Florence

FLORENCE

 

 

Florence – the capital of the Tuscany region and the cradle of Renaissance

 

We opted for Flix Bus while traveling from Venice to Florence. The road journey takes about three and a half-hour. In Florence, it terminates at the rear end of Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. One of Italy’s busiest stations, it got its name from Santa Maria Novella Church just across the plaza from the main entrance. We debarked at the station and refreshed ourselves at McDonald's before hiring a cab for our hotel. Florence, popularly known as ‘Firenze’ by the Italians, is located in central Italy. This dreamy city with a romantic name is the regional capital of the lovely Tuscany region.

 

Columbus Hotel, where we stayed, is located in Lugarno District. We always prefer to book our hotels through Booking.com as we always land up getting good hotels at good locations. Despite being a little away from the heart of the city and Santa Maria Novella station, our hotel can still vie for being situated at an ‘excellent’ location. It is in the proximity of the city’s historic center and a stone’s throw away from the historic river Arno. We were fortunate to get a room whose balcony overlooked the river. We could also enjoy the sunset over Arno from our hotel balcony. The river had more to offer. Eateries and pubs on the river banks, numerous bridges including medieval ones, and the oldest and the only surviving covered stone bridge ‘Ponto Vecchio’ from the Roman era. This bridge, free of any vehicular traffic hosts shops and a marketplace and spans the narrowest portion of the river. The most encouraging part of our stay was the bus stop which incidentally was about a couple of minutes' walk from our hotel. Though buses were more crowded compared to most of their European counterparts, the service and frequency ensured comfortable rides to all the places of interest. Another great thing about our hotel was the grand buffet breakfast. In addition, an ice cream parlor close to the bus stop made our stay more enjoyable. A family-run gelato shop that had a wide variety of tantalizing ice creams displayed at its counter. We frequented the parlor so much that we soon befriended the lovely lady who looked after it.

 

In the birthplace of the Renaissance and a city famous for museums, our first attempt was to see ‘David’ of Michelangelo. The entire Tuscany region is regarded as a cradle of the high Renaissance. The rebirth from the dark ages started in the 13th century and peaked in the 16th century. The movement encompassed areas in culture, political science, philosophy, and art in particular. It so happened that pioneering efforts to the movements emerged from the Tuscany region. Such as Niccolo Machiavelli, a historian who later came to be known as the father of modern political philosophy and political science; Leonardo da Vinci, a polymath who excelled in a vast range of subjects from paintings, paleontology, science, and engineering to astronomy; Michelangelo, a legendary sculptor, painter, and architect. Their art brought about remarkable changes such as a focus on naturalism and human emotion. The original David of Michelangelo is located in Accademia Gallery on Via Ricasole (near the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore). Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany founded this Accademia in 1784 to initially serve as a place for students of art. Gradually it started housing important works of paintings and models from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. Artists of the Renaissance period. Amongst them Giambologna, Botticelli, Monaco, Pantorus, Michelangelo. Michelangelo, the greatest Renaissance artist, sculpted David from a single white marble block. Originally it was placed at Palazzo Vecchio. This 17 feet tall Biblical sculpture was shifted to a covered area inside Accademia in 1873 for weatherization. 

 

After purchasing the entry tickets in the morning we had to wait till the afternoon as per the visiting time allotted to us. Fortunately, the weather on that day was comfortable and sunny. We had enough time to loiter in the central square, visit the nearby marketplace, listen to a street band and try some munchies in between. When we entered the museum the first sculpture which caught our attention was a plaster model for the stunning marble sculpture of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, placed in the center of the ‘Hall of Colossus’. The museum hosts a rich Renaissance collection. At the Galleria’s ‘Hall of the Prisoners’, I simply could not take my eyes off the tall sculpture of David that stood at the central pedestal right under a circular skylight. So unique that I am now unable to recall how long I stood in awed silence in front of the sculpture, struggling to comprehend how a sculptor could bring out details of human anatomy like arteries, veins, and muscles on a nude figure of David and that too from a single marble block. Indeed a mind-boggling situation. To add to this wondrous experience was the sheen displayed on the white marble sculpted about six hundred years back as the sunlight glinted off the statue. The statue was sculpted from a single marble block by Michelangelo when he was only twenty-four years old, and it took about three years to complete the masterpiece.

 

We saw some more works of Michelangelo such as unfinished “Slaves”, an unfinished statue of St. Matthew, etc., but it was ‘David’ who stole the show and kept us riveted for a long period. Several replicas have come up following the original, but I stubbornly believe that the intricate details and artistry in the original such as subtle veins and muscles are impossible to replicate. A full-sized replica of this statue now stands at Piazza Della Signoria, outside Palazzo Vecchio, the same spot from where the original statue was removed and moved to Accademia Galleria.

 

On the south of the Arno River, atop a hillock is Piazzale (Plaza) Michelangelo, a square dedicated to the great son of Florence. The square is connected to the city center by frequent buses, but the final stop is a little ahead of the spot where another full-sized replica of David is cast in bronze stands. When we reached there in the evening, the plaza was abuzz with revelers and tourists. They all thronged there to enjoy a band playing out some popular old melodies while waiting there to catch a view of the sunset. Unperturbed by the surrounding activities, an attractive young lady in Shakespearean attire was rehearsing a shot for a film.

 

To me the most exhilaratingly beautiful region in Florence is Fiesole. A quaint little place, it is at the same time cute and seemed far away from the madding crowd when we reached there in the morning hours. Initially, I thought it is an elevated part of Florence city. Later on, I learned that it is a small village tucked in the northern Tuscan Hills. Very well connected by bus it took about half an hour from the city center. The place was on a tableland, and the panoramic view of Florence city was simply spectacular. Here also the entire city including the Florence Duomo appears to be cradled in a well when viewed from the top. 

 

The Duomo is the largest and most exquisite masonry work in the world. It is a prominent and iconic landmark of the Florentine skyline. The building of the grand cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was conceived at the end of the 13th century and it took about 150 years to complete. The cathedral had been under construction for a century with no solution as to how the dome-shaped roof should be built. Filippo Brunelleschi, a young goldsmith who had no idea or exposure to architecture finally came up with a solution that produced one of the great masterpieces that to date has survived the ravages of time over centuries. The dome is so large that about four million bricks were used in its construction. The bus terminus is near a sweet courtyard embellished with some beautiful sculptures.


At the other end stands a chapel. A small walk to the left of the courtyard stands Bandini Museum built in mid 18th century by an erudite librarian Angiolo Maria Bandini. The museum displays Tuscan artworks from the medieval to the Renaissance period. Some Roman archaeological ruins and artifacts on the external grounds next to Bandini Museum are on view when the Romans conquered and inhabited the place in the 2nd century BC. However, the amphitheater built during that period remains intact. Since we had to take the afternoon bus to Florence and we still had an hour in hand, we had a delectable Tuscany lunch in a restaurant overlooking the city of Florence. While in Florence, we frequented the Santa Maria Novella Station as it lies right in the heart of the city. As I had mentioned earlier the symbol of Florence ‘the famous Duomo’ lies right across the square adjoining the frontal façade of the station. Right across are a bustling shopping complex and some attractive open-air restaurants. On the left looms the famous Cathedral-an edifice which boasts as a masterpiece of Florence. We too found it a real masterpiece from any perspective we looked at it. Apart from this most of Florence’s bus lines are located at the SMN station, including buses that took us to Fiesole. And finally, of course, the high-speed, regional, and intercity trains run by Trenitalia. The station is a terminal station and all conveniences are properly located, right from ticket counters, automatic ticketing machines manned by young girls and boys to help you get the tickets, snack bars, eateries, washrooms, etc. In other words, the layout and arrangement are so nice that a tourist feels at home and does not have to go about enquiring. From this station, we availed trains to other places in the Tuscan region such as Pisa and Cinque Terre, and finally for traveling to Rome. 



 Photo Credit: Arundhati Sengupta (Ruby)



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Florence Duomo


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David at Accademia - the original David sculpted out of a single marble block by Michelangelo







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David (bronze replica) at Michelangelo Plaza



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Florence from Michelangelo Plaza
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Outside Florence Duomo
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Bandini Museum Fiesole
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Fiesole
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Fiesole
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David at Accademia
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Accademia Florence
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David
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Pieta by Michelangelo
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Accademia Florence
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Paintings at Accademia
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Fiesole Courtyard
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Fiesole
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Bandini Museum
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Fiesole
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Roman amphitheater at Fiesole archaeological area


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The following videos were taken at the Michelangelo Plaza before sunset.
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Comments

Jamal Bhar said…
good morning -- have read your article on Firenze -- penned down with mastery -- I can remember my presence in the same country for seven days in 2019, you opted for the flix bus, we would use the train, tram, and bus, and really we two enjoyed
Commendable!
This beautiful, crisp piece of writing cleverly juxtaposes the dreaminess of Florence with its deep historical essence.
Also, loved the reference to gelato! After all, what is Italy without its culture,Renaissance art, monuments and oh yes the gelato.
The pics have done equal justice to the writing.
Anonymous said…
Interesting content, 💬 good navigation, neat design

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