The 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 Renaissance. Florentines 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 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
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
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…
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”.
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.
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.
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
Polyxena 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
is an episode in the legendary history of Rome, traditionally dated to 750 BC,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.