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Copyright Enrico Massetti 2014
Published by Enrico Massetti
All Rights Reserved
Third edition - 2018
Florence is the cultural capital of Europe since 1400, when Europe's towns were rural and crude, while Florence practiced the art of civilized living. Today Florence is geographically small, but culturally rich, with more artistic masterpieces per square mile than any other place on earth.
Florence is located in Northern Italy, conveniently reachable from Rome, Venice, and Milan.
Map of Florence
The center of Florence is small and compact, and can very quickly be covered on foot.
These are the few things you have to do before to make this visit possible:Make Accademia reservations for mid-morningof the second day, you can do it online at http://www.uffizi.com/accademia-gallery-florence.asp. The Accademia is a must-see, although it shouldn't take more than an hour of your precious time. Michaelangelo's David is worth the admission, and you can take as little as 30 seconds of looking or 30 minutes of studying the sculpture. The other pieces in the museum are excellent, mainly the other Michaelangelo sculptures.Make your hotel reservationsMake your train and/or air reservationUnfortunately, to visit the Galleria degli Uffizi, you would need to spend a lot of time waiting in line, even if you make an advance reservation you still would have to wait for hours. It has therefore not been included in this itinerary.
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Before starting to see Florence one should first look down from the top of one of its grey stone towers at the red sea of roofs lying between the hills, scattered with villas, cypresses, and olive groves. The natural setting of the city is superb.
We start our visit to Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, the most famous observation point of the cityscape of Florence, reproduced in countless postcards and a must-see for anyone visiting the city.
The old town can be appreciated in its entirety from the surrounding hills, especially from Forte Belvedere, from the Piazzale Michelangelo with the Romanesque Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, which offers one of the most beautiful views of the Arno valley.
From this point go up the monumental staircase of San Salvatore to San Miniato, with its facade of inlaid polychrome marble; this is more than decoration, it is color serving to express the architecture; the serene beauty of this façade is a foreshadowing of the Renaissance.
Frescoes by Spinello Aretino
In the interior, this peaceful expression of beauty in marble is continued. In the nave the Chapel of the Crucifix by Michelozzo, in the north aisle, the beautiful tomb by Manetti for a Portuguese Cardinal. In the Sacristy there are frescoes by Spinello Aretino, a pleasing minor master of the late 14th-century.
The crypt is the oldest part of the church (XI-century), is surmounted by the main altar that is supposed to contain the bones of San Miniato (although there is evidence that these had already been brought to Metz before the church was built).
As long as the rectory, it is accessed through its five arches that lead to three flights of stairs, corresponding respectively to the aisles of the church. The ceiling vaults rest on thirty-eight columns which, in turn, are divided into three aisles crypt inner and four sides. On this ceiling, there are frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi, dating back to 1341.
From here you can walk 15 minutes to Forte Belvedere (late 16th-century) which houses detached frescoes from various parts of Tuscany. Beneath is the Boboli Garden.
Today, the Forte Belvedere is one of the most beautiful sights of the city, hence the name, which competes advantageously with the Piazzale Michelangelo. During the summer, it is open to the public until late at night and includes a bar-restaurant and a nightclub. In 2006, the Alberto della Ragione Collection was exhibited and at a vantage point on the ramparts was placed a large sofa, along a dozen meters.
Going through the rusticated Porta San Giorgio, we come into the almost country lane of Via San Leonardo down which we walk towards the monumental complex of the Baptistery and the Cathedral.
This walk takes about 15 minutes.
We start our visit to the monuments of the old town with the most ancient building in Florence: the Baptistery.
It is of the 11th-century and has the same clean and linear architectural lines as San Miniato.
Venetian mosaic on the dome
The interior is an elegant octagon with a glittering Venetian mosaic on the vault.
On either side of the altar stand the impressive Mary Magdalene and the Papal Tomb by Donatello.
The Gate of Paradise
The bronze doors are of different periods; that facing the Cathedral, which Michelangelo called The Gate of Paradise, is the masterpiece of Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455).
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Opposite the Baptistery is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The facade is from the 19th-century, but the interior impresses by the pure harmony with which the Florentines adopted (or perhaps adapted) the Gothic style. Giotto took part in the building of the Cathedral, which was completed by that genius of the early Renaissance, Brunelleschi, with his mighty dome.
Dante - Domenico di Michelino
In the north aisle, there are the fresco portraits of Dante, by Domenico di Michelino, of two captains of the Florentine army, the Essex knight, Sir John Hawkwood (“Giovanni Acuto”) by Paolo Uccello, and Niccolo da Tolentino by Andrea del Castagno.
Campanile di Giotto
Leaving by the door at the end of the church, in the south aisle, we note the sharp curve of the apse and the rich shape of the Campanile