1YoT: Florence

Florence, our first trip from Bologna, was another destination both Inna and I had been to before; I visited on my college-graduation Eurotrip and Inna studied in the city for a month the summer between her junior and senior year of college.

Despite having been here before, we knew we had to visit Florence on this trip. I wanted to visit because I only came for one day previously and I missed so much; Inna wanted to come back to and show me the city she lived in, much like I did with her in Seattle.

In total, we spent three full days in Florence, not enough to do everything but plenty of time to get a great feel (re-feel?) for the city. And so, without further ado: Florence.

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This is Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance and one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

A small sample of the streets of Florence. The architecture was so beautiful here, and the colors… this city is incredible.

Florence is filled with churches, and here are four of them. These aren’t even the famous ones!

This church, the Duomo, is the most famous church in Florence and one of the grandest churches in the world. Built from 1296 to 1436 (it took so long because the builders couldn’t figure out how to build the dome, they thought they’d figure it out by the time they reached that point in construction, but they were wrong), this was the grandest church in the world upon its completion. When Michelangelo was hired to design St Peter’s Basilica (the current grandest church in the world), his main instruction was to outdo this church.

Inside the Duomo. I keep using the word “spectacular” in these blog posts, but when it fits, it fits.

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This is the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s other most famous building. Built in 1299 to give the people of Florence a palace worthy of their city, the iconic-ness of this building comes from its beautiful architecture and its off-center clocktower. Also, back in the day, Michelangelo’s David was located out front. Today, David is in a museum, but a replica David (seen in the picture) has been placed where the original once stood.

Several other statues are located in the square near the David replica. There are so many statues here, it is practically a statue museum.

Speaking of museums, the ones in Florence are amazing. Above is the Uffizi, which houses the greatest collection of Renaissance art in the world.

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The Uffizi’s most famous piece, The Birth of Venus, is grand and beautiful and one of the most famous paintings in the world. Personally, which I find Venus grand and beautiful, I think the rest of this painting is weird and not very good. No arguing with its fame though, this painting is up there with the Mona LisaStarry Night, the Sistine Chapel, and so on.

These paintings, Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. Ansanus (Martini and Memmi, 1333) on the left and Annunciation (Da Vinci and Verrochio, 1475) on the right, are fascinating because the both depict the same event: angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would conceive and become mother to the son of God. When viewed side-by-side, these paintings clearly show the improved techniques and differing ideas about art that developed during the Renaissance.

Here are some additional famous/interesting works inside the Uffizi. Somehow we missed Venus of Urbino, another one of the most famous paintings from the Renaissance. How could we miss it, maybe it was under restoration, or on loan?

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From the Uffizi we went to the Accademia, a much smaller museum known throughout the world for one particular piece.

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That piece of course is Michelangelo’s David, the greatest statue in the world (sorry Statue of Liberty, although you are close). This larger than life statue is so powerful, the replicas throughout Florence do not do it justice; this is an incredible work of art.

More notable statues at the Accademia. The Accademia has paintings as well, and also a Renaissance era musical instrument collection, but nothing is as famous or interesting as its statue collection.

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One last art piece (if you want to see more, you should definitely go to Florence). This statue, a replica of Donatello’s rendition of Saint Mark, is located in the original’s location, outside the Orsanmichele. This is significant because the original was a major inspiration for Michelangelo, who viewed it as a child from the same location I took this picture.

We’re done with artwork in this post but there’s still one more museum to mention. This museum, dedicated to Da Vinci’s inventions and ideas for inventions (all of which are recreated inside), was one of the more creative museums we saw in Florence. However, in order to save money, we did not go inside. 

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Moving on from museums, here is the Ponte Vecchio, another of Florence’s most famous landmark. Built in 1345 (when shops on bridges was common), this is the only historic bridge in Florence, as all the others were destroyed by retreating Nazis during WWII. This bridge was not destroyed because the general in charge refused to do so; he felt the bridge was too beautiful to be destroyed.

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On the bridge (now lined with jewelry shops) you can’t even tell you’re on a bridge; it looks and feels just like any other street in the city.

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This large and rectangular building may seen unspectacular but it is not. This was the home of the Medicis, one of the wealthiest, most powerful families during the Renaissance. The Medicis were strong supporters of the arts and were the reason more than anyone (except maybe the artists themselves) that the Renaissance started and was centered in Florence.

The insides of the Medici’s house were much more beautiful than the outside. It was also clear that the Medicis were art lovers, as their home was elegant and refined, not gaudy and over-the-top like so many wealthy residences of the time.

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Moving on from the Renaissance, here is the Great Synagogue of Florence, a Jewish temple built in the late 1800s to pay tribute to Italy’s Jewish emancipation earlier that century. This temple, the most spectacular temple I’ve ever seen, was almost destroyed by Nazis and Italian fascists, who planned to blow it up after retreating from the city. Luckily, Italian resistance fighters diffused most of the explosions before they were detonated, minimizing the damage done to this amazing religious temple.

Inna and I went inside this temple, and the insides were even more beautiful that the outside. Unfortunately however, photography was not allowed inside this building.

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From art and religion to fungi, here is the largest and most expensive truffle in the world. I don’t know how any food could be worth that “special” price of $330,000, unless you were starving to death and it was the only food left in the world.

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Finally, we finished our stay with an evening at Ponte Vecchio, listening to music on the bridge, one of the most romantic experiences on our trip.

That brings us to the end of our stay in Florence, but not to the end of our Florence trip. For on our way home, we swung by another one of Italy’s most iconic sites: the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

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