If you could travel back in time to go to the Florence of the past, during the period between the end of XV century and the beginning of XVI century, you would have meet on the street of Florence Brunelleschi and Masaccio, Donatello and Michelangelo, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Savonarola. Each one of them doing their work: architect, painter, sculptor, prince and preacher.
They transformed (without knowing and maybe without wanting) this little city situated on the river Arno in a big open masterpiece: the cradle of the Renaissance. Before Florence was a calm and rich city, after this it became a model to the new man who was coming out from the Middle Age. In a few kilometres, thanks to the will of enlightened princes and artists of genius, palaces, museums, churches, bridges began to rise. In the workshops the paintings that were created were destined to change the history of the arts forever.
Cathedral, Giotto's bell tower and Brunelleschi's dome in Florence
The Brunelleschi’s dome is still the tallest building in Florence. The bell tower was planned by Giotto but he died while he was working on it. The baptistery is one of the oldest building in Florence, it was built in the IV century, with its wonderful main door that looks like an illustrated Bible. The Cathedral has a marvellous frontage made of white and green marble. There’s no other place in the world with a complex of buildings so extraordinaries. We’re in the middle of Florence, in front of Santa Maria del Fiore, that everybody calls “the Cathedral”. A church 153 meters length, built in 170 years, to make the rivals cities (Siena and Pisa) envious. In this ambitious realization were involved all the most importants artists of Florence: Giotto, Brunelleschi, Vasari, Talenti, Arnolfo di Cambio, Lorenzo Ghiberti. Any tour of Florence starts from here: with the look in direction of the bell tower and the expression amazed, asking oneself in how could men create such a wonder.
Ponte Vecchio in Florence
The Florence’s most beautiful bridge is one of the most photographed too. Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) wasn’t built to be a stylish place: nowadays it’s full of goldsmith’s shops,but until 1565 most of the shops were groceries and butcher’s. Then on it was built the “Corridoio Vasariano” (Vasari corridor), that runs over the bridge, and the butchers and the grocers were driven out in favour of the goldsmiths and artisans. The latters were considered “more consonants” with the beauty of the place. From then on, the gold became a protagonist of Ponte Vecchio, as the statue of Benvenuto Cellini (the greatest goldsmith of Florence) reminds. In 1565 Giorgio Vasari built for Cosimo I de’ Medici the “Corridoio Vasariano” (Vasari corridor) to connect Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti (at that time it was residence of the de’ Medici) the corridor is one kilometre long, it starts from Palazzo Vecchio, passes through the Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery) and over the workshops of Ponte Vecchio and ends in Palazzo Pitti. It seems that Hitler during the Second World War bombardments ordered to save the bridge.
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
The first thing you can notice of Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) is that you can’t take a full picture of it. Even if you go in the farthest place in Piazza della Signoria, at the crossing with via dei Calzaiuoli, the palace is too large and too tall to enter in only one photo. But you can’t keep from taking a picture of it because it is considered the best example of XIV century civil architecture. What prevent the palace to enter in only one picture is the “Torre di Arnolfo” (Arnolfo Tower), which is 94 meters tall and it was built in 1310. This tower brings on its top the flag with the Fleur-de-lis of Florence. At the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio there’s exposed (as a support for the pigeons too…) a copy of Michelangelo’s David. This very beautiful palace is in Piazza della Signoria; This square has been long-time considered “cursed”, because it was the terrain of the struggle between guelphs and ghibellines. Today, faded the memories of this bloody past, Piazza della Signoria is the centre of the social, civil and political life of all Florence’s city dwellers.
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Caravaggio returns and Raffaelo is gone. Tiziano leaves for an art exhibition but the “Angeli” by Rosso Fiorentino are back. The Uffizi Gallery is like an art supermarket, a case that contains masterpieces of every historical period. This is the favourite destination for all the art lovers. It’s quite strange to see the tourists (in large part tourists coming from other countries) stand patiently in queue whereas the greatest part of the Italians has never been to the Uffizi. There are a lot of things to see. If you think about a painting, it is probably kept here. The path inside this huge museum begins with the XIV century room which houses the three altar pieces made by Cimabue, Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto. They represent an enthroned Virgin and child. Then it’s a crescendo of beauty: Botticelli, Leonardo, Signorelli, Perugino, Durer, Caravaggio… We want to give you just one tip: During your stay in Florence program an entire day dedicated to the Uffizi, wear a pair of comfortable shoes and enjoy this spectacle.
Brancacci Chapel in Florence
An angel wielding a sword chases Adam and Eve in order to expel them from the Eden. Adam covers his face with his hand, he cries and tries to hide himself because of the shame. Eve has the look disfigured by the pain, her face is visible because hers arms are busy covering her breast.
It’s an harrowing scene, this fresco is considered one of the highest point of art history and it is painted on the vaulted ceiling of the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Masolino and Masaccio, young and old, theacher and pupil, frescoed this chapel together, which was commissioned by Felice Brancacci. It isn’t easy to recognize the frescoes made by Masolino from the ones made by Masaccio and vice-versa. Brancacci obliged the two to work on the same walls to reduce the style differences at the minimum.It is a pictorial path that surprises everyone, believers or not.
Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence
Michelangelo’s grave, protected from three statues that represent the painting, the sculpture and the architecture, contends the entrance of the Basilica to Galileo Galilei, who lies in front of the artist. A little forward there’s Dante’s cenotaph (his mortal remains are in Ravenna, where he was dead). Follow Vittorio Alfieri, Antonio Canova, Nicolò Machiavelli, Gioacchino Rossini and Ugo Foscolo. The latter defined Santa Croce as the place where were preserved “le urne dei forti” (“the mortal remains of the greats”). But Santa Croce isn’t just a collection of tombs of the greatest Italian people. Indeed, at the end of the Church, there are the Chapels frescoed by Giotto with the histories of San Francesco’s life. In the Pazzi Chapel, where Giuliano de’ Medici was killed and Lorenzo the Magnificent was injured in a conspiracy, it’s kept a crucifix made by Cimabue.
Dante and Beatrice's church in Florence
For two lovers it must be difficult to stay separated. Dante lived about 20 meters from this church, his house is still there, you can visit it. Beatrice went to mass in this little church where all her family members (the Portinari family) were interred and where the ones of Gemma Donati (Dante’s wife) too. The two met along the street or in this little church where they look each other (that was how far their love arrived…) The church name is Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, but it is known as Dante and Beatrice’s church. A bad painting hanged up one of the walls of the church remembers their first fleeting glance, the moment in which Dante fell in love with Beatrice. But the fact is that this church has become a symbolic place for all the lovers who can’t stay together, whom leave messages on Beatrice’s grave (Please make him come back to me, or Help me I can’t stand loosing him., etc.).