Friends in Firenze (Florence for non Italians) (12/05/03)

Last updated 12/09/03                                                                                                                                

After being burnt out on Siena, we headed to Firenze, capital of Italy for 6 years beginning in 1865 and, more importantly, birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence's rich history (home of Dante, Machiavelli, Michaelangelo and the Medici) is on display in various museums, palaces and even throughout the streets of the city (a copy of Michaelangelo's David is situated in its original location in an "open air museum"). The beautiful and bustling streets of Florence provided us an opportunity to walk off some of the wonderful, yet heavy and rich, Italian food we sampled during our stay. Probably the one experience that sticks out most in my mind was the walk we took with our friend Rajeev to the Piazzale Michaelangelo at night. Aside from offering an amazing night-time view of the city, it reminded me a bit of New York, since it was possible to buy a handbag at the top of this hill at 9PM. I thought such things were only possible in Manhattan, but I guess I've got to add Florence to the list... This city can give Americans a "back-home" feel for another reason, too: English is heard on the streets about as often as Italian, if not more so, due to the enourmous influx of tourists and exchange students who come to immerse themselves in the arts -- this is, incidentally, what Rajeev was doing in Florence, and he appeared to be having a great time of it.


                    Exploring the night-life in Florence, first on our own, then with an old friend. The streets of Florence were lined with lights and other decorations in preparation for Christmas. Big thanks to Rajeev for taking us to Piazzale Michelangelo, which offered an incredible view of Florence and surrounding hills at night.

Ponte Vecchio, a 14th century bridge initally lined with butcher shops, was the only Florentine bridge to survive bombings during WWII. During the 17th century, the bridge became a vital link between the two Medici palaces (Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti) and had its butcher shops replaced by silver and goldsmiths at the insistence of the Medici family. Today you'll still find many jewelry shops and expensive boutiques if you manage to work your way through the throngs of people hanging out on the bridge.

One of the highlights in Florence is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Duomo. Its construction spanned 150 years beginning in 1294, but the facade wasn't really completed and was eventually replaced during the 19th century. The octagonal battistero, or baptistry, is the oldest building in Florence and was the site of Dante's baptism (I've gotta admit that I still haven't read that copy of Inferno that I got as a gift from Daria, but maybe this'll be the impetus). The 82 meter high campanile, or bell tower, was added to the cathedral in the 14th century. The exterior of the Duomo is composed of green-and-white striped marble (which may be difficult to tell from the pictures) with some pink hues (especially noticeable on the tower).

                 You won't have to go to museums to see impressive statues in Florence. The Loggia della Signori was the original site of Michaelangelo's David (now moved to the Galleria dell'Accademia), while the Uffizi gallery has a series of famous Italian artists on display outside its doors.

                              Some more sights from Florence, from the Palazzo Vecchio (doesn't look like a palace, does it? -- even harder to tell with all the reconstruction), to the countless piazzas and numerous archways which line the streets.