Sunday, 12 January 2014

Florence top 5

#5 Boboli Gardens
Beaut in the summer. These gardens belong to the Pitti Palace, the former residence of the Pitti family before the Medici's made it their summer house. Entry can be solely to the gardens or with entry to the Palace and galleries. Cutest place ever, but you need some good shoes if you want to make the most of it. Good value for money and literally a stones throw away from the Ponte Vecchio.


#4 San Miniato al Monte
A gorgeous Romanesque church right on top of a hill in Florence. Lovely views, and neighbours a grave yard which houses the massive tombs of rich Floretian families from back in the day (and now). It is a good place to go because of the views and because the church begins to show hints of the proto-renaissance style. Florence is obviously the center of the Renaissance but it's cool to see where the Renaissance came from in the first place! If you time it right, then you will be able to catch the monks singing too which is a scary but unique experience. The name supposedly derives from the name of a saint of whom had his decapitated head rolled up the hill to its final resting place.

#3 Santa Croce
Santa Croce translates into English as the 'Holy Cross'. It is a church dedicated to the Story of the True Cross - where Helena, the mother of the first Christian Emperor of Rome Constantine searches for the cross that Jesus was crucified on. The story is illustrated in Fresco in the main chapel opposite the main entrance. I am unsure of whether the conservation work is yet complete but it's worth a look. What is more, the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo reside here too, alongside the dining room in the convent of the church with the Last Supper by Taddeo Gaddi. If you happen to be in Florence during the Christmas season there is a lovely German inspired Christmas market in the Piazza outside of it too.

#2 Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio was the government house for the brief republic that thrived during the expulsion of the Medici. Needless to say, once they came back in the early 16th century they were not too pleased and held a public execution of the head of the republic (Savonarola) in the middle of the Piazza della Signoria to send the message that they are a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, for those who lurve a good old Dan Brown style conspiracy then the Hall of 500 inside of this building is where there is a supposedly lost Leonardo Da Vinci drawing. My lecturer out there was actually on a research team of whom had found evidence that there was Leonardo's very identifiable pigment behind the Vasari Fresco. Famously behind the Italian phrase 'cerca trova' - he who searches shall find. Outside is also a collection of sculptures both around the perimeters of the building and under the Loggia dei Lanzi. If you're rich as well then you should book the tour of the secret Medici pathway that runs from the Pitti Palace, through the Ponte Vecchio and ending at the Palazzo Vecchio. If you're not rich, like the most of us, then en route to the Pitti Palace you will come across a simple church to your left (if you're coming from the Ponte Vecchio), the entrance is free and once you enter, turn around and look up. The small window is part of the passage way, so that the people using the passage could admire the inside of the church. Once you've seen that, you'll be able to notice the path that the passage way takes: It weaves in and around already built buildings. And Robert Langdon went there.
P.S, if you like art and Florence then I 100% recommend Dan Brown's Inferno - I have never been so excited by a book before!!

#1 Gilded Doors of the Battisero di San Giovanni
It seems as if most people pay more attention to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in the Piazza del Duomo than they do the Baptistery. The doors though deserve more attention because a) they are beautiful and so intricately carved b) they single handedly represent the transition from proto-renaissance to renaissance better than any museum or gallery could and c) because Dan Brown's Robert Langdon hid in there! The doors have been shifted around a bit so that the doors that face the door of the Cathedral (east) are now the Doors of Paradise, when really they were not in the central position to begin with. It is only when they were completed that the patrons decided that Ghiberti's doors deserved to be where they are now. It was originally Pisano's design that resided in its place but has since been moved to the south side of the Baptistery. The first doors were finished in 1336 by Pisano, Ghiberti then completed the second set of doors by the 1420's and then after their success began the long journey to complete the spectacular Doors of Paradise. They deserve a visit, and more than a superficial glance. However, these doors have recently been duplicated and the originals stored in the cathedral museum behind the cathedral for preservation, which is fairly pricey to enter.

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