Florence. Just saying this famous city’s name manipulates your creative essence to automatically imagine culture, elegance and beauty. For centuries, this city alone has been the center of art and world history, offering man the ability to seek out the answers to understanding his questions on all levels of scientific, artistic and personal fulfillment. This questioning has also given him the ability to expand his personal universe on countless levels of academics, science and philosophical thinking, expanding into a greater understanding of how these thoughts can harmonize with each other, opening up a window to the human heart and psyche.
I have no shame is saying that the first time I stood on a Florentine street, it changed my life. I couldn’t ignore the hum of inspiration hitting me like a thunder bolt, cracking open a flood of internal possibilities that if I acted on them, my life would be enrich in some magnificent way. I was mesmerized by this shot energy and creativity that had influenced so many great men and women over the centuries.
Consider this … Michelangelo lived and studies in Florence … Machiavelli wrote and published his master work, shaping political philosophy … the Medici Family and their creation of banking and accounting practices are still use today, as well as their great personal patronage of art, music, literature, and architecture, allows visitors to Florence to see and appreciated endless beauty. The list of individuals over the centuries taking their inspiration from Florence is endless and a testament to its glorious position as a ‘creative’ capitol.
Like most major cities in Italy, Florence originated as a Roman city, and later, became a flourishing trading and banking center, progressing its way down the road to becoming the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. In the late Middle Ages, Florentine money known as gold florin, helped to finance the development of industry all over Europe. From Britain to Bruges; to Lyon and Hungary, Florentine bankers even assisted in financing the English kings during the Hundred Years War, and the papacy, in their construction of their provisional capital of Avignon, and later when they returned their seat of power to Rome.
At its center, this city still contained the medieval walls built in the 14th century to defend it. At its heart in Piazza della Signoria (also known asPalazzo Vecchio), where the Fountain of Neptune is, this sculpture masterpiece of marble offers locals and tourists a gathering place that is still spouting water as the last stop of a still-functioning Roman aqueduct. Also the original statue of Michelangelo’s David was placed here in 1504 and later moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873 where you can view it is all its magnificence. As a tribute to its original home, a copy of David sits in the Plazzo.
Florence is known for its monuments, churches and buildings. The best-known site is its domed cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as (what else!) ‘The Duomo.’ To gain a new perspective of the city, visitors can take the steps up to the top of the dome (for a small fee, of course) to see a breathtaking view of the city and the piazza surrounding the church. The dome, 600 years after its completion, is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world.
When visiting this area and sites of the city, you must make sure to visit a wonderful museum gem located behind the Duomo, The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Cathedral). This museum containing many of theoriginal works of art created for the Duomo and is located in the original buildings used by builders and craftsmen during the construction. Today it houses what has been called “one of the world’s most important collections of sculpture” along with the tools used to build Florence’s great cathedral. Among the museum’s pieces are the original doors for the Baptistery, the singing-galleries designed for the cathedral and “The Deposition,” a pietà sculpted and intended by Michelangelo for his own tomb. It’s believed Michelangelo used his own likeness to create the face of Nicodemus.
Also nearby, the Baptistery, (Battistero di San Giovanni or Baptistery of St. John) is a must see. With its own status asminor basilica, the octagonal building is across from the cathedral and Campanile di Giotto (Giotto bell tower). This structure is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built between 1059 and 1128. It is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The east pair of these doors was dubbed by Michelangelo as “the Gates of Paradise”. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized here. Until the end of the nineteenth century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized here.
As you can imagine, there are a large numbers of art-filled churches. All possess a beauty and historical significance of their own. Yet, if I had to pick one of my favorites, it would have to be The Basilica of Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross). Located southeast of the Duomo, thischurch’s location when first chosen, was in marshland outside the city walls. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini, thus it is known also as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell’Itale Glorie). Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world, and is noted for its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils. Legend says Santa Croce was founded by St Francis himself.
There is so much to tell you about Florence, that this posting alone of “Off the Beaten Path” isn’t enough. With that thought, I’ve decided to break my Florence musings into two parts. So until next time, we will not only continue our travel through glorious Italy, but continue to experience more of this great city.
Santa Croce Church © carolynconner
All other pictures © Margaret Hren
Juliet Martini is an aspiring romance writer in the contemporary and romantic suspense genres, seeking fame and publication (hopefully), in the near future. Currently, she is working on her second book, the first in a three book series centered on passion, wine and Italy. By day, she hides out as Margaret Hren, a marketing and fundraising consultant, and when time permits, she is building her author website and planning her next exotic travel get away. She also hopes to also launch her travel blog, The Travel Savvy Chick, later this year focusing on travel tips and personally acquired destination information.