, I really appreciate such thoughtfulness! It’s hard to see in this photo, but above the benches are rings where horses could be tied and on top of these are brackets for torches so the walk would be well lit. The architecture of this building may seem commonplace, but that’s because its been copied all over the world. When this building was made, it was very unique. Even the scrolling under the eves were seen for the first time in this building. Also, notice the brackets in the wall between the windows. Two of them are being used to hold the flags over the door. Can you imagine flags in all the holders? It would be quite festive.
Here’s a close-up of the ring used to tie up horses and you can see the bracket where they stuck the torches. Notice the very top of the bracket has a little animal head. Of course, there are some buildings that are so breathtaking on the outside, it’s hard to leave the street and enter them. One of those buildings is the Duomo, also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Saint Mary of the Flowers.
See what I mean? This building is completely covered in marble. Mostly white, green, and pink marble. The building was begun in the 1200’s but wasn’t completely finished until the 1800’s. The detail is so intricate, I could have spent hours just looking at it. Surprisingly, the inside isn’t at all what I expected. I thought we’d be overwhelmed with bric-a-brac and elaborate details, but that isn’t the case. The inside is huge, and its covered in an elaborate and varied marble floor.
See how it’s pieced to produce an optical illusion? This is just a small section; it varies in design and complexity every 20 feet, or so.
The walls have paintings and stained glass windows and the altar is beautiful, but not as elaborate as others we’ve seen.
The real show is the dome. You can see the light from it above the altar, but until you get under it, you can’t know how amazing it is. Of course, the pictures can’t begin to do it justice.
To give you an idea of how large this dome is, the wood rim beneath the smaller round windows is actually a walkway, and so is the rim above the windows and just below the frescoes. Also, the sunlit spot at the top is called the lantern, and it is also full of people. It costs 10 Euro for a ticket to climb into the dome, and it’s hundreds of claustrophobic steps, but we plan to do it in the next couple of days. The dome is a bit of an engineering mystery/miracle. It’s way too complicated for me to explain, or even completely understand, but you can read more here.
The rest of the city we’ve seen so far is in the photos below. It’s just a taste, but we have all week to soak it up!
Cracked me up. Have a reservation at this hotel? Too bad, so sad. No idea where you’re supposed to go.
A typical medieval street in Florence. The cars, motorbikes and buses sometimes go down them, but the side streets are mostly for pedestrians. Mostly. You still have to watch out.
Bob and dinner last night. I had to laugh because a couple sat at the table next to us and she was clearly having trouble with her leg. Bob, always the doctor, asked her about it. The couple was from Norway and she was having lots of pain. One thing led to another and before I knew it, Bob was palpating her leg muscles and looking for pulses. The lady was worried about a blood clot, but Bob was able to reassure her that a blod clot was unlikely. She was very grateful and they were fun to talk to.
This is the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the building beside the restaurant. I was amazed by the staircase so far up there — that doesn’t appear to have a handrail!
Bob had the lasagna and it was AMAZING!
Here’s a full picture of the Palazzo Vecchio, with that tower way up there.
The front of the Palazzo Vecchio, which is currently the city government building in Florence. Notice the statue of David? Its a copy, but its in the place where the original David stood for centuries before it was moved to the art school (I think in the 1700’s).
Ever seen a real live Stradivarius violin or cello? How about both? Here you go, the nearer one is a violin and the further one is the cello. They really are properly sized for those instruments, the angle of this shot makes that hard to see. These are originals and the violin has never been restored. It is exactly as it was when Stradivarius made it so it’s priceless today. Every year both of these instruments are taken out of the case and played by some very lucky musicians.
So, here we go. This is the original David. Call me stupid, but I never really understood that the statue depicted David right before he killed the Philistine giant, Goliath. It was originally built to decorate a church, but because the statue shows the moment where David is considering Goliath and making his plan of how to act, the Florentines of the time felt it depicted mind over brawn, which was much more of a political statement that resonated with them at the time. So, the statue was placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the center of their government.
The detail is incredible and the proportions are perfect, except for the head and hands, which are a little big. Since Michelangelo made the statue for a church where it would be seen from a distance, it is thought he made the hands and head bigger to emphasize the mind over brawn theme.
This is the front and back of a plaster statue made by one of the teachers at the school or art. The plaster was made to get the details right before it was carved out of marble. I liked it because of the children.
This is a clock in the back of the Duomo. It dates to the middle ages so it’s not a conventional clock. First, it runs counter-clockwise. Next, it has all the hours of a day. Finally, 1 o’clock always depicts the hour the sun sets. It still works, but it needs to be readjusted every couple of weeks. Above, the clock shows its about 9 hours until sunset, which was correct at the time.
This is a view of the dome from the outside. You can see the large circular windows that were obvious from the inside. Above them is the dome, which is actually two domes in one. The one here is the outer dome and the one with the pained frescoes on the inside is a separate dome.
This is three shots of the same market. It is said if you touch the pig’s snout, you’ll return to Florence someday.
These are views from the same spot. The top picture is the left of the camera and the bottom picture is to the right. Of course, the bottom picture is of the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, and the only one left standing by the Germans in WWII. Originally, the shops on the Ponte Vecchio were all butchers because they dumped the “extras” from the carcasses into the river–thus cutting down the smell. Nowadays, its the center for gold and silver in Florence.
A view down the Ponte Vecchio. Every store window was literally dripping with gold jewelry of all kinds.
Here, a shop lady has to use tongs to reach one of the hundreds (thousands?) of items in the window. When she got it, Bob applauded and she bowed to him and laughed.
Did I mention that some of the styles in the shops are kinda questionable? Here’s a good example of something not everyone can carry off. Maybe only a basketball sportscaster?
Gelato was invented in Florence. O.M.G. It was heavenly. I don’t have words. I barely had breath to breathe. It was fabulous!
Final note for today: Doing laundry at a laundromat in a foreign county is SO much more enjoyable if you’re just a little bit tipsy. Just saying. : )