Florence – Art & Architecure in a day

11 July 2019

We were at the Piazza del Duomo in good time for our 8.30am climb up the massive and spectacular dome of Florence’s medieval Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. Italy’s finest dome was designed by Brunelleschi is now an integral and dominant part of the skyline and as we queued to enter via the Porta della Mandorla we had plenty of time to study the outside and to people watch. The cathedral, including the walls of the dome, is clad in red, green and white marble and the double-skinned dome is the iconic orange-red terracotta. 

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The doors opened at 8.30 on the dot and we got a glimpse of the cathedral interior itself before we were enclosed in the dark stairwell on our 463 step ascent.  We got a bit of a breather at the first gallery  inside the dome which gave us our first close up of the huge fresco of the Last Judgement – impressive.

Then up between the walls of the inner and outer shells of the dome to the summit and it’s spectacular views of the city lying between the hills. 

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After the obligatory exclamations and photos we made the much easier descent stopping briefly at the second, higher gallery to re-examine the fresco before ending back out on the square. And it was only 9.15 – Danny’s preffered time for getting up!

We admired the Campanile from outside – no way we were going to climb that as well – and moved on round the corner where large queues waited for the Cathedral itself to open. Opposite the cathedral doors is the octagonal buiding of the Baptistry, the oldest building in Florence. 

Covered in white and green marble it is famous for its 3 huge bronze double-doors – originals in the Duomo Museum with replicas on the actual building. Inside the ceiling is covered in a fantastic mosaic depicting the hierarchy of angels, the Last Judgement and other biblical stories. Many notable people including Dante and the Medici’s were baptised here. Kate really liked the ceiling.

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Baptistry Ceiling Fresco

Our ticket covered even more delights, so we headed round the square to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Dedicated to the design, construction and maintenance of the whole cathedral it reopened in 2015 after a £50M revamp. Well worth it after visiting the buildings themselves, A huge hall held a reconstruction of the cathedral’s original facade before competition with Sienna drove Florence to revamp it. It also holds the original bronze doors to the baptistry.

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Further on a room is devoted to Michaelangelo’s sculpture Pietà intended for his tomb and further on there are works by Donatello – Mary Magdalene and the choir loft stand out.

On the top floor an amazing silver altar covered in scenes related to John the Baptist which took 100 years to complete was the highight.

We were pretty tired by then so headed for our chosen lunchtime spot over the river, Casalinga Trattoria, another excellent recommendation from Dave & Sandra. They had warned us to be there by opening time and within 10 minutes of the doors opening it was packed and we soon found out why – from the simple olive oil, garlic & chilli spaghetti we shared, to the pork chop & roast potatoes and the stupendous carpaccio, rocket & parmesan salad the food was excellent.  

Back across the river at the Uffizi our pre-booked 2.30 entry went smoothly and as directed we started on the 3rd floor. The finest picture gallery in Italy, collected by the Medici family and left to Florence by the last of them, it is completely dominated by religious works which, for us, got a bit overwhelming. Like being beaten over the head by a beautifully crafted golden hammer wrapped in angel feathers – after a while we were just a bit numb. The frescoes on the ceilings of the top floor were works of art in themselves.

From room to room of top quality artworks by some of the most famous artists of their time – Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Boticelli, Giotto and Lippi to name but a few. Botticelli’s “Primavera”; “Birth of Venus” and “Adoration of the Magi” are all here.

In the lower galleries Danny started to lose the will to continue and retired to a quiet spot while Kate persevered through rooms of Rembrandt, Goya and El Greco, Veronese and Carvaggio;  a room full of Raphael and another of Titian. Far too much to take in – totally overwhelming.

We had had a very full 10 hours or so but, over a beer in the James Joyce Irish bar next to our pick-up point, we agreed that Florence was worth it and we happily return to explore further in spring or autumn. Oh, and after seeing the bust of Agrippa, Danny has decided he has a real Roman nose!!

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