(HDR Shot of the Duomo and surrounding Florence taken from the Palazzo Vecchio tower with a Canon 5D Mk II)
This summer I was fortunate enough to take a fabulous vacation to Europe with my family and of all the places we visited Florence, Italy was probably my favorite. (Or at least tied for first with Switzerland.)
Florence has everything for somebody visiting Europe – it has the typical draws: river, old part, new part, and a big church. Florence has these, yes, but it also has a stunningly rich history. Michelangelo – ate gelato here and did some killer marble carving. Galileo – wasn’t buying the “earth-centric” view the church was selling and published his research showing the Sun, not the Earth was the center of our solar system. The church wasn’t happy with Galileo and sentenced him to home imprisonment, which he carried out in beautiful Florence. Dante – he was banished from Florence after choosing the wrong side of a political battle, and Leonardo Di Vinci bounced between creating works of art and inventing new contraptions in Florence before moving to Rome.
(HDR Shot of the Duomo, again from the Palazzo Vecchio tower.)
(Duomo from the ground level.)
There are interesting historical stories about every part of Florence. Here we see the Florence Cathedral, which everyone simply calls the “Duomo.” Construction of the cathedral started in 1296, and at the time nobody had the technical ability to build the large dome. The Cathedral actually sat for years with a huge hole on top until finally genius Filippo Brunelleschi figured out a way to construct the dome with brick and without using a wooden form. (Sort of like constructing an igloo dome – which I’ve tried, very unsuccessfully before but that’s a different story.) The Duomo is a spectacular site in Florence, and visitors can climb the 463 steps (we did it – in the summer – small spaces) to the viewing platform on top of the dome. (If you look at the image above you can almost see the tiny people on top of the dome.)
(Interior shot of the Dome)
Here you can see the paintings on the inside of the dome. This shot was taken from the top of the main part of the Cathedral. To continue up the dome you enter a tiny passageway from here and then work your way up a minuscule spiral staircase to the top.
It's a long climb, but the view is worth it! Florence isn't all about the Duomo, there are tons of museums, public artwork, and the gorgeous Arno river.
(HDR shot of the Ponte Vecchio)
There are a few bridges that span the Arno river, but the most well known is the Ponte Vecchio. Currently the bridge is full of jewelry shops; but originally it housed several butcher shops. Evidently the ruling class at the time (who had the cross the bridge every day to go to work) got tired of the rancid smells emanating from the butcher shops and had them removed. (It’s good to be in charge.) Additionally, the Medici family (aforementioned rulers) constructed a special passageway for them to use that kept them elevated from the “common folk.” You can see the windows of the passageway known as the “Vasari Corridor” in the image. Here are a couple more shots of this famous bridge. Because the city is so beautiful, tourists and citizens alike are often taking photographs. I would imagine that Florence would be a great setting for a motion picture as well. I think there is a movie in work that takes place in Florence. (New Dan Brown movie perhaps?) I spotted this cameraman shooting some footage while on the Arno.
(I'll bet it would be expensive if that boat were to capsize...)
The Ponte Vecchio isn’t the only bridge on the Arno. Other bridges offer splendid views as well. The bridge next to the Ponte Vecchio is the Ponte a Santa Trinita and is adorned with beautiful statuary. (I hope that is a word.)
There is more to Florence than just the river and the Duomo. Art is huge here, and masterpieces can be found everywhere. Even the street artists are highly talented… Before we arrived in Florence, my wife, daughter, and I all read Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno - which takes place mostly in Florence. Because the book was fresh in our minds we had to seek out some of the places Dan talks about in his novel. (No spoilers I promise.) If you have read the novel, you'll enjoy the following images. (If not, you can skip to the bottom.)
(Dante's death mask features prominently in the book. It is located in the Palazzo Vecchio.)
Speaking of the Palazzo Vecchio, here is a view from the outside. The top two pics of the Duomo and Florence were taken from the top of the tower. Inside the Palazzo Vecchio we see ancient MMA fighters demonstrating unorthodox (yet very effective) advanced grappling techniques. Brown mentions this sculpture in the book.
Here Jill stands next to a door inside the Boboli gardens that Dan Brown’s main character uses to escape bad guys.
One last book reference – also found in the Boboli gardens, this grotto was used as a hiding place in the novel.
Okay, ENOUGH about Dan Brown’s Inferno. If you liked his previous work, you’ll probably like his new one. I have a couple more things to say about Florence.
I LOVE the compact design of old Florence. At this point on our Europe vacation we had walked and walked and walked and walked… You get the point. In Florence, you can walk from one end of old town to the other in about 10 minutes! Unlike Rome where you must take cabs, buses, and donkeys to see everything – mostly all you need to do is take a short walk to see the next sight in Florence. We did take a great bicycle tour while we were there. I recommend this method of movement if you want to get off your feet for a bit. Never take a Segway tour – I think it’s impossible to maintain a cool demeanor on top of one of these dork-mobiles – (My own personal opinion of course. Please don’t sue me.)
(The Young family on bikes.)
We absolutely loved our time in Florence. Between the history, fantastic sights, abundant priceless works of art – what’s not to love? We cherished every minute of our stay. My daughter also loved the gelato… (Maybe more than the art? Have to ask her….) Salute!