By the time you read this, I’ve already reached the romantic city that is Florence.
Erika Grace R. Lapitan
Rich with history, the metropolis is celebrated around the world for being home to the masterpieces by Michelangelo, Giotto, Brunelleschi, and so much more. Join me as I journey through the city and get lost in love in its cobblestone streets, age-old buildings, art-filled piazzas and beautiful history.
Piazza’s Many faces
Always the favorite stop of first time visitors, the L-shaped Piazza della Signoria is popular for having the most majestic edifices that capsulate the city’s rich antiquity. It has witnessed many historical occasions like the Bonfire of the Vanities, where a priest named Fra Girolamo Savonarola ordered to have the offensive yet valuable paintings, literary works, and sculptures are destroyed in a fire. Savonarola met his unfortunate fate like that of the masterpieces he ordered to be burn when he was excommunicated, hanged, and burned in 1498. A marble inscription in front of the Fountain of Neptune still marks the exact spot where he was executed.
Those who love historical anecdotes can have a good time unraveling all of what the city can tell through its countless statues. One of the most popular is Michelangelo’s “David” placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Although it isn’t the original, the sculpture still stands as a symbol of the citizen’s defiance against the Medicis, a tyrannical dynasty who ruled Florence during the 1400s.
On its own, the Fountain of Neptune is also a standout with its depiction of the roman sea god battling an octopus. (A subtle portrayal of Florence’s power over the seas).Constructed for the wedding for of Francesco I de’ Medici and Johanna of Austria, the landmark stood unfinished for some time and was soon added by marine deities, adding depth to the masterpiece.
Another remarkable sight is Donatello’s “Judith and Holofernes”, who serves as a reminder for the locals of the banishment of Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici from Florence and the start of a new government under the rule of Savonarola. The bronze statue is only a replica as its original is displayed in the Sala dei Gigli.
Famous sculptor Giambologna also offered his artistic skills in the legacy of the Florence. Among his masterpieces are the sculptures of “The Rape of the Sabines” depicting a Roman legend where Roman men obtained wives from the Sabine tribe and the “Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I” erected in the Piazza to show the Medicis’ dominion over the whole region. While one can never miss the Medici Lions named thusly as Fancelli’s Ancient Lion and Vacca’s Lion, the bronze sculpture of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” gains a stronger following for its portrayal of the well-loved Roman myth where Perseus beheads the snake-haired gorgon.
While the statues outside the Piazza appeals to anyone of different backgrounds, the buildings surrounding it are also a sight to behold. Among them are the Palazzo Vecchio once known as Palazzo della Signoria and the one whose name the Piazza della Signoria came after; Loggia dei Lanzi featuring the trefoils of the four cardinal virtues; the Palazzo Uguccioni constructed in 1550; the Uffizi Gallery established in 1581 and holds more artwork pieces; and the Neo-Renaissance styled Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali that houses the Caffé Rivoire, a renowned chocolatier and famous gathering place for artists and politicians.
Palace of Worship
Considered as Florence’s principal church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was completed in the year 1436 by architects Arnolfo di Cambio and Filippo Brunelleschi. More commonly known as the II Duomo di Firenze, the Gothic styled church houses the world’s largest dome. It is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The façade of the cathedral was designed by Emilio de Fabris after winning the competition held in 1871. Mostly colored in shades of green, pink, and white, the design includes the three looming bronze entrances topped by admirable half-moon spaces, a pediment of Mary enthroned holding a flowered scepter made by Tito Sarrocchi; and the niches of the Twelve Apostles and the Madonna with Child.
Its interiors, however, is dominated by 44 stained glass windows depicting characters from the Old and New Testaments as well as scenes from the life of Christ and Mary; the altar of Saint Zanobius which contains his urn and relics; the crucifix set at the altar made by Benedetto da Maiano; grand frescoes of Paolo Uccello’s Funerary Monument to Sir John Hawkwood and Andrea del Castagno’s Equestrian Statue of Niccolò da Tolentino; the Italian timed clock with the portraits of the four prophets; and the crypt where Brunelleschi’s tomb lies along with the remains of the long gone Florentine bishops.
Lastly, overlooking the whole city is the cathedral dome designed and engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. Although many questioned his ability to create a dome way out from the conventional Gothic buttresses, the maestro overcome all problems and finished what is seen up until the present time.
Baptistery and Bell Tower
Also a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the Baptistery of Saint John and Giotto’s Campanile, both of which are found adjacent to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Considered as one of the oldest structure in the metropolis, the Baptistery of Saint John was constructed in a Romanesque style during the years 1059 and 1128. Its most eye-catching features are the statues of Andrea Sansovino, Giovan Francesco Rustici, and Vincenzo Danti; the octagonal mosaic ceiling depicting many stories from the Bible and whose first artwork dates back in 1225; the Tomb of Antipope John XXIII collaborated by Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi; the south doors made by Andrea Pisano; and the north and east doors designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Hailed by Michelangelo as the “Gates of Paradise”, the northern door’s original artworks are replaced by a replica in 1990 while the original is being preserved in the Museo dell’Opera Del Duomo.
Meanwhile, the Campanile designed by Giotto stands over 84.7 metres high containing seven bells namely; Campanone, Mater Dei, La Misericordia, L’Assunta, Apostolica, L’Immacolata, and Annunziata. Although the original masterpieces displayed in the Campanile are now in the Museo dell’Opera Del Duomo, the replicas here are still a sight to behold. Among them are the hexagonal panels showcasing Genesis’ creation of mankind, liberal arts, and creative arts; the niches of the Prophets; and the figures of the Planets, figures of the Theological and Cardinal Virtues, and the seven sacraments.
Taking the time to meander around the Piazza del Duomo, one can also reach the Medici Chapels constructed for the Medici Family during the 16th and 17th centuries. The edifice consists of two chapels namely Sagrestia Nuova and Cappella dei Principi.
Also known as the New Sacristy, Sagrestia Nuova was designed by Michelangelo. However, the edifice along with its monuments was not completed when Michelangelo departed the city for Rome. Only in 1555 was the chapel declared as officially done and the remains of Lorenzo di Piero and Giuliano di Lorenzo were installed.
Cappella dei Principi, on the other hand, was designed by Matteo Nigetti which contains six empty sarcophagi and sixteen tomb of the Medici family. Because of the need to create a regal mausoleum for the city’s patrons, the Opificio delle Pietre Dure was founded. Cappella dei Principi is also known by the name Chapel of the Princes.
Bridges in water
Conclude your day the best way possible by passing through the stone bridge of Ponte Vecchio situated over the Arno River. Filled with many shops selling local goods, visitors can have a good time walking in the Vasari’s Corridor, a raised passageway built to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. It was designed by Giorgio Vasari in1565 under the order of Cosimo I de’ Medici. Take the time to stop and gaze at the bronze Benvenuto Cellini’s bust set on top of the fountain in the bridge’s eastern side. The bust was said to have been made by Raffaello Romanelli.
Lost in Love
To most people, statues and ancient architecture are boring and blunt, but in truth these can be interesting if only you can look at it with the right perspective. It is a combination of passion and hard work, whose outcome surpasses the life of its maker. And like the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Donatello, and Giambologna it is a creation made purely out of love. Experience that love and get lost in its lifelong stories by travelling to Florence, where art and history coincides.