|A copy of Michelangello's David|
Florence is the capital of Tuscany in the central region of Italy which is known for its landscapes, history, legacy in arts and influence on high culture. It has hosted numerous figures who were
influential in its history,
art, literature and thought. From Petrarch to Dante to Machiavelli,
Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, - an engineer as well as an artist who
produced the iconic portrait Mona Lisa – all enriched Tuscany. Many of
Tuscany’s cities, including Florence have been designated as World Heritage
Sites. Besides, it is wine country and notable as it is for producing some of
the top-rated wines it has among its produce the well-known wine Chianti.
|A street in Florence|
Florence (Firenze in Italian) has its history rooted in Roman times. Built in 80 BC as an army camp, later it became a centre of trade and banking and eventually becoming economically, politically and culturally one of the most important cities of Europe. What is most
remarkable is that the language spoken in the city in the 14th Century was and is still considered as Italian language. Even in the prosaic financial sector its currency, the gold florin, financed industry, trade and even wars since middle ages. Besides, Florence was home to the powerful House of Medici whose members reigned as Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Two members of the family became popes and Lorenzo de Medici was considered a financial and cultural wizard.
|A part of the huge Duomo|
We again put up in a pension on the first floor of a building that appeared pretty old. We had only a day and a half to go around and look at the city. We not only did not have time and we also were short of funds. Nonetheless, we did as best as we could within the limitations and wandered around the city.
The first attempt had to be to see the famous David of
Michelangelo even if it happened to be a replica. It was indeed a remarkable sculpture with a perfect human male body tensed up in
the face of the prospect of a fight with
the monster Goliath. We, for some reason, could not view the original that was
kept at the Academia Gallery. Perhaps it was under repairs or restoration. The
statue reminded me of the Grecian marble statues that I happened to see in
India in Baroda museum. Michelangelo was a product of Renaissance and no wonder
it was as realistic as human figures etched in marble of ancient Greece.
Michelangelo is stated to have worked at the age of 24 for two years to perfect
this giant of a masterpiece which is reputed to be the most perfect
representation in marble of a male human form. Those who have read Irving
Stone’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy” would know to what extent Michelangelo
would inflict pain on himself to get to that perfection in each of his pieces
|Campanile looking down on a Florence street|
The Duomo is what dominates the city of Florence. It is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of St. Mary of the Flowers) is the main church of Florence and is also known as Duomo di Firenze. Its construction commenced in 1296 and it took around 200 years to build. The cathedral complex located in what is
known as the Piazza del Duomo comprises the Cathedral, the
Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile (the bell tower). Giotto was the architect of Campanile who was another brilliant specimen to have appeared during the Renaissance in Florence.
|Statue of Neptune in Piazza Della Signoria|
The exterior of the Cathedral has polychrome marbles from several places in Italy, including well-known Carrara, in shades of green, white and pink giving it a distinctive look. Never before in my life had I seen such a multi-coloured Gothic cathedral. Most cathedrals are forbidding, generally in brooding dark grey or dirty brown. This one was bright and different. Its dimensions are immense – about 8000 square metres. Its height is enough to make it visible from most parts of the city – at least its octagonal dome. Austerely decorated, yet busts of all those connected with building of the edifice, including the distinguished architects, have been displayed prominently.
|The obelisk at Pitti Palace|
Wandering around in the Florentine streets was itself very interesting and wWalking aimlessly on the cobbled streets with their aged still-in-use buildings was, indeed, a pleasure. Virtually on every turn a new captivating vista would open up brimming over with tourists and surely many locals. What were more interesting were the piazzas that one got to quite by chance. Piazzas are nothing but public squares surrounded by buildings and more often beautified by an elegant sculptural complex and a decorated fountain. One such was the piazza where we came across the statue of Neptune.
|In front of the Campanile|
We rushed through Palazzo Medici and Palazzo Pitti, both residences of the Medici – the latter one was even used by Napoleon for some time. They are so huge that it wasn’t possible to cover them thoroughly, thus missing out on the wealth that the palaces are repositories of. At the Pitti Palace we stumbled upon an Egyptian obelisk with hieroglyphics inscribed on it. As we later saw in Paris, these were the loot of the European powers after their various Egyptian campaigns.
We hurried on to the station as it was time to catch the train for Rome, the city that holds in thrall every visitor.