Walk-about in Florence

Walk-about in Florence

Brief history: Florence began as a Roman colony in 59 BC .. captured by the Lombards in the 6th century.  By 13th century, trading in wool and textiles, with a powerful banking sector,  the city became one of Italy’s leading powers.  The Florentine Republic was in control until power passed to leading noble families, of which the most influential were the Medici, “a hugely wealthy banking dynasty.”  The Medici family controlled Florence and Tuscany for three centuries.  During this time the city was at the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe.  Artists, sculptors and architects flocked to the city “filling the city with the world’s greatest Renaissance works.”

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We  …  our tour group …  gathered in the foyer of our centrally located hotel – Croce di Malta – for our walk-about with a local guide .. please join us 😉

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An old small door on the side of a building, through which the owner of the tavern exchanged money for drinks after hours … dates and times of which are displayed  in stone, above the door.  Includes public holidays too !

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Palazzo Strozzi :  Commissioned by wealthy banker Filippo Strozzi in 1489 and  completed in 1536


The exterior is built of huge rusticated masonry blocks with the original holders, lamps and rings for tethering horses.  A stone bench along the sides is quite an interesting feature for people to rest ..


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IMG_7231 19th century Piazza della Repubblica ..

IMG_7232IMG_4215Really strange artwork!!!  I thought the colourful jugs were for sale, but it’s a piece of art!!!


From a narrow ancient street, we turned a corner and came face to face with Florence’s most famous symbol .. the white, green and pink marble Baptistry, Duomo and Campanile!!  Wow!  Impressive sight indeed!!!


The three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Baptistry dates back to the 4th century, one of Florence’s oldest buildings .. the Duomo – built 1296-1436 and the Campanile- built 1334-1359


The Baptistry : It is believed to have been built over the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Mars, in the 4th century.  It was consecrated in 1059, dedicated to St John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, and served as a church until 1128.   Up until the end of the 19th century all Catholics in Florence were baptised here

IMG_7253I realise now that I didn’t take many photos of the octagonal Baptistry, sadly, except for the East doors, and even then it was tricky with other tourists always in the way !


Having spent 21 years working on the North Doors, Lorenzo Ghiberti was commissioned to make the East Doors (1425-1452) .. 27 years for he and his workshop to complete.    Also known as the ‘Gates of Paradise’ so named by Michelangelo, who is believed to have exclaimed “they are so beautiful that they would be perfect for the gates of paradise”.


The doors consist of 10 rectangular panels, displayed in two lines.  They depict scenes of the Old Testament from left to right and top to bottom.   In each panel, Ghiberti described more than one scene so that there are over fifty scenes depicted.


All around the frame of the doors Ghiberti added 24 small bronze busts of famous Florentines, including his own self-portrait (middle of pic)


The original panels of the ‘Gates of Paradise’ are now exhibited in the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo.  Those on the Baptistry are copies


South door of the Baptistry panels created by Andrea Pisano in 1329, completed in 1336  ..




The Duomo – Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint May of the Flower) – construction began in 1296 and was consecrated in 1436, is one of the largest churches in Italy.       The Neo-Gothic façade in white, green and pink marble, designed by Emilio De Fabris in 1871 is dedicated to the Mother of Christ.  Work began in 1876 and completed in 1887

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The huge bronze doors (1899-1903) are adorned with scenes of the Madonna…

IMG_4226IMG_7252The Campanile … clad in white, green and pink Tuscan marble … 85m high and 6m shorter than the dome … truly beautiful structure ..



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Campanile reliefs (on either side of the corner) by Andrea Pisano are copies of the original which are kept in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.  The reliefs depict the Creation of Man, and the Arts and Industries ..


The Dome .. Brunelleschi’s dome, finished in 1463, as the largest masonry dome to be built without scaffolding.   Made entirely of bricks set in marble ribs in a self-supporting herringbone pattern – a technique Brunelleschi copied from the Pantheon in Rome.   The inner shell (herringbone pattern bricks) and a horizontal stone chain, reduces stress and allows weight to be evenly distributed.  The outer, much smaller shell, supports the roof and protects the inner shell from elements.  Between the two shells is a staircase, which leads visitors to the base of the lantern



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Orsanmichele – built 1337 (a church)

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Piazza della Signoria  …






Palazzo Vecchio .. completed in 1322 still fulfils its original role as the Town Hall ..



Michelangelo’s David symbolizes triumph over tyranny.  The original – which we saw the previous afternoon in the Galleria dell’ Accademia – stood in the Piazza until 1873.   On the right .. Bartolommeo Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus



Michelangelo’s  self-portrait carved into stone on the Palazzo Vecchio ..


Fountain of Neptune .. by Bartolomeo Ammannati commissioned in 1565 ..



Cosimo I de’ Medici – 2nd Duke of Florence from 1537-1569, when he became the first Grand Duke of Tuscany ..

IMG_4246 Loggia dei Lanzi .. (1382) is named after the Lancers, the bodyguards of Cosimo I who were billeted here ..


IMG_4248 IMG_4249Perseus by Cellini – bronze statue (1554) of Perseus beheading Medusa was intended to warn Cosimo I’s enemies of their probable fate ..

Copy of IMG_7281 Rape of Polyxena (1865) …

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The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna (1583) was carved from a single block of flawed marble ..


Uffizi …. Italy’s greatest art gallery, was built in 1560-80 to house offices (uffici) for Duke Cosimo I ..




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Ponte Vecchio  .. the oldest surviving bridge in the city, was built in 1345


It was originally the domain of blacksmiths, butchers and tanners (who used the river for disposing of waste).  They were evicted in 1593 due to their noise and stench and replaced by jewellers and goldsmiths

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IMG_7296Our walk-about continued .. next post

Trafalgar Tours : Best of Italy : June 2013

2 Replies to “Walk-about in Florence”

  1. Couple of things. Firstly, wow, some seriously impressive historic buildings around there. Secondly, the statues are wonderful but clearly the Italian men weren’t very well endowed back in the days *wink* and thirdly, imagine living on a bridge like that

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