Florence in the Winter; Firenze in the Summer

Posted: July 16, 2014 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Photography, Travels
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I won’t say Italy’s the most beautiful country on Earth, because Italians are already crying that out loud. But I definitely say Italy offers some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes on the planet.

(c)jennroig - Florence, a sight from San Miniato al Monte, January 2010

(c) jennroig – Florence, a sight from San Miniato al Monte, January 2010

In Italy, the Tuscany region is especially gifted. Within Tuscany, where every site can be unique, either in the countryside, the rural towns or the cities, Florence is indispensable in any list of go-to places.

I have been twice in Florence. First, during the Winter in 2010. That’s the rainy season, when the sky is gray and the colors of the trees seem opaque. Still, streets were crowded with tourists from every corner of the globe. If you are not carrying an umbrella, be prepared to be offered one every time you’ll be about to cross a street.

In fact, those days were so persistently rainy that the the waters of the Arno river had risen to levels not seen in years.

Arno River, January 2010

Arno River, January 2010

The Arno is Florence’s main river. It divides the city in two sides, pretty much like the Danube does to Budapest, without taking it to the extreme of turning it into two different parts with particular features and history. As it can be seen in the picture, walking to the left side would take to the oldest part of town. A lot of museums are there and art galleries and souvenir stores. To the right, it’s where you can go to find more modern cafes, business offices and and jewelry shopping.

The second time was by the Summer of 2011. The city was shining under the sun, glowing with every possible color and still bursting with foreign tourists; as usual, a lot of Asians with huge cameras. The Arno had its regular levels that time, and there was a lot of art and trade happening on each of the sides.

The Arno, Summer 2011

The Arno, Summer 2011

Planning a visit to Florence can be a bit of a headache of there’s not a lot of time or money. However, the city is far from being so pricy as Venice and it’s even less expensive than Rome. Among the many choices -museums, guided tours, trips to nearby towns- some can be taken at almost no cost and give you great joy.

Il Duomo

domoIl Duomo, also known as The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the main Cathedral and among the most important pieces of historic and artistic value in Italy, and probably in the entire Europe. outside duomoWhen you’ll walk around the building and enter the church, keep in mind that it took almost a century and a half of architectonic and engineering work to finish the construction (1296-1436).

A key information that is never missing from tourism guides and Art Encyclopedias the same, it’s that the Dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the giants of the Italian Renaissance.

The other must-know fact refers to the campanile, or that tall bell tower next to the basilica showing “rich sculptural decorations and polychrome marble encrustations”. It was designed by Giotto, another great name, famous due to his religious frescoes and paintings with a distinctive style that set him apart from another great artists of his time.

History tells that Giotto took over Arnolfo di Cambio’s work when the first Master of the Works died, leaving the work unfinished. A lapse of 30 years was needed to find and appoint a fair successor. Brunelleschi would only start working on the Dome by 1420. Sixteen years went by before it was finished.

il duomoGalleria degli Uffizi

Uffizi Gallery is one of my favorite museums ever. On the one hand, its catalog includes Botticelli’s La Primavera and The Birth of Venus. Only because of that, it’s worthwhile. But its collection goes far and beyond to include Titian’s Venus of Urbino, Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, besides paintings by Vasari, Raphael, Caravaggio and Piero della Francesca among others.

However, the real deal breaker here is that it is the one museum in Italy that I actually managed to visit gratis thanks to my press card.

San Miniato al Monte

Now, this is a place where a well informed local -basically any individual born and raised in the city- would tell you to go and even take you there. This Basilica stands over one of the highest points in the city. So, it’s a must-go for sightseeing. It tells a very interesting story that mixes Armenian influences with Ancient Roman Emperors and a the British King Henry II paying for a construction of the current building in 1013. Interestingly, it’s one of the last places on Earth where you can actually hear a mass told in Latin.

Atop of the hill, San Miniato al Monte

Atop of the hill, San Miniato al Monte

Very near to San Miniato there’s Piazzale Michelangelo, another awesome square to visit, having a very close-to-the-original copy of the David, the most famous of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s statues. Buonarroti, by the way, is a native from Florence and its most relevant artist of all times.

Just walk around and keep your eyes wide open

You’ll suddenly find yourself in a place with this view.

A street in Florence

A street in Florence

Whether in the winter or the summer, the city is lively and there will always be amazing scenes you can suddenly get to attend.

Winter's Renaissance Parade

Winter’s Renaissance Parade

Small shopping business are decorated with great taste.

Florence, June 2012

Florence, June 2012

Did you ever wonder about that thing of locking your love “forever and ever”? It may be originated there.

Lockers for lovers, in Il Ponte Vecchio

Lockers for lovers, in Il Ponte Vecchio

And whatever you do, don’t miss Il Ponte Vecchio.

Il Ponte Vecchio

Il Ponte Vecchio

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