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29 May 2011

Discover the Birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence, Italy!

Replica of Michelangelo's David outside Palazzo Vecchio in Florence where original once stood.  
If you’re as fascinated by the Renaissance as I am, then a visit to Florence, Italy, is a mandatory component on any Italian itinerary. This is where the Renaissance was born!  From the moment you arrive, you are surrounded by churches, museums and monuments steeped in the rich history and traditions of the Renaissance or the age of "rebirth."  During this time of enlightenment, Florence led the way out of the Dark Ages and into the light through the work of its masters of art and architecture some of whom were cultivated and nurtured by the influential Medici Dynasty.

Florence skyline seen from Boboli Gardens in Oltrarno. 
The Renaissance – a period of resurgence for the classics through the arts – began at the end of the 14th century and lasted through the beginning of the 16th. It was then that Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Botticelli, and countless others, changed the course of history forever through their contributions of art, architecture, music and literature. Throughout the Renaissance, creativity flourished, new art forms were born and the world will never see again such a time of emergence and brilliance of expression! Everywhere you look, you’ll discover masterpieces on canvas, in fresco, in marble, in writing, and in the design of some of the most inspiring buildings in the world. Journey with me on this Florentine tour through some of the most fascinating places of the Renaissance.

Santa Maria del Fiore - aka the Duomo in Florence, Italy
In the heart of the city center of Florence and one of Florence’s most recognizable edifices stands the Santa Maria del Fiore, aka, the “Duomo.” When this centerpiece of the city was completed in 1436, it forever changed the city’s skyline with the largest brick and mortar dome ever built to this day (Pantheon is larger but made of concrete for you history buffs). Hardly a picture exists today without the unmistakable Brunelleschi’s Dome (amazing 360-degree tour) dominating the scene of every Florentine landscape. The church itself houses stunning frescos on the walls and the interior of the dome stretches 90 meters from the floor. Plus, you’ll find an ancient Christian basilica – Santa Reparata – built in the 4th and 5th centuries, just below the cathedral’s main floor. Look for the entrance to the right of the front doors once you’re inside. Outside and hard to miss is Giotto’s Campanile standing right next door. Be sure to venture up the 414 steps to jaw-dropping views of Florence!

Looking 90 meters toward the heaven inside Brunelleschi's Dome.  The fresco is Vasari's "Last Judgment."  
Just outside the front door of the Duomo is the Florence Baptistery, a magnificent edifice standing for more than a thousand years and consecrated in 1059 as a temple to Jesus. Dating back another 200 years to the 9th century, an earlier structure stood on this spot and served as a temple to Mars, the Roman god of war. Venture inside for breathtaking views of the heavens adorned by magnificent mosaics glistening on the ceiling.

Outside, the renowned Gates of Paradise adorn the eastern doors of this eight-sided building. Designed and completed by Ghiberti in 1452, the Gates of Paradise comprise 10 panels that depict the stories of the Old Testament. Did you know Michelangelo coined the phrase Gates of Paradise to describe their stunning beauty? Unfortunately, due to erosion and weathering, the original panels were moved inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, a museum just behind the Duomo and open to the public. What remains on the exterior of the Baptistery are striking reproductions down to the finest detail.

Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" on the eastern doors of the Baptistery. 
Just a few blocks away, be sure to visit the Bargello Museum. Built in 1255, the Bargello houses the most superb collection of Renaissance sculpture ever housed under one roof.

Toward the Arno River, lies the Piazza Vecchio. Here, you’ll find the Palazzo Vecchio with a replica of Michelangelo’s David and Hercules standing guard at the entrance. You’ll also find the Uffizi Museum where the Medici family housed their personal collection of art amassed during their reign of Florence, some dating back to early Gothic. Inside, gaze upon Botticelli’s larger-than-life “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera.”

The Uffizi Museum surrounds the courtyard with the Arno River just beyond the arch.  
Speaking of Museums, I am sure you’ll want to see Michelangelo’s colossal statue of David—the original masterpiece. You’ll find it inside the Accademia Gallery on the other side of the Duomo. And while you’re in the neighborhood of the Accademia, visit the Medici Chapels in San Lorenzo and the Laurentian Library, both designed by Michelangelo as well.

The 14th-century Ponte Vecchio.
Spanning the Arno River is the Ponte Vecchio, a 14th-century bridge that has become another Florentine icon and somewhat of a shopper’s mecca. Stroll along, and you’ll find shop after shop brimming with treasures of glistening jewels and gold.

Finally, in between all of the fascinating Renaissance discoveries, be sure to stop and taste a delicious Gelato or two or three. Heck, why not sample them all. I have heard plenty of visitors proclaim that Florence has the best in the world!

Santa Croce – Michelangelo's and Galileo's final resting place.  
These are but a few of the most visited sites in Florence for there are many others, too many to include in this article but nonetheless, worthy of mention so I will dedicate entire articles to more of them in the future. Whether you visit one or ten, one thing is certain, you too will become “enlightened” by your experience in the Renaissance city of Florence!

Tips to know before you go:

Check out Rick Steves' Amazon Store and the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Florence & Tuscany for tourist sight information, maps, tips and recommendations, not to mention photos. Also, be sure to make reservations for your museum visits (Uffizi and Accademia) prior to leaving home, otherwise you risk standing in 3-hour queues. There is a nominal charge but check with your hotel first because they can and will make reservations for you and at no cost.

Arrivederci from Florence, Italy!

12 comments:

  1. We had a great time over Rome, during our Honeymoon. Specially in Rome, the hotels were excellent. We would like to thank The Rome Holidays - Team who supported and helped us in arranging this tour in such a short period of time.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences. Did you make it to Florence?

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  3. Looks beautiful. Thanks for the virtual tour. I almost always end up skipping the cities, thinking I can see those through the lens & pens of bloggers like you! Blog-rolling you :)

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  4. Thank you "Shooting Star" for stopping by and sharing your sentiments. I love both the cities and countryside. Where have you been?

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  5. You make me want to go back so bad. Hmm let see It was 8 months ago when I visite, but I still can picture those beautiful sight. I love the lively street music by the bridge when I visit.

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  6. Hi again Sarah!! I just love your enthusiasm for my posts!! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and share your thoughts!!! XOXO

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  7. I like this city. Also, It is wonderful places to visit, admirable scenery, good and friendly people, amazing history.


    travel recommendations

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  8. Hi Henry,
    Thanks so much for stopping by. And, can't argue with your point of view on one of my FAV cities in the world! Rich in history, architecture, art and of course, the people!! Thx again.

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  9. The post is very nicely written and it contains many useful facts. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement. Thanks for sharing with us.

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  10. Thank you Barcelona apartments for your compliments. Can you tell I am in love with Florence? More importantly, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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  11. What an amazing city! This is one place in the world I can tolerate the tons of tourists. Everything about it radiates beauty.

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    Replies
    1. Hi there Stephen and thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I couldn't agree with you more ... I have fallen in love with Florence since my very first visit and the city continues to enchant and delight every time I see her!

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Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!