I arrived in Florence by train on Friday, December 15 feeling a little sick. I didn't even look for a hostel, I didn't want to share my illness with everyone in a dorm room. I went ahead and got a cheap single in Pension Montreal near the train station for 50,000 lira. As in Rome, the area near the Florence train station was a lot nicer than in Naples.
The little bit sick quickly turned into the flu, so I spent my days in Florence sleeping a lot and snapping pictures the rest of the time. It is a beautiful city, but I didn't feel up to enjoying it. I went to the Uffizi on Saturday and saw a lot of important paintings, including Boticelli's "Birth of Venus", without really getting into it. I'm more of a sculpture person anyway. I then went to the Galleria dell Accademia to see Michelangelo's "David". I was more impressed by this, but still not really into the spirit of things. Pictures weren't allowed in either museum, so I have nothing to inflict on you. I went back to my room and slept through most of the next day. That helped a lot.
I felt a lot better by Monday. I started the day at the Bargello and saw an excellent selection of Renaissance sculptures, including a few Michelangelo's. I liked the Bargello better than the Accademia, which, other than "David", didn't have art that really impressed me. Photos weren't allowed at the Bargello either, but the rule wasn't enforced when no one was watching. In addition to the exterior shot below, I got away with a few interior shots. Cannons were as much a work of art as sculptures back then; in fact the craftsman who made the cannon would often destroy the mold after each one so his work would be unique. That is great for the artist's ego, but drove up the price of cannons and required cannon balls to be custom made for a particular cannon. I don't think artists make good armorers.
The lady in the center of the last picture used to be a fountain sculpture, and the water poured out from the obvious places. I like it much better than the fountain sculptures in Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Outside the Uffizi is the Loggia della Signoria, with some of the world's greatest sculptures on display. These sculptures are completely accessible, admission free, for people to look at as close as they like and from every angle. That is how sculpture is meant to be seen. My favorite, as you can probably tell, is Giambologna's 1583 "Rape of the Sabine Women". The next picture is Cellini's "Perseus", 1553, followed by the "Rape of Polyxena", 1866 by Pio Fedi. Last is "Hercules and the Centaur", 1599, also by Giambologna.
For those of you who are sticklers for accuracy, my guidebook states that the above Perseus is a copy, and the original is in the Uffizi. My book on Florence says the above Perseus is the original but the Rape of the Sabine Women is a copy with the original in the Galleria dell Accademia. But my "Official Guide" from the Accademia says that its Rape of the Sabines is a plaster copy (I saw it, it is a copy) and the original is at the Loggia della Signoria. In summary, I think at the time I was there, December 2000, all the sculptures at the Loggia were the originals, but I could be wrong. At the very worse some were excellent copies.
Across from the Loggia is the Piazza della Signoria, with a copy of "David", and the Neptune Fountain by Bartolomeo Ammannati.
The most famous building in Florence is definitely the Duomo. Begun in 1296, it took 150 years to complete and is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. Unfortunately I couldn't find a place where I could capture the entire cathedral and bell tower in one shot. Here's the best I could do; the bell tower and part of the Baptistry, a composite of the Duomo, the entrance to the Duomo, and the bell tower from a different angle.
In front of the Duomo is the Baptistry. It was built from the fifth through eleventh centuries, making it the oldest building in Florence. I don't know why construction took so long, politics I suppose. I don't have any exterior pictures of it, but some nice interior shots.
Inside the Duomo is impressive, but the most spectacular feature is the paintings on the dome. I got a sore neck and somewhat disoriented looking at it, and took lots of pictures. But first, a shot of the interior and a panel by Domenico di Michelino of Dante and the Divine Comedy. I should read that book some day.
The designer of the dome, Brunelleschi, wanted the interior bare, and there occasionally is talk of restoring the dome interior by painting it white. I think that would be stupid; I like the current dome interior. At first glance, you can see just enough of the 1572 to 1579 fresco on the dome interior to become curious. As you climb higher and get a closer look, you see it is the artists's, Vasari and Zuccari, concept of Judgment Day. They had some interesting ideas of what the damned were subjected to. If you study the last picture, you will see that in hell, everybody gets hemorrhoids.
Back to the exterior of the Duomo, with some pictures taken from the top.
Last is the Campeggio Michelangelo, a short walk from the old center of Florence. It has another copy of David and nice views of the city.
I left Florence late on Tuesday, 19 December, taking an overnight train to France. I should go back some day and give the city and surrounding area more time. Now that I'm in good health, I look at these pictures and realize I wasn't making the most of a beautiful place.