This is a city where foundations of Renaissance were laid. It is choked full of history, art and architecture and culture.With your first step into the city you will go back in time. Renaissance is written all over this town beautifully preserved in it's architecturally perfect historical buildings and breathtakingly sculpted art everywhere. This city is settled around river Arno, where Julius Caesar, who can be named as the founder of the city gave land to retired soldiers of his army in 59 BC.
The city owes most of its masterpieces to the Medici family. Many monarchs of Florence and three Popes come from this family.
Even if you know nothing about the history behind Florence's art and architecture, you will be struck by the power and beauty of this place.
For the five days that I was here, these are the places I checked out .
Duomo- Cathedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore
The red brick Duomo is imposing in the skyline of Florence. Inside the Brunelleschi's dome ( the largest in the world) you find one of the most beautiful pieces of art you will ever see. Frescoes of "The Last Judgment" by 16th century painter Giorgio Vasari fill the cupola. To see it up and close I made a hike up 463 winding stairs to the top of the Duomo. It is challenging and claustrophobic but the 8 € ticket, a few dizzy spells and sweaty brows are all well worth the view in side the Duomo and of the beautiful city.
The dome is octagonal and built without the supporting wooden frame, unheard of at that time.The buildings exterior is covered with marble panels in shades of green, white and pink.The floor is marvelous marble mosaic pattern.
The Cathedral's 44 windows constitute the most extensive stained- glass art work of 14th and 15th century Italy.
In this piazza are many other important buildings such as the Baptistry and it's famous Ghiberti's bronze doors, Giotto's bell tower and the Archbishop's Palace.
Galleria degli Uffizi
Holds the world's most important collection of Renaissance art. In the museum are the works of Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Da Vinci and Raphael.There are about 3100 works of art, about 1700 on display at a given time. Not to miss art works are Michelangelo's Doni Tondo, da Vinci's Annunciation, Fabriono's Adoration of the Magi and many more.
Florence, Medici and Renaissance indeed played a huge role in art, architecture, science and in molding the world as we know today. I was glad I got the tickets online in advance as the lines just to get in the museum were long.
Galleria dell' Accademia
Treasures Michelangelo's "David",easily the most famous sculpture in the world. There is also his Saint Matthew and the Four Slaves. Other highlights are Botticelli's Madonna and Child and Madonna of the Sea.The museum also holds extensive collection of 40 historic musical instruments.
Strolled over the bridge to the other side of the river into a beautiful and sprawling English garden on the hillside.
Is the largest palazzo owned by the Medici family. There are 8 different galleries in this palace. It is massive and can wear you down . Here you can take a trip back into time into three eras- Roman ruins, a Medieval fortress and an amazing Renaissance chambers and paintings.
Is a covered market which has been open to business since 11th century.You can find souvenirs along with leather handbags, belts and wallets, shoes and hats, shawls and scarfs and various other knickknacks.
The most famous attraction here is the Fontana del Porcellino, a bronze statue of a wild boar created by Pietro Tacca. Visitors rub the pig's snout for good luck. Also put a coin in his mouth, if the coin rolls into the grater where the water flows then your wish will be granted.
Is a bridge, an ancient one that survived the bombing during WWII.It is lined on both sides with shops mostly selling gold jewelry. Some of these jewelers have been here for generations. It is a lively place, busy and crowded with tourists, musicians, street sellers. However, the beauty of the bridge is to be admired from a distance with it's colors and reflection changing as the day goes by.
This square is on a hill in the Oltramo district that can be reached by climbing up some 150 stairs. The observation point on the square gives a panoramic views of the city often seen on postcards. I was there in the evening and it was amazing seeing the city bathing in the changing lights of a sunset.
The Piazzale honors the sculptor and artist Michelangelo. There are bronze replicas of Michelangelo's David as well as the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo.
Over 1000 items are in collection here, historic scientific instruments including large globes, stethoscopes,
Compass, telescopes and scientific measuring instruments are on display.
Piazza della Signoria
This is Florence's most popular square. It is dotted with statues, a fountain and important buildings.
Loggia dei Lanzi is a corner building with high open arches that has the statues of Medici Lions by Fancelli and Vacca.There is a copy of David in marble by Michelangelo in the same spot where an original stood for 69 years after it's completion in 1504. Next to it is Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli, a bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I de Medici and Rape of the Sabine women by Giambologna, Judith and Holofernes by Donatello, Persus with the head of Medusa by Cellini.The Fountain of Neptune is octagonal in shape with Neptune on a high pedestal designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati.
That's what I was awestruck by in Florence. The sheer scale of the buildings, paintings, statues and churches. It feels like being in Alice in Wonderland...where you feel dwarfed once you pass through the rabbit hole.
The painted ceilings. I have no idea how the Italian artists did it. But they love an ornate, fancy painted ceilings. I challenge you to walk around with your head thrown back and not have your mouth wide open and eyes popping out.
I'm not a Catholic, but I would light a candle and say a prayer when visiting such majestic churches and get humbled. I guess the spirituality that permeates brings you closer to God, can't deny the divine connection here.
Florence is all about the views. Dusk time is simply magical as the crowds thin out, you can watch the street musicians, wander around the romantic cobbled streets , watch men in their best tailored suits riding their bikes, admire women in high heels clattering on the pavements, talk to University students hanging out at cafés, oogle some more at the gorgeous architecture.
You will not want to leave this beautiful city.