Florence, or Firenze
Florence is, according to your taste, an over-praised, over-crowded city, full of tourists, too hot and impossible to navigate, or (and here lie the majority) The birthplace of the Renaissance; the world centre of culture, art and technology in the late 14th and early 15th century, The proving ground of Donatello, Michelangelo, Giotto, The home of the Italian language, birthplace of modern political science and above all, site of the world’s most beautiful cathedral dome.
Where to start? The Duomo.
The magnificent cathedral at the heart of the city (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) features Brunelleschi’s 114-metre-high dome. The most outrageous and awe-inspiring construction ever seen on the planet when it was completed in 1436. This dome marked the end of the gothic period of architecture, and the start of the Renaissance.
The cathedral itself was started in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio but was not consecrated until 140 years later, when the dome was completed. The interior is in the shape of a Latin cross with three naves, and is of the purest and most majestic lines. The reliefs on the doors; the frescoes inside, the clear blue skies and the smells of an Italian piazza...
I can’t write any more about this. You have to go there. Really! Just sit silent for a moment, and imagine how this building would have looked to a peasant in the early 1400s. Visit, go there. Now! Take my car. Book air tickets on my credit card. Just go!
Where next? The baptistry
It’s next door to the Duomo. The huge octagonal building. They say it is the oldest building in the city, going back to the fifth century. One set of huge bronze doors were made in the 14th century with more relief work, by Andrea Pisano, yet another fantastic artist to add to the list above. Another set made 50 years later by Lorenzo Ghiberti helped by Donatello. Another set, which Michelangelo said came from Paradise. Yet more art by Donatello and Michelozzo. I meant that about my credit card. Just do it.
On to the Uffizi (Galleria degli Uffizi) (http://musa.uffizi.firenze.it/)
One of the world’s most fabulous art galleries, along with the Prado, the Met, the Tate and the Louvre. Works by Boccaccio, Corregio, Carravaggio, Botticelli (the birth of Venus, Allegory of Spring, Madonna of the Pomegranate and more), Brueghal, Michelangelo and many many more. Paintings, sculptures, drawings. One of the world’s top cultural attractions.
Next stop, the Accademia Gallery
Although this gallery is packed with treasures, people visit it because it houses Michelangelo’s famous 20-foot tall marble sculpture of David, the beautiful, naked shepherd boy. Enough said.
There is so much more to see. The Ponte Vecchio , built in 1345, now housing high-class jewellery shops.
A personal choice: the Institute and Museum of History of Science, (http://galileo.imss.firenze.it)
This museum contains many of the instruments, optics and machines developed by Galileo Galilei. I have to admit that the first time I went to Florence, I came here first and ignored the other sights (each to his own). Since then I been back and have now done justice to the Uffizi and Accademia.
Dante wrote many of his poems in Florence, and a reconstruction of his house contains copies of the Divine Comedy in many different languages.
There’s the Boboli Gardens, a haven of peace in a city where your feet do all the walking. The Boboli are behind the Pitti Palace, home to the Medici family.
And Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, home to Chianti and Pomino wines. The food is generous and subtle, the scenery is magnificent, and I want to go back .
I know this write-up does not do the place justice. I welcome more write-ups below. Please help tell Everythingians how wonderful this city is. And as a bonus, there are loads of links in here that need rescuing. (Another quest anyone? Great artists and painters)