After a day of travel, this particular day was devoted to taking in the sights of the city of Florence (Firenze). Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is well known for its art and architecture. The city has an important place in the history of Italy. This was the land of the famous Medici Family in the middle ages.
This was a view of the Arno river early in the morning near our hotel.We were taken on a bus from our hotel to the Accademia Gallery, where the primary attraction is Michelangelo’s statue of David.The lines to enter the gallery were long but things were moving since it was still early in the morning.The statue of David is indeed stunning in its setting, and it gets your attention from many different locations in the gallery.Michelangelo was also a anatomist. He understood the muscle and bone structure of a human being very well and was a master at recreating this in his work.The other interesting room was the collection of sculptures made by students at the Academy in the past as a part of their studies. These were not necessarily meant for public viewing.The holes in the sculptures were meant to be peg-points so that anybody making a copy could get the correct proportions for the piece they were sculpting.
After we were done with the academy we walked down to The Dome of Florence Cathedral. You could see the bell tower in the distance as we approached the piazza where the church is located. The church is huge. In fact it is so big and is in such a location that I found it impossible to capture the entire building in a single picture.The Piazza del Duomo where the church is locatedalso includes the Florence Baptistry and the bell tower for the church called Giotto’s campanile. The architecture of this huge church is amazing. The dome of the cathedral dominates the city’s skyline and is a symbol of Florence. It is massive and an amazing piece of engineering whose architecture and construction is still discussed by the experts. Nobody had built a dome of that size at that time. It is actually a double dome (designed this way to try to lighten the weight) and the inner one is apparently 5 to 7 feet thick and is considered safe in spite of cracks which you can see from the ground.After the visit to the cathedral we walked the narrow streets to the Piazza della Signoria.Two landmarks of Florence that are around this plaza are the Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi. The plaza also includes a water fountain with a massive statue of Neptune. This was the end of the morning tour.
We then walked on our own down to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge over the the Arno river. The bridge has high-end jewelry stores on both sides of the walkway. While others indulged in shopping we took the views of the Arno river from the bridge and got an opportunity to take pictures of the bridge itself and the buildings on the river bank.The passage-way on the left of the panoramic pictures was part of the Vasari Corridor built between two palaces in the middle ages.
After lunch it was time to visit the Uffizi (it is to the left of the dark brown building in the pictures above). Folks in Italy say that the Uffizi is to Florence what the Louvre is to Paris. It is something that you should not miss if you go to the city. (This was all news to me since I am not a real connoisseur of art.) It is a massive gallery and it would take a few days to go though it diligently. Our tour guide just walked us through a few of the rooms. Here are some of the sights (click through to see individual pictures).
Corridor to galleries on the second floor
Giotti’s “Ognissanti Madonna”
Bottichelli’s “Birth of Venus”
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Room with the “Venus de’ Medici”
Sleeping Ariadne, Michelangelo’s ‘Doni Tondo’
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Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio, ‘Annunciation’
After the tour we headed for the Piazza di Santa Croce. This is the location of the Basilica of Santa Croce.Frorence is known for its leather work. Alessandro had set up a tour of a leather shop for us. We learned how to identify real leather!We hung out in the plaza for a short while.After this stop, the others in our group decided to take a taxi back to the hotel while the two of us decided to take a walk along the Arno to our hotel. The sun was beginning to set. We got to our hotel room without any issues. It was time to relax for a short while. There was more fun being planned for that evening as a part of the tour, a subject for the next blog in this series.
We had a very nice time in Venice in spite of the short stay there. It was now time to set out on the next leg of our Italian vacation. We were heading to Florence (Firenze).
It was early in the morning when we started our walk towards the location where our bus was waiting for us. We got our last sight of the Grand Canal partially lit up by the morning sun as we crossed over a bridge on our way on foot.We passed the bus stand for commuter buses from the mainland.We caught the Venice People Mover train from a building close to the bus stand for a short ride to the Tronchetto parking lot where our bus was waiting.Soon we were headed off the island over the bridge paralleling the bridge for the railway line. The Ponte della Libertà (or Bridge of Liberty) was built by Mussolini in the 1930s. On the mainland we followed the railway tracks for a short while. We passed a stationary Frecciargento high-speed train. This one can get you from Venice to Roma in less than four hours. (BTW, there are faster train lines in Italy!)Then we were in the countryside and on the highway passing Padua and Bologna.After a few hours, including a couple of “il bagno” stops along the way,we entered a stretch of highway cutting through the Apennine mountain range, crossing from the eastern side of Italy to the western side.There were several impressive tunnels that the highway went through while crossing this range. This highway is also a part of the European Union highway system with a European highway designation E35. We saw European Union license plates on trucks from different parts of the continent.
We reached our destination for the afternoon, the province of Lucca in the Tuscany region soon after. We stopped at the Fattoria Il Pogio vineyard just outside of the town of Lucca for lunch. We had lunch at the restaurant after an tour of the farm led by a rather enthusiastic lady. The last picture in this set is of an olive tree.There were other tour groups at lunch, which was accompanied by a few different bottles of wine produced at the estate.We were offered a formal meal, something typical of many of the dinners we had in Italy. We ate and drank heartily, and people were in a great mood after all was said and done.The rain had started to come down heavily by the time we reached Pisa for our next stop. At the bus stop in Pisa, we were surrounded by a number of people of African descent selling small items, including cheap umbrellas. We bought one. It had a minor design issue but proved to be adequate for the task. There was also a minor emergency when getting people off the bus because many of them had make use of “el bagno” in a hurry, no doubt an aftereffect of the merrymaking that had accompanied lunch. There was also the thought that crossed the mind that the impact of the leaning tower of Pisa would be enhanced by the state of mind that people were in.
The leaning tower, called the Torre de Pisa in Italian, is the bell tower for a cathedral called the Duomo di Pisa. There is also a baptistry next to the church. The place itself is called the Piazza dei Miracoli (which translates to Square of Miracles) or the Piazza del Duomo. It was obvious from initial observations that the tower was really leaning (apparently about 4° at this time),but I got to thinking that, without a context, one could even make an upright tower look like it was leaning, depending on how one took a picture of the structure, or one could even take the picture of a leaning tower from a direction from which it might look upright. Here it is being pushed upright with some effort.We also spent some time in the cathedral.The area at the entrance to the piazza was filled with little shops selling knick-knacks and food and drink.We visited some of the stores and had drinks to warm us up before heading back to the trolley that was to take us to the bus that was waiting at the bus stand.
The drive from Pisa to Florence was relatively short. We got to our hotel with sufficient time left for us to go out to get some dinner. We found a nice place within walking distance. The menu at the restaurant showed that one could order three courses for dinner, but they did not object to each of us buying only a single item on the menu from any of the course selections. We could see that the meals were being freshly cooked in the the kitchen that we had passed to get to our seating towards the back of the restaurant. We retired back to the hotel after some good food and wine.
It had been a relatively long and wet day and we were tired. It was time to crash out.
Read the next entry in this series of blogs on our trip to Italy here.