top of page
DSC_0483.jpg

FLORENCE

THE MUSEUM CITY

Florence, popularly known as Firenze, is the capital of the Tuscan region in northern Italy.  Home to almost one third of the world’s art treasures, this city is a fairytale land and a museum by itself as ours eyes could see it.  Every fragment of the city is covered in rich History and art.  Every street has at least one museum or display of a work of art.   It was home to the Medici family, the richest ever during their times who gained power to rule the city for around 350 years as businessmen, bankers and dealers of various arts.  Apart from being celebrated as the birth place of Leonardo da Vinci and Florence Nightingale, the city also boasts of being the place where the Piano and Opera were invented and where the Gucci brand first came into existence.  It is also the first city in Europe that flaunted paved streets.  

 

The historic centre of Florence can be easily covered by short walks.  Spending an entire day in the city can be highly enriching.  You can expect to stand in awe amidst history itself and get drenched in stories and culture.   For a detailed visit, please keep at least 4 days aside to look around the city.

Our flight from Bangalore reached Rome via Abu Dhabi.  We then boarded a train to reach Florence city.  The idea was to stay put in Florence and explore the surrounding areas for the next 4 days.  Our accommodation was booked for 5 nights,  via airbnb, situated at a 3 minute walk from the Campo De Marte railway station.  This made it easy to use trains for point to point travel.

02 May 2018

03 May 2018

TRAVEL TIP : It is always good to read articles on “moving around FLORENCE (or any city of your travel)” before your trip.  You can get updated information on local travel.

 

The ATAF (now called AUTOLINEE TOSCANE) bus system in Florence (at that point in time) allowed anyone to purchase day passes for travel by bus around the city, from any TABACCHI or vending machines in stations.   A Tabacchi is basically a small convenience store (that initially sold tobacco and cigarettes and therefore the name), found in most corners in Italy.  

At around 9:30 am we walked to a Tabacchi lying 3 buildings away from our airbnb accommodation in CAMPO DE MARTE.   We bought our day pass and walked to the nearest bus stop.  The idea was to use the pass for longer distances and save our energy to cover the more relevant areas by walk.

 

Taking buses to get around the city is worth it and also cheap. Today, of course, bus tickets can be purchased by downloading a certain app.  Though it would roughly take 25 mins by foot, we chose to take 2 buses to get to the Historic Centre of Firenze.  It was a pleasure to ride around the more modern parts of the city and explore them this way.

 

No matter how much time you have on hands, the city has no dearth for  “yet another historical landmark “.  The entire day was dedicated to FLORENCE CITY and we covered as much as we could on that day.

THE MEDICI PALACE

Getting off at the Pucci Duomo stop,  we walked ahead to find the MEDICI PALACE to our right.   As the wealthiest family of the 15th century, the MEDICI members were great patrons of art.  They were the founders of the most popular MEDICI BANK and rose to great fortune that turned them from mere shrewd merchants and businessmen to being referred to as “members of ROYALTY”.   It was interesting to know that the family was a part of creating the famous GELATO of Italy.  The family members resided in this PALACE during the 1400’s.  It is also referred to as the PALAZZO MEDICI RICARDI, as after nearly a century of possession it was sold to the RICARDI family.   Today it serves as a museum.  We didn’t have enough time to visit the interiors of the Palace.  

 

We took a left from the Palace to reach a street that connected to the main Cathedral square instead.  Shops flooded either side of this bustling street. 

Palazzo_Medici_Riccardi-Florence.jpg

CATHEDRAL OF Santa Maria DEL FIORE

At the end of the street was this massive massive marble structure - THE DUOMO- Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, which is the biggest Landmark of the city.  It can be spotted from a great distance.   We stood speechless with goosebumps in front of the spectacular construction.  It is once in a life time experience and should not be missed.  Tons and Tons of marble, built and styled aesthetically to give it that heavenly look, is sure to leave you mesmerised.  It is the most spell binding structure I’ve ever witnessed in my life.

 

The structure took around 140 years to reach completion and is known to have the largest masonry dome in the world.  True that !  It is definitely an architectural masterpiece.   The dome of the Pantheon in Rome is said to be the inspiring factor for this dome.   The interesting fact is that despite being in its 80th year of construction, there was still no idea on the architectural design of the dome, as the structure had gotten bigger than expected by then.   A competition was therefore thrown open to public, which was won by Filippo Brunelleschi, who then designed the dome without usage of wood.  Unbelievable I must say.   14 decades of labour and hard work has totally paid off.   You must read the effort of the master mind Brunelleschi behind this marvellous piece of art.  Trust me, it is a long list of highly inspiring and motivating facts. 

 

A long queue built up alongside the Basilica and we simply joined in.  There is no entry fee here, but you would still need to fall in queue.  Climbing up the Duomo (dome), is however, chargeable.  

 

It started to rain mildly.  We bought a few umbrellas from the street vendors in business around the area and continued to wait.   We could hardly spot the dome from where we were standing.  I tried to photograph the beauty and magnificence from many angles. What took decades to build cannot be captured in few minutes can it ?  I still felt photos didn’t do justice to the actual structure.  

 

One must see it to experience it. 

 

We finally entered the Basilica.  As magnificent as it is on the outside, the inside of this Cathedral brings harmony & peace to the minds.  Italy as such, is known for all its renaissance artists who enriched the entire country with their works of art, Florence is the crown of it all.  The marble carvings and decorations on the gates and front door were so intricate and beautiful.  The high risen roof, designed marble flooring, cartloads of artwork preserved in its interiors, paintings, stained glasses and frescoes created by noted artists decorate every nook and corner.  The subtle lighting brings about a divine feel despite being crowded by tourists.  Several niche in pillars and walls display statues of kings, prophets and important people.   Stunning pillars arch all around the Nave.  Each and every piece of art and decoration would need pages and pages of description.  All I can say right now is, please add this to your travel bucket list and experience the magic yourself. 

THE BAPISTERY OF ST.JOHN

Lying right opposite to the Chiesa Santa Maria del Fiore is the Bapistry of St. John.  It is an octagonal shaped Marble structure, sharing similar shades of the main Duomo itself. Both the buildings, along with a free standing bell tower called Giotto’s Bell Tower, that which is considered now to be a part of the Basilica itself, exist in harmony, bringing life to the Piazza di San Giovanni .

 

The baptistery has been in existence since the 6th Century when it was just a Roman Tower.  Two renovations since then bestowed upon it the current look.  It is therefore older than the Duomo and another noted and important landmark of the city.  It is noted for its bronze doors. We chose to give its interior visit a skip and moved on to the next Landmark.

THE SAN LORENZO CATHEDRAL 

At a walking distance of just 5 minutes from the Duomo is the San Lorenzo Cathedral, right in the middle of the Market area.  An other revolutionary architectural structure, this dull, brick construction has a dome similar to that of the main Duomo. The cathedral that existed on its grounds before it, was the main cathedral of Florence for nearly 300 years.   

 

The architecture of the Cathedral was designed and developed to a certain extent by Brunelleschi himself.  It was, however, completed only after his death by few other artists.  It is noted for its Laurentian Library attached to it.  The bright and swanky interiors of the Cathedral drew inspiration from ancient Roman models and more than make up for its rather dull exteriors and facade. 

 

We gave its interior visit a skip.  Our packed lunches were opened and we grabbed a quick bite sitting by its side.  It had stopped raining by then and the sun was out making our walk a bit easier.  

THE MEDICI CHAPEL 

_SC_0320.JPG

The Chapel, 59 metres in height is attached to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and sits right behind it, facing the market area.  It is a Mausoleum, decorated in grandeur with marble.  It is the family tomb of the Medici family members.  Till date the power of the most successful dynasty is celebrated here. The San Lorenzo cathedral was the official prayer hall of the Medici family and therefore after the first of its members wished to be buried next to the cathedral, others followed precedence. The stone coffins called Sacrophagi (singular Sacrophagus) was designed and executed by Michelangelo himself as a tribute to the renowned.  Some of his finest works are displayed here.  These sarcophagi display bronze statues, based on various themes, that are fitted into niches atop them.  The paintings on the cupola are noteworthy.  On the whole it is all worth a visit.   Sadly due to lack of time, we gave its interiors a skip too.

 

If you do happen to stay in Florence, please allocate at least 3 days to tour around the city. That might do some justice to the Museum town.

THE SAN LORENZO MARKET