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Thursday 16 August 2007

CK Goes to Italy – Florence (Firenze)

Florence is not only a beautiful city along the River Arno, it's filled with art, culture and history too. Bearing the title of Cradle of the Renaissance, the streets of Florence is really an open gallery which is an eye-opening experience to me. This city was home to Michelangelo too.

On May 17, 2006, 8:30 a.m., I boarded the Eurostar train at the Roma Termini train station bound for Florence. At about 10:00 a.m., the train arrived at the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence. The hotel that I had booked, Hotel Sempione, was just within walking distance but it took me quite a while to find it. I'd made the right choice of hotel as the room is extremely clean and cozy.

After I had unloaded my luggage at the hotel and got myself refreshed, I hit on the streets of Florence without wasting any time. The very first things I saw were all these merchandises, i.e., leather sandals, scarfs and leather jackets.

There were also beaded handbags and T-shirts with twisted humour.

When I spotted this gelato outlet, guess what I did? Stepped in and came out with a cone in my hand, of course!

There were plenty of street artists along the streets of Florence. Some were even selling their recorded music on CDs. Amazing, huh!

When it comes to lunchtime, how could I miss the most authentic Italian food? This is the best pizza I have ever had! The crispy and crunchy crust topped with fresh tomato paste, mozzarella cheese and tuna, garnished with onions, is simply superb!

After filling the stomach, I should be full with energy to show you around Florence. This is the front facade of the Basilica di San Lorenzo which looks like uncompleted but beautiful with its form. In front of this basilica is the Piazza San Lorenzo.

When I walked to the right side of the church, the shapes of cube and hemisphere formed a very interesting view for me to capture a shot.

Walking further through the intertwined streets of Florence brought me to Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo with tiered pink, white and green facade stood proudly in front of this square. In front of the Duomo is the Romanesque baptistry (shown in the lower right quadrant of the photo below).

The brown-tiled dome of the Duomo soaring high above the crowded streets can be seen from many parts of Florence.

Climbing more than 400 steps (was it 436?) up the Duomo brought me to the top of the dome where I can have a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Florence.

These are the views when I was inside the Duomo.

On the next day, I visited the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo where old scriptures showing the appearance of the Duomo then is displayed. A sculpture by Michelangelo with the title Pietà is also on display in this museum. This sculpture was in fact prepared for his own tomb but he was not satisfied with it, so he broke the arm and left leg of Christ. They were restored later by one of Michelangelo's student.

Cappelle Medicee is just within walking distance from Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. Inside this museum, there is this Cappella dei Principi (Princes' Chapel) with a dome of colourful paintings (top two quadrants of the photo below). This was a burial place of the Medici rulers. Further in to the museum is the Sagrestia Nuova where the sculptures of Night and Day and Dawn and Dusk by Michelangelo can be found (bottom two quadrants of the photo below).

Other than museums, there are plenty of palaces to explore in Florence. The photo below shows a banquet hall of Palazzo Medici Riccardi.

The courtyard of Palazzo Medici Riccardi is also very well maintained.

There are many churches around Florence as well. This Chiesa di Orsanmichele may look ordinary from the outside,

the inside is filled with beautiful decorations and paintings.

The photo below shows the sculptures on display at the Museo del Bargello inside the Palazzo del Bargello. The top left quadrant shows Giambologna's Mercurio Volante, whereas to its right is Donatello's David. The bottom left is Amore-Attis, also by Donatello, and the bottom right shows Michelangelo's Bacco.

Mercato Nuovo is an open gallery built in the 16-th century for the gold and silver trade. Today, it houses the souvenir and leather stalls.

The details of a column and the arches of Mercato Nuovo form an interesting subject for photography.

At the southern end of Mercato Nuovo is this Fontana del Porcellino (Piglet Fountain). According to the legend, rub the piglet's nose and slide a coin into the fountain through the piglet's mouth, you'll go to Florence again.

Loggia della Signoria, an open gallery of sculptures, is located at the Piazza della Signoria which is also surrounded by a vast number of sculptures. Shown on top left of the photo below is Benvenuto Cellini's Perseo (Perseus) who beheaded Medusa. On top right is Giambologna's final work, Rape of the Sabine Women.

On the other end of Piazza della Signoria stands Palazzo Vecchio with interesting curves of the arches.

Just outside of Palazzo Vecchio, I saw a duplicated copy of Michelangelo's David replacing the original copy which stood there.

On the other day, I went to Galleria dell'Accademia to look at the original David. The duplicated copy seems out of proportion as compared to the original. The museum guards kept on shouting: "No photos! No photos!", but nobody seems to care and kept on snapping, and that includes me, hehe!

A violin made by Antonio Stradivari is also on display at the wing housing the musical instruments.

I managed to pay a visit to the Galleria degli Uffizi which houses the spectacular treasures - Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring by Botticelli, and Leornado Da Vinci's Annunciation. Priceless paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael and other Florence painters are also exhibited here. No photo-taking is allowed inside this gallery, so I took a shot of the interesting corridor.

Here are some artifacts found in Galleria degli Uffizi. On the left is a machine built based on Leornado Da Vinci's sketch and an old architectural drawing is shown on the right.

I have also been to Ponte Vecchio which spans across River Arno with houses built on the bridge.

This is another palace which I passed by in Florence, the Palazzo Strozzi.

Florence is really full of things to see and enjoy. It's one of my favourite among other Italian cities.

If you would like to read my other posts on Italy, these are the links:

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