Wednesday, June 12, 2019

May 20 - Florence

May 2019 - Florence

It's our last day in Florence and after a breakfast at the hotel we headed out.

The Baptistery of St. John is located in Piazza del Duomo, right in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, it is one of the most important monuments in Florence.

Its origins are unknown although it is believed that it was built over the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Mars dating back to the 4th-5th century A.D. It was first described in 897 as a minor basilica. In 1128, it was consacrated as the Baptistery of Florence and as such is the oldest religious monument in Florence.

The Italian poet Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in this baptistery.
It's the doors that caught my eye today.

Above the Gates of Paradise stood the Baptism of Christ by Andrea Sansovino and an Angel by Innocenzo Spinazzi, added in 1792.

The statues found on the Baptistery today are copies.

The Calimala Guild (Cloth Importers Guild) commissioned Lorenzo Ghiberti to design the east doors, which face the Duomo. These doors were cast in bronze, partially gilded, and took Ghiberti 27 years to complete. In fact, the east doors surpassed the beauty and artistry of his north doors – the perspective that Ghiberti was able to achieve on a low-relief surface still astounds art historians to this day. The east doors contain only 10 panels and show 10 very detailed biblical scenes and characters, including "Adam and Eve in Paradise," "Noah," "Moses," and "David." They were erected at the east entrance of the Baptistery in 1452.

Some 100 years later, when Renaissance master Michelangelo saw the east doors, he dubbed them the "Gates of Paradise" – and the name has stuck ever since.

A couple off old beer posters.

Piazza della Repubblica is one of the main squares and marks the center of the city since Roman times. The Colonna della Dovizia or also known as the Column of Abundance marks the point where the cardus and decumanus maximi met and where the Roman forum stood. The present column dates to 1431 but the statue on top is a copy and the original is visible at the bank Cassa di Risparmio in via dell'Oriuolo.

During medieval times the area around the column was densely populated with markets, tabernacles and was the center of the city. It was the location of the market and the Jewish Ghetto, who were obligated to live here by Cosimo I. Stories tell us that the column once held a bell, which was rung where pick pockets were found to be roaming this once busy market square to warn the shoppers to be careful.

There is a carousel with 20 horses and two gilded “king’s carriages.” The carousel is made of wood and is gaily painted in reds and blues. It also boasts two flowerpots with fresh flowers in them. This is the antique carousel of the Picci family.

The carousel is run by Carlo Picci, who represents the fourth generation of the family to run a carousel. It dates from the beginning of the 20th century but has been lovingly restored.

We spot a tour guide leading some people out of this lane, so we checked it out.

There are still a number of medieval alleys, including Vicolo dell’Onestà between Piazza dei Tre Re and Via dei Calzaiuoli. The alley was named after the Magistrate of Honesty seated there which dealt with the regulation of prostitution, such as prices, locations and the paying of taxes.

 We were looking for this street as we knew that there were some of the Superwomen murals on it.

A cross-street of the legging-makers' at the level of Orsanmichele still bears the name via dei Cimatori, named for those whose job it was to put the finishing touches on rough imported cloth, a skill that was dominated by the Florentines until the late fifteenth century.

The whole area of Santa Croce echoes of the process of cloth production for which Florentines were renowned throughout Europe. As you might imagine, the tintori-dyers-were not far off: both corso dei Tintori and via dei Vagellai are named for them (vagellai is a bastardization of a Latin word for the big cauldron used to heat up water for dying). These streets were necessarily near the Arno, as is via dei Saponai (sapone = soap), where cloth was washed. And all of these were conveniently located close to the Calimala, the street named after the wool guild, which exported the final product.

Nowadays there are many leather shops in the area.

Piazza Santa Croce is one of the largest and most famous squares of central Florence. The Basilica of Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world, overlooks the piazza.

On the south side of the square lies the Palazzo dell'Antella (or Antellesi), a long building with a facade decorated with amazing (yet mostly destroyed) frescos by Giovanni da San Giovanni, and with windows of odd sizes (supposedly so that when seen from the steps of the church they all appear to be the same size). Today the ground floor of the Palazzo house shops and restaurants, while the upper floors are run by the Piccolomini family as short term tourist rentals.

Santa Croce, rebuilt for the Franciscan order in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the burial place for the great and good in Florence. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence).

Forever flaunting their cheeky sense of humour, the Florentines have often referred to the bell tower, which stood unfinished for over a 100 years, as "il sasso" or the stone. Over 78 meters tall. it is located to the right of the church within the cloister. The original bell tower built above the apse of the Church fell down in 1512 and Francesco da Sangallo was asked to design another one but soon were interrupted due to the lack of funds. Everything came to a standstill until the 1800s when it was finally finished.

On May 14th 1865 a statue of Dante created by a sculptor Enrico Pazzi was placed in the middle of piazza Santa Croce. The king of the recently united Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, unveiled the sculpture in the presence of the highest dignitaries and township of Florence.

Looking across the river, those are the gardens that we were near the other day in San Niccolo.

Forte di San Giorgio, better known as Forte di Belvedere, was founded in 1590 during the reign of Grand Duke Ferdinand I, and was designed according to plans by Bernardo Buontalenti. In addition to defending the city from potential attacks from the outside – a role it never needed to serve – the stronghold could be reached from Palazzo Pitti, via the Boboli Gardens, in case of emergency.

See that sky? Within minutes it opened as we crossed the bridge.

James Joyce pub.

It starts to pour! So we take a wine break until it stops.

Then we start a steep climb to Torre San Niccolo. Great views. And it gets better.

The Tower of San Niccolò, once part of a gate or porta in the former defensive walls of Florence, is now located, isolated in piazza Giuseppe Poggi, in the district of Oltrarno. The portal was first erected in 1324.
San Niccolo is the tallest of the ancient city towers still standing today.

The tower and its gate were elaborated in the designs of Arnolfo di Cambio for circumferential walls around Florence. These walls were, in the main, destroyed in the 19th century as a project of urban renewal, Risanamento, in part led by Giuseppe Poggi. This tower was spared, in part because of its panoramic view of the city. 

Santa Croce on the right.


I have spent the morning trying to find information on these and give up!
 They were on the climb up.

BUT never one to give up I did another search this afternoon and came up with the answer.
First though to put it in perspective is a photo from across the bridge showing the arches and the Torre San Niccolo.

Lying below the popular lookout of Piazzale Michelangelo leading down to the San Niccolò Tower in Piazza Poggi is the area known to all Florentines as ‘Le Rampe’. Built between 1872 & 1876, thanks to architect Giuseppe Poggi, who had initially presented his urban plan to celebrate the choice of Florence as the capital of Italy in 1865. His plan called for interventions in several parts of the city, including the arrangement of the hill between Piazza San Niccolò and Porta Romana.

And so, Viale dei Colli, Piazzale Michelangelo and Le Rampe were born: this latter architecture connected the square to Porta San Niccolò thanks to a system of staircases, streets, plants and fountains. Unfortunately, over the years the difficulty in supplying water and the lack of maintenance led to a gradual abandonment of the fountains.
And it seems the renovation of the grounds and fountains was only completed a few days before we arrived.
Click here for a video (in Italian) if you are interested.

Once visitors make it up the 160 steps we were treated to a 360 degree view of Florence with truly one-of-a-kind vistas. 


Look at the people on the Ponte Vecchio!

The sun is shining and this is a great spot to relax.

La Loggia, intended as a museum to house copies of Michelangelo's masterpieces, but today it is a coffee house/ restaurant.

We saw several wedding shoots.

The gardens surround this area.

Looking down on the Rose Garden.

 This is a beautiful walkway that will take you downhill where you will come upon the Rose Garden on your right, which is worth a stop.

The garden was created in 1865 by Giuseppe Poggi, who also designed the Piazzale, on behalf of the City of Florence, ready to become the capital of Italy after Turin. The land belonged to Padri Filippini, who also owned a house and farm called San Francesco, then Attilio Pucci redeisgned the space with terraces and walls to create a collection of rose bushes.

A permanent exhibition dedicated to the world-famous Belgian artist Jean Michel Folon is on display in the rose garden.

Eleven statues (nine bronze sculptures and two plaster models) by the visionary artist adorn the walks of the garden, in perfect symbiosis with the surrounding environment.

A blue statue, Chat, represents a cat peacefully resting on the lawn surrounded by rose bushes.
Sorry, it looks like a turtle to me...


Je me souviens, a work of 2003, features a male figure sitting on a bench ready to converse with whomever happens to come and sit next to him.

Now this was interesting about him.

It was as a cartoonist that he was hired by Steve Jobs in 1983 to design the first Apple logo (then still called Macintosh) and mascot. The “Mr. Macintosh” mascot designed by Folon was supposed to be a mysterious little man who lives inside each Macintosh computer and would pop up every thousand or two thousand operations.

Mr. Macintosh created by Folon for Steve Jobs in 1983.

The original idea was later abandoned in favor of the logo designed by Tom Hugues.

Back down to the ancient entrance to the city that we had seen the other day.

Dinner and an early ride to the airport tomorrow.


  1. I had a great time looking through your photos and reading about them. I visited Florence many years ago, it's one of the cities I would love to visit again.



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