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Florence as it used to be - Firenze com'era

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I visited this museum during the European Heritage Day, a special day when all the museums are free for everyone.

The museum is located beside the Convento of the Oblate, accommodated in a building with a beautiful garden and a cloister. We had free entrance but usually the ticket is really cheap, only 2,70 euros.
The museum is on the ground floor of the building, and is made of two distinguished sections. The first is about the topographical museum: more than an topographical museum: it is a documented history of the representation of a city seen through the eyes of the citizens in the ages. Maps in the past were difficult to trace, obviously bird-eye photos didn’t existed yet, so it was hard to calculate exactly distances. Maps used to give not only information about the geography, but also about cities, activities, points of interest.

the cloister and garden of the museum

Here is exposed the ancient and famous Map of the Chain (“la pianta della catena”), called in that way it has a frame decorated with a chain.
It’s really not a plant… is not more a general view Florence, an axonometric projection realized at the end of 1400, and is really big, it takes the entire wall.
It’s so beautiful and painted with an incredible care for details; above all it’s a witness of how looked Florence during the renaissance: a densely inhabited large city, still with cultivations out of the town-walls, encircled from its walls studded with doors. Every single palace and church are faithfully reproduced and clearly recognizable: Palazzo Vecchio Santa Maria Novella, the Cathedral… Arno river slides and is still a city fulcrum of people and activity: you can see people on the riverside fishing, bathing, building a bridge…

the Map of the Chain ("Pianta della Catena")

Besides the Plant of the Chain the museum conserve some other ancient pieces: the keys of the doors of the city: the ones of Porta San Frediano, Porta Santo Spirito and Porta San Gallo, enormous keys with their leather bags; they were of property of a private collector, once he died the keys were given back to the city of Florence.
Others ancient maps and city representation of Florence are exposed in the museum. There are also paintings, that show various parts of the city and how they changed through the centuries. A beautiful painting that shows the public execution of Girolamo Savonarola in the Piazza dell Signoria.

the keys of the doors of Florence

At the end of the room there’s also a plastic that represent the historical center of Florence how it was befor the reorgaziation made at the end of ‘800.

the plastic of the hystorical center bofore '800

In the second room of the museum are shown some archaeological artefacts found in the eighties, when piazza della Signoria had been re-pavemented: finally we can see some traces of the ancient roman Florence. The artefacts are few but interesting, and you can also find a really interesting plastic of Florence as it was in the roman age.

the plastic of Florence in the Roman Age

Piazzale Michelangelo

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Piazzale Michelangelo is surely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Florence Italy. Placed high on a green hillside overlooking the city, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole city: you can spot the duomo, Palazzo Vecchio with its tower, Giotto’s bell-tower, the Arno river that flows and tear the city in two parts, with its bridges in sequence.
Then turn around and look at the green hills around you, with classic and elegant Tuscany villas and the remaining ancient walls of Florence.

Piazzale Michelangelo was built in 1869 and designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, when Florence became the capital city of Italy (for a short period) and needed big, magnificent public spaces to represent the power of the newborn Reign of Italy.
A replica of Michelangelo's Statue of David stands in the centre of the plaza.

San Miniato al Monte

Near Piazzale Michelangelo there’s a wonderful Romanesque church, San Miniato al Monte, that’s so beautiful that lots of people from all over the world come here to get married. Beside the church there’s a monumental cemetery, and it’s surrounded with a nice small cypress forest where is such a pleasure to take a walk!

the wedding of a japanese couple in San Miniato al Monte

the monumental cemetery of San Miniato al Monte

You can reach Piazzale Michelangelo from the historical center with bus, number 12 or 13, it’s about a 15 minutes ride.

The Duomo of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore

Monday, January 19, 2009

The construction of the Duomo, the Cathedral also called Santa Maria del Fiore, was started by Arnolfo di Cambio on the 8th September 1296. It is the fourth longest church in the world (after Saint Peter in Rome, Saint Paul in London and the Cathedral in Milan). In some experts' opinion, Arnolfo's project was quite different from the present building, but the outside walls undoubtedly are the same as those in the original plan. When Arnolfo died in 1310, there was a delay in the works. They however were started again in 1331, when the Guild of Wool Merchants took over the construction of the church. In 1334 Giotto was appointed ‘master’ of the works. He mainly attended to the building of the campanile (bell tower) and died three years later. There were several interruptions until 1367, when a competition was held and a final model for the church by four architects and four painters was accepted. The vault of the nave was finished in 1378 and the aisles were completed in 1380.
Between this year and 1421 the tribunes and probably the drum of the dome were built. The octagonal dome, consisting of two concentric shells linked together, was completed in 1434. A competition was held for the dome in 1418 and, after many doubts, Filippo Brunelleschi's project was accepted in 1420. The church, dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore (fiore referring to Florence) was consecrated on the 25 of March, 1436.
The remarkable differences in the various parts of the Cathedral show the evident changes in taste during the long time passed between the foundation of the church and its completion. Outside the shape of the round blind arches is a Romanesque vestige. The whole interior, with its huge arches, doors and windows, is Gothic . The dome is a masterpiece of the Renaissance. The fa├žade, though in Gothic style, is from the 19th century. On the north side of the Cathedral, the Porta della Mandorla, dating from the 15th century, shows a Gothic influence both in the architectural design and decoration.

The interior, in the shape of Latin cross, consists of a nave and two aisles. Massive pillars with composite capitals support the Gothic groined vaults.
The frescoes on the north aisle, representing two 'condottieri' on horseback, are by Paolo Uccello and by Andrea del Castagno. In the lunettes above the entrances to the two sacristies there are terracotta works by Luca della Robbia. The design of the round stained glass window is by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence Dome

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I took these pictures of Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore) in a bright fresh morning of June 2008, just after a thick but quick rain, the air was clean and the sky was so bright... the big red silhouette of the dome was making a perfect contrast with the blue of the sky.

I always think that Filippo Brunelleschi did a great job building this dome!

The Abbey of San Galgano and the (real) Sword in the Stone

Monday, January 12, 2009

The abbey of Saint Galgano rises approximately 30 km from Siena, between the towns of Monticiano and Chiusdino, in a wild and unspoilt landscape, the sweet and charming Tuscany countryside.The Abbey of Saint Galgano was built between 1218 and 1268: it has represented throughout the centuries an important stop and point of reference in this corner of Tuscany for travellers, pilgrims and people of every kind, which was densely populated, rich in churches, castles, villages, abbeys and monasteries.
The abbey was built in a wonderful gothic Italian style, with pointed arches and big decorated pilasters. It’s an excellent example of tuscanian gothic architecture, with the typical elements of Pisa’s and Siena’s architecture.

Nowadays the Abbey is deconsecrated, abandoned and partially ruined, but still full of charm: it has no more ceiling, but when you’re inside the church and look up, you can see the most beautiful ceiling in the world: the bright blue sky of Tuscany! As floor there’s green soft grass… seems that nature re-integrated the abbey with the landscape: in my own opinion this is a perfect example of how men and nature worked together to build a huge tribute to God… and they reached a perfect equilibrium.
Near the abbey there’s the Montesiepi Chapel, a small church where is the famous Sword in the Stone, not the King Arthur’s one (this is just a legend), but the only existing original sword in the stone, in the whole world.

The sword in the stone has been stuck by San Galgano into the rock emerging on the top of the hill in 1180, to symbolize his rejection of war, he plunged his sword into the rock, which miraculously "parted like butter", leaving only the hilt exposed to form the shape of the Cross: the Saint used to pray in front of this Cross.
To honour the Saint, around it has been built a small lovely round chapel, between 1182 and 1185.

The sword has been considered a fake for many years, but a metal dating research in 2001 made by the University of Siena has indicated that it really has medieval origins. The composition of the metal used for the blade doesn't show the use of modern techniques, and the style and shape is compatible with that ones of an original 12th century sword.

Very near the Abbey and the Montesiepi Chapel there’s a small bar-reastaurant where you can stop and taste a glass of local red wine with some sandwiches stuffed with the tasty salame, ham and others typical tuscanian foods.

Palazzo Pitti - Pitti Palace

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The gallery is second only to the Uffizi in importance, and is notable for the works of Rubens, Pietro da Cortona, Tiziano e Raffaello (Titian and Raphael).
Begun in 1458 from an original design by Brunelleschi, the architecture was inspired by ancient Roman buildings. An enormous affair, it was built for Luca Pitti, a one time friend of the Medici who became jealous of their power and turned against them. The palace was a blatant attempt at one-upmanship, but the fortunes of the Pitti family soon faded, and the powerful Medici family acquired the building, still uncompleted, in 1540.

It was to become the family seat in Florence and it was Cosimo´s wife, Eleanor of Toledo (whose dowry paid for the purchase), who was to transform the hillside behind the palace into the Boboli garden.

Palazzo Pitti remained the principal Medici residence until the last male Medici heir died in 1737: the Medici dynasty became extinct and the palace passed to the new Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Austrian House of Lorraine.

The palace is home to eight separate museums: Galleria Palatina (Palatine Gallery, probably the most important one), begun by Cosimo de’ Medici the second in 1620; Gallery of Modern Art; Costume Gallery; Museo degli argenti (Silver Museum); Porcelain Museum; Boboli Garden.

Opening hours:
Open Tuesday to Sunday 8,15 – 18,50
Closed Monday, New Year’s Day, May 1st and Christmas Day.
Full Price: € 6,50Reduced: € 3,25
Free admission for people under 18 or over 65, students and teachers of faculties of architecture, cultural heritage conservation, educational sciences, or of Fine Arts Academy, tour guides.

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