I decided I'd start my Florentine excursion with a wander round the old part of town. I caught the bus, intending to get off at the main station which is near all the good stuff. Before then, though, I noticed a certain bridge and decided that'd be as good a place to start as any.
The Ponte Vecchio is probably the most interesting bridge I've ever seen. It spans the River Arno at its narrowest point and it's probably a good thing it's not very long. Except for a short stretch in the middle, the bridge is lined, either side, with shops. Most of them are jewellers. They were all originally butchers apparently - back in the Middle Ages. Must have been a stinky place. The shops hang over the edge of the bridge in a quite haphazard way. I don't know what holds them up.
There's a bust of the sculptor Cellini on one side of the central open section. I think this is my favourite photo from the day:
A short stroll along the river brought me to the Uffizi Gallery. Originally built for Cosimo Medici in the 1500s as magistrate offices it's now one of the art galleries/museums in the world. I didn't go in today but will before I leave. The outside is fascinating enough. There's a long rectangular courtyard that leads into the Piazza san Giovani which has some interesting statues along it. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, just to name a few.
I'm looking forward to seeing some da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc, over the next couple of days.
Entering the piazza the first thing I noticed was the crowds of people, all with cameras, all looking the same way. Look right: Michelangelo's David. This one is, however, a copy. The original is in the Academy of Fine Arts, which I also intend to explore. Copy or not, it's certainly an eyecatching statue.
There are several other statues in this piazza, all of them worthy in their own right, but it's the David that keeps drawing the eye back. To me, it's the simplicity of it. It's not overly dramatic or full of movement, there's not even a lot of detailed bits and bobs to contemplate. Maybe that's the secret. Elegant. And quite handsome.
I had lunch in the piazza; very nice spinach and ricotta ravioli and the obligatory rough red. Expensive because of its location but a pleasant place to sit for an hour and just look around.
After lunch I picked a direction at random and wandered off down the narrow streets.
The central parts of Florence are relatively car free, unlike Paris and Rome, and that makes it far more pleasant to wander around. After a short while I turned a corner and found myself face to face with the dome end of the cathedral: the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Talk about jawdropping! I've seen a few churches and cathedrals now but nothing like this one. Inside is quite plain but the outside - wow! It's all pink, green and white marble and it just looks incredible. It needs a good wash though. Around the front end, facing the Piazza del Duomo, is the Baptistry of St John and the Campanile (bell tower) is built alongside the front.
The baptistry is the oldest of the three structures, dating back to the 11th century. Unlike Pisa's round structure, this one is octagonal. It's more squat as well, not as pretty as the one in Pisa. Inside though.... the domed ceiling is covered in a fantastic huge gold coloured mosaic. Apparently it tells the story of the Last Judgement.
The cathedral building was started in the 1290s and took nearly 200 years to complete. It's quite plain inside, although the domed ceiling is richly painted. Only the back half of the cathedral is open to tourists so the dome is not fully visible. You can view it if you go round to another entrance, pay a fee and climb four hundred and something steps. Nah. It's supposed to be the largest stone dome anywhere.
The free standing bell tower is the youngest of the three buildings. It's 14th century and was designed by Giotto. It's 85 metres tall and straight as a die.
There's some place around where you can get a proper shot of the whole cathedral complex - must see if I can find it.
After that I wandered for a while but the other churches and buildings kind of looked ordinary after the cathedral complex. I found a cafe and ordered a coffee then discovered that the people next to me were Aussies, so we chatted and swapped stories.
I spent hours today just gawking at stuff. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
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