Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Reliving the Renaissance, a Day in Florence

splendid view of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo
Firenze is the Italian name of Florence, Italy. It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance,  a period from the 14th to the 17th century best known for the flourishing of intellectual and artistic pursuits including contributions of such artists as Florence-born Michelangelo. The word Renaissance, meaning rebirth in French,  was a period of awakening from the dark Middle Ages.
the replica at the Piazzale Michelangelo
You can imagine our anticipation as we, Bill and me and Suzanne and her family, drove to the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. We parked the car at the Piazzale Michelangelo, on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, which gives a splendid view of the city of Florence. Suzanne was quick to point out that the statue of David on the Piazzale is just a replica.
Ponte Vecchio
We walked down the steps that led us to the walled entrance of the City, and crossed the river. We spotted the Ponte Vecchio, a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge noted for still having shops along it, as was once common. After a quick lunch of huge burritos at a little  Mexican shop, we went straight to where we could see Michelangelo’s masterpiece. 
the original David of Michelangelo
Started in 1501 and unveiled in 1504, the statue of David was moved to its present location, the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873. There was a long line, but Suzanne knew where to go to get an immediate entry by paying a little more for the tickets. And, once inside, we stood in awe of the standing male nude of David the Biblical hero, the symbol of the defense of Florentine civil liberties. 
Botticelli's The Virgin of the Sea
The Accademia offers works of other artists like Giambologna's original plaster for the Rape of the Sabine Women, paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries, and an exhibit of musical instruments of old. I was especially drawn to Sandro Botticelli, an Italian painter who  represents the linear grace of Early Renaissance. I once owned a Botticelli replica given to me by my dear departed sister Ellen.
Il Duomo di Firenze
Next on our Agenda was the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church of Florence. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 and completed structurally in 1436.  Until the advent of new structural materials, the dome was the largest in the world and is still the largest brick dome ever constructed. The complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile.
Basilica di Santo Croce
Our last stop was the Basilica di Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church in Florence. It is on the Piazza di Santa Croce, about 800 meters southeast of the Duomo. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. Thus, it is also known  as the Temple of the Italian Glories. It was begun in 1294; consecrated in 1442.

the tomb of Michelangelo inside the Basilica di Santo Croce
Then Suzanne led us to the back of the basilica where  the former dormitory of the Franciscan friars now houses the Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School). Visitors can watch as artisans craft purses, wallets, and other leather goods that are sold in the adjacent shop. Even though the goods are highly priced they goods are of such a high quality. Of course, we couldn’t help but buy belts and purses!
entrance to the Leather School at the back of the Basilica di Santo Croce
It was already about 6 pm when we finished our shopping, so we looked for a ristorante y pizzeria for dinner before driving back to Soriano Nel Cimino, about two hours away. We finally found one that was open! After walking back to the Piazzale where the car was parked, Suzanne solicited the help of the Carabinieri, the national military police of Italy who gladly led us back to the highway.
Rape of the Sabine Women at the entrance of the Galleria dell'Accademia
We did not get the chance to go to the famous Uffizi Gallery where you can see works of da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Goya, Botticelli, and others. But I was satisfied with being able to relive the Renaissance during our day in Firenze. The city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Forbes ranks her one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I couldn’t agree more!