Florence 7 centuries of open air Gothic Museum

The Rape of PolyxenaThe Flo­ren­ti­nes say that the mak­ing of Flo­rence started 700 years ago and is still work in pro­gress. Five gen­er­a­tions of Flo­ren­ti­nes and their artists, all com­pet­ing with each other are the rea­son for the birth of Renais­sanceFlo­ren­ti­nes are very cre­ative and com­pet­i­tive peo­ple and for cen­turies they wanted to do what no one else has done. And they have suc­ceeded! Because of that drive, 600 years ago the city expe­ri­enced a cre­ative explo­sion unlike any other, that peo­ple come to gaze and won­der at, ever since.

Facts about Flo­rence:

  • Nearly a third of the world’s art trea­sures reside in Flo­rence, accord­ing to UNESCO
  • Two of the most famous pic­ture gal­leries in the world can be found here, Uffizi and the Pitti Palace
  • has the largest masonry dome in the world
  • is the cap­i­tal of the region of Tus­cany and from the 14th cen­tury was polit­i­cally, eco­nom­i­cally and cul­tur­ally one of the most impor­tant cities in Europe for almost 250 years
  • Opera was invented in Flo­rence
  • its his­toric cen­tre was inscribed on UNESCO in 1982.
  • it is the home of Alighieri, the Medici Fam­ily, Da  Vinci, Michelan­gelo, Boc­cac­cio, Galilei, Brunelleschi, Machi­avelli, Amerigo Vespucci, Flo­rence Nightin­gale, Cav­alli
  • its vis­ited by 16 mil­lion tur­ist each year
  • Pinoc­chio, the wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies, came from Flo­rence. Le Avven­ture di Pinoc­chio was pub­lished between 1881 and 1883 by Carlo Loren­zini (pen-name Col­lodi), a Flo­ren­tine by birth
  • was Cre­ated by the Romans and it thrived with light­en­ing speed thanks to the fact that it had impor­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tions routes, both on land and water
  • was severely dam­aged dur­ing World War II by the Ger­mans, who blew up all its bridges except the Ponte Vec­chio, as it is alleged, Hitler declared it too beau­ti­ful to destroy.
  • The Via Chi­anti­giana (SR222), that con­nects Flo­rence to Siena and the coun­tryside of the Chi­anti region, is one of the most beau­ti­ful and enjoy­able motor­ing routes in Italy

A lit­tle about Renais­sance …..

Renais­sance flour­ished largely because of the patron­age, or finan­cial sup­port, of wealthy cit­i­zens and the church. By pur­chas­ing numer­ous works of art, Renais­sance men and women pro­vided a liveli­hood for many painters, sculp­tors, and archi­tects. It was also the Renais­sance human­ist desire to imi­tate and revive the beauty of ancient Greece, and to have that beauty sur­round them in their daily lives, that pro­duced the wealth of superb art that is one of the hall­marks of Renais­sance cul­ture.

The Church Santa Maria del Fiore


is the cathe­dral of Flo­rence, one of the great­est cathe­drals ever made, the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in Lon­don) and was the largest church in Europe when it was com­pleted in the 15th cen­tury. It took 100 years to build it, it is 153 metres long, 90 metres wide at the cross­ing, and 90 metres high from the floor to the bot­tom of the lantern.

The Dome that defies grav­ity:

The Dome Firenze

Brunelleschi himselfThe Church Santa Maria del Fiore stayed unfin­ished for 100 years, wait­ing for a genius archi­tect to come with a fea­si­ble project for its Dome. The Flo­ren­ti­nes were already fear­ing that they would look less pow­er­ful in front of their ene­mies, because of their unfin­ished con­struc­tion. How did Fil­ippo Brunelleschi, a clock maker and gold­smith, with no for­mer archi­tec­ture train­ing, built The Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, which  still is the largest masonry dome in the world,  more than 500 years after it was built?  It took him 16 years to fin­ish it and  his meth­ods are not fully under­stood by experts even to this day because with the tech­nol­ogy of the time, the con­struc­tion of the Dome should not have been pos­si­ble. With 4 mil­lion bricks, 40.000 tones of weight, the dome  defied gravity.When Brunelleschi died, he left no sketches or details to explain how he achieved this mas­ter­piece, because he was secre­tive and sus­pi­cious he refused to show his build­ing plan even to the super­vis­ing com­mit­tee. He said: “I know how to do it, only I know how to do it, and I will show you how, in the process of con­struc­tion”.

A mas­ter­piece capa­ble of with­stand­ing light­ning, earth­quakes and the pas­sage of time, it con­tin­ues to enchant all those who observe it from afar. The dome has a diam­e­ter of 45.5 meters, the half of a foot­ball field.

The White cir­cle that nobody notices

Now we are get­ting to a real secret in Flo­rence: the white cir­cle behind the Duomo. In 1600 a light­ning hit the cop­per ball on top of the dome and after the ball was hit, it rolled down on the side of the dome and landed down on the street. The white cir­cle (made of mar­ble) is the exact loca­tion where   the cop­per ball of the dome hit the ground that night…

Hardly any of the tourists know the mean­ing of this white cir­cle. Nor did I know it, before I had the curios­ity to read about it.

Giotto’s bell tower

Giotto Tower

84.7 meters tall, it is the most elo­quent exam­ple of 14th­cen­tury Gothic archi­tec­ture in Flo­rence, con­sid­ered to be the most beau­ti­ful cam­panile in Italy. The reliefs begin with the Cre­ation of Man and con­tinue with a depic­tion of his Activ­i­ties, the Plan­ets which reg­u­late the course of his exis­tence, the Virtues which for­tify him, the Lib­eral Arts which edu­cate him and the Sacra­ments which sanc­tify him.

Bat­tis­tero di San Gio­vanni

Battistero di San Giovani

The peo­ple of Flo­rence in the Mid­dle Ages believed that the bap­tis­tery was an ancient build­ing dat­ing back to the time of the Romans, a pagan tem­ple con­verted into a church. And in fact a large part of the baptistery’s mar­ble cladding does indeed come from the ruins of roman times.Dante and the Medici’ were bap­tized in the Bap­tis­tery.

At the east entrance of the bap­tis­tery you will find the bronze doors of Ghib­erti, which show 10 square sce­nes from the Book of Gen­e­sis. They are known as The Gates of Par­adise as Michelan­gelo said they were so beau­ti­ful that they could be the doors of heaven itself. They are a replica of the orig­i­nal, which can be seen in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (photo cred­its of Gates of Par­adise is Wiki­me­dia) .

The Dome is astound­ing, majes­tic, and wow, but to me was impos­si­ble to get inside of it, as the wait­ing line was 300 m long and I do not know what in the world could make me wait so long for, not tt´hat day, at least. A Flo­rence card with a pri­or­ity entry would have spared me all that has­sle, but as I didn’t think of one…

Palazzo  Vechio

from the 14th cen­tury, Flo­ren­tine politi­cians started to talk to the peo­ple gath­ered in the Piazza della Sig­no­ria, from the bal­conies of the Pal­lazo Vechio, which made the Piazza an impor­tant spot for the polit­i­cal life of the time. It is guarded by  the statute of Her­cule who watches in its direc­tion with so much grave­ness that you feel like going and ask­ing for his per­mis­sion to enter the museum.

Piazza della Sig­no­ria

is my favorite from all, and to me beats every­thing else in Flo­rence, by far. Although also full of peo­ple, you felt like you have space, like you have so many cor­ners where you can hide and just observe. And I did, for a long time. My hid­ing spots? In Log­gia dei Lanzi. I stepped in the Log­gia with silent, feather stept, approach­ing the art stu­dents who were mak­ing draw­ings of the stat­ues. Then I sat besides them.

All that pri­vate time I have spent accom­pa­nied by the lion of the Medici Fam­ily, Menelaus and Patro­clus, Perseus andMedusa, Her­cules….it was like wit­ness­ing the scene that the statue repro­duced, as they are beside huge, very expres­sive and all they express is very emo­tional, inten­sive and mostly cruel: the kid­nap­ping of Polyx­ena, and of the Sabine Women, the behead­ing of Medusa, the beat­ing of the Cen­taur Nes­sus …imag­ine the screams, the pas­sion, pain and panic in any of those sce­nes.  At the end of the post I have sum­ma­rized the leg­ends depicted in one of the two famous stat­ues in Sig­no­ria: The Rape of Polyx­ena and The Rape of the Sabine Women. They are really nice, if you don’t focus on the word “rape”.

Piaz­zale Michelan­gelo

remem­ber all those post­cards with the bridges over the river, that look-alike in Budapest, Prague, Flo­rence? The later one is usu­ally shot from the Piaz­zale Michelan­gelo.

I also went here for the clas­si­cal overview of the city. To get there I crossed, again the famous, Ponte Vec­chio and went a lot of stairs up.

Ponte Vec­chio is the bridge Hitler di not have the heart to destroy for he con­sid­ered it too beau­ti­ful. It is a bridge con­tain­ing lots of secrets with see­ing. For my taste, the known part of the bridge is  way too com­mer­cial and sparkling .

Beau­ti­ful for me in Piaz­zale Michelan­gelo was this bride and groom I run into, such a happy bride, she was like a ray of sun. And all that energy she expressed, is a delight for any pho­tog­ra­pher.

Bis­er­ica  Orsan­michele

Orsan Michele

was a for­mer grain house. Shortly after the build­ing was fin­ished, mys­te­ri­ous appear­ances of Vir­gin Mary were reported and his­to­ri­ans say that, with no expla­na­tion, a  paint­ing of her appeared on one of the columns.

My impres­sions…

Although beau­ti­ful and so rich in his­tory, Flo­rence is so touris­tic, so full of peo­ple, even on a rainy day, that it sucked the energy out of me. I had a hard time feel­ing inti­mate with all that his­tory, when uncount­able num­bers of tourists were swarm­ing the streets like bees in a bee­hive: selfies´sticks, umbrel­las, tour guides, and the same thing in every piazza.

I have seen a lot of  Afrikaans, Egyp­tians, Syr­i­ans try­ing to make a liv­ing, sell­ing dif­fer­ent stuff on the streets, watch­ing for the cops not to catch them…but I saw this as a proof of a good sur­vival instinct, and one of the fact that The Uni­verse always finds a way..to help you. The rest­less rain brought a lot of clients to the peo­ple sell­ing rain coats on the streets and I think they even over­come the sales of self­ies sticks that day.I pref­ered to walk in the rain, or just enjoy a cof­fee until it stopped.

See­ing Flo­rence fled with tourist did not con­quer my heart. I prefer less invaded des­ti­na­tions like Cor­tona,  Campiglia D’Orcia, Cal­dana, even big­ger Siena, or Flo­rence by night. I have read, that is the only right time to enjoy the city.

I have seen many  Prada shop­ping bags…and all those shops in the old city, took its charm, or much part of it. It’s like for many, com­ing to Flo­rence means going to Zara, Prada and many oth­ers.

In Prague, Czech Repub­lic is the same shop­ping furry, but there are still places, like Charles Bridge that are like por­tals that take you back in time, step­ping on each stone on that bridge you can almost hear the horse­shoes hit­ting the pave­ment like 200 years ago. In Flo­rence I haven’t found such a place, which does not mean it doesn’t exist. It only means I have to keep on searching…so Flo­rence, I will see you again.

Flo­rence and its vibration…my favorite sub­ject

Nev­er­the­less, Flo­rence for me,  was an abun­dance of Insieme,Together, peo­ple shar­ing their joy with their friends and fam­i­lies. Maybe it was because of the National Hol­i­day in Italy, maybe it was Thurs­day close to week­end, maybe we peo­ple are just beau­ti­ful gre­gar­i­ous beings that like to share…and that is a lot of beauty load. For this rea­son, Flo­rence, for me, was spe­cial.

P.S As promised the two leg­ends:

The Rape of Polyx­ena

the Rape of PolyxenaPolyx­ena was the daugh­ter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy and Achilles, a great hero and the most hand­some of those war­ring with Troy, fell in love with her and wanted to make her his wife. What Achilles did, that aroused Polyxena’s anger, was to kill two of her broth­ers.

In the  statue Rape of Polyx­ena by Pio Fedi, she is strug­gling to get away from him while he eas­ily holds her in one arm. With the other arm he’s about to strike down her mother, Hecuba who is curled around his leg in des­per­a­tion to res­cue her daugh­ter, one of her 19 chil­dren. He doesn’t kill her though. Accord­ing to Dante, the mother’s ulti­mate fate was insan­ity.

Polyx­ena did get her revenge for the death of her two broth­ers. Achilles had told her in con­fi­dence his weak­ness: when he was dipped in the river Styx, which was sup­posed to make him immor­tal, his heel was not sub­merged thus mak­ing it vul­ner­a­ble. Polyx­ena told Paris, yet another brother, and Paris ambushed the hero Achilles, shoot­ing him in the heel with a poi­soned arrow and seal­ing his fate.

Not ter­ri­bly impressed by her betrayal, he came back as a ghost and stated that for the Greek ships to be able to return, she must be sac­ri­ficed so that there would be wind to fill the boats’ sails. Polyx­ena pref­ered death to slav­ery, and lit­er­ally dares her exe­cu­tion­ers to pro­ceed, while she remains calm and unafraid right up to very end (source)

The Rape of the Sabine Women

Rape of the Sabine Women is an episode in the leg­endary his­tory of Rome, tra­di­tion­ally dated to 750 BC,[1]in which the first gen­er­a­tion of Roman men acquired wives for them­selves from the neigh­bor­ing Sabine fam­i­lies. The Eng­lish word rape is a con­ven­tional trans­la­tion of the Latin rap­tio, which in this con­text means “abduc­tion” rather than its preva­lent mod­ern mean­ing in Eng­lish lan­guage of sex­ual vio­la­tion.

Leg­end says that the Romans abducted Sabine women to pop­u­late the newly built Rome, which was rich in men, but had few women. Ini­tially, the Romans sought to form alliances and requested the right of mar­riage from their neigh­bors, the Sabi­nes. The emis­saries sent to the neigh­bor­ing tribes, how­ever, failed in their mis­sion, as Rome’s neigh­bors were not both­ered with enter­tain­ing her requests. Some were even afraid that Rome’s grow­ing power would become a threat to them and their descen­dants. As a result, Romu­lus decided to take more dras­tic actions in order to secure the future of his city.

Romu­lus found the per­fect oppor­tu­nity dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of the Con­sualia. Accord­ing to the ancient writer Plutarch, this fes­ti­val was founded by Romu­lus him­self. Appar­ently, Romu­lus had dis­cov­ered an altar of a god called Con­sus hid­den under­ground. This god was said to have been either a god of coun­sel or the Eques­trian Nep­tune. To cel­e­brate this dis­cov­ery, Romu­lus estab­lished the Con­sualia, a day of sac­ri­fices, pub­lic games and shows. Then, he announced the fes­ti­val to the neigh­bor­ing people’s, and many came to Rome. One of the neigh­bor­ing tribes that attended the Con­sualia was the Sabi­nes. Accord­ing to Livy, the entire Sabine pop­u­la­tion, includ­ing women and chil­dren, came to Rome. Romu­lus instructed his men and after giv­ing them a secret sign, they ran and abducted the Sabine women. After a while the Sabine women, accepted the mar­riages with the roman hus­bands but the Sabine men declared of course war. The resul­tant war ended only by the women throw­ing them­selves and their chil­dren between the armies of their fathers and their hus­bands. The Rape of the Sabine Women became a com­mon motif in art; the women end­ing the war forms a less fre­quent but still reap­pear­ing motif (info fromhttp://ancient-origins.net, http://www.louvre.fr/).

Other sources: muse­um­flo­rence

I rec­om­mend you watch this: the courage to dare

And if you still don’t know if Flo­rence is worth it or not, take a look at this

I ded­i­cate this post to my friend Car­men who fell in love with Flo­rence and never ceased lov­ing her.

Thank you for read­ing. If you like this arti­cle, please share.
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