Firenze, as I’ve seen it…

Well, it should be of no surprise to many that I haven’t had time to add anything new to my blogfor a bit now.  To sum it up, by the time I’m done with classes for the day, have eaten dinner and chilled out in the cafe for a bit, its already almost 10pm.  Knowing that I have studio, emails, journaling, sketching, uploading photos, and possibly speaking with my parents, it seems much easier just to get ready for bed. Procrastination?  Probably.  Our days are really packed.  Mind blowing seminars spill their way into my days, provoking thoughts like “If Humanism was central to the awakening of reasoning in the Renaissance, then what is our Humanism for today?”  And, “If man is the center of all things, then what exactly is the edge of all things?”  Some ideas are more confusing then others.

For one of our seminars, we have a man named Paolo for the professor.  He has such a simple way of describing complex connections between art, humanism… metaphysical, and physical.  He has an extremely extensive knowledge of the history and theory of things here in Castiglion.  He was also our tour guide on our last group trip to Florence, into the Duomo, and the Duomo museum.  We have been considering buying a tape recorder so we can re-listen to him whenever we have questions.

Firenze, or Florence is so far my absolute favorite place in Italy, with Castiglion as a second of course.  For the purpose of this blog, I will try to highlight the past three visits to Firenze.  As with everything in Italia, its big, old, intricate, and filled withadorable children and older people, teens with tight jeans and big scarves, and fierce fashionistaswearing patent leather knee boots with stiletto heels, and Versace sunglasses.

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My very first real view of the city was from at the front of San Minato at Monte.  Legend is, that when the Saint was martyred in Firenze, he picked up himself up and walked to the top of this mountain to the southeast of the city and claimed the spot for his chapel before actually dying.  Incredible views of the Duomo, San Lorenzo, and PlazzaoVecchio served as backdrop to the introduction to this church.  I had lesser expectations of this church then others.  I was amazed.  The church was begun in 1063. The colors of the green and white marble and golden mosaic on the facade were so beautiful.  At the very east end of the church, there are still Roman temple columns that were salvaged and used in the Christian crypt.  Only a few of the capitals on the columns match and some of them had to be “shimmed” to adjust their height to match. The vaulting is exquisite.  The all of the traditionally wood ceiling is painted, extremely detailed, and the entire atmosphere is dark with piercing light from the sparse windows.

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The next major place we visited after our steep walk down into the city was Santa Croce, near to the Arno River.  Santa Croce started in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the facade was not completed until the 1800’s.  Ghiberti, Michelangelo, Machievelli, and Galileo are all buried inside.  I remember from history that the architect that designed the facade was actually Jewish and managed to sneak the Star of David at the top. (this picture was taken last weekend when I stayed near Santa Croce at a hostel).

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Adjacent to Santa Croce is the Pazzi Chapel, one of my favorites from history.  It was built for the Pazzi family of Florence, who were in a huge battle for power against the Medici Family.  The portico is my favorite part.

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Moving towards the Palazzo Vecchio and into the Piazza Signoria, we saw the place where the original David had stood in front of the municipal fortress.  the copy made of the original is now old and under restoration.  Florence was one of the very first democracies.  The dais at the front center of the building that now holds the Italian and European Union flags was where the leaders of the city would speak to the community.

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After lunch at a Tratoria (family owned, traditional food served).  We went in search for Zecchi’s and ran into something.

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Yes.  Il Duomo. It is huge!  (You can see the tops of cars in the very bottom.) The beginning of the architectural renaissance of the western world.  It follows us around, looming up in alleys and making its presence know.  We were all amazed by its extremely interesting brilliant colors.  The green is deep and forest blue-ish green, the pink- almost a salmon. My professor commented, “If they would have had neon, they would probably have used it.”  in response to our exclamations of its beauty.  The dome is so big, it creeps up on you when you least expect it.  In this photo, my friend and fellow traveler Sara Wells is standing in front of Zecchi’s, on one of the medieval narrow streets with the Duomo looming beyond.

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This is a view from past the Baptistery.  The Baptistery actually is much older then the church (b. 1296) and Campanille (1334), from the 10th century.  The golden sculptural relief on the doors on the eastern side was the result of a competition, and is known as the “Gates to Paradise.” Although it is free, we didn’t go inside the Duomo on this first visit.

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Our next visit to Florence was last Wednesday, February 4th.

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Cordell_(my cousin) I wanted you to see the train station so I had my friend Jim take this picture at the Castiglion Station before we caught the 7:08 train to Florence.  It was a very early morning, but well worth it to try out the train system, and ride through Tuscany around sunrise.  This time we did go inside the Duomo.  What was most striking to me, besides the volume of the space and giant frescoed dome, was the Byzantine style mosaic (by artists from Venice) above the central entry doors.

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Also, we could see the interior fresco painting on the underside of Brunelleschi’s great pointed dome.  These figures are way up there.  During my last visit, last Saturday, we climbed to the walkway around the dome (there are two), and took pictures down on our way up to the top.  Although the picture is through plexi-glass, you can see how small the people are, and the beautifu inlaid marble floors are. 

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I really enjoy Florence.  The last time we went back was last Friday.  Jim and I hopped on the morning train and rode to town, both hoping to double back on things that we wanted to see again.  The highlight of the overnight trip was experiencing the very top of the dome of the Duomo.  The views are incredible, especially to think that we are only standing over a couple thick layers of stone, brick, and mortar.

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The roof of the dome is extremely steep.  At one point when going up between the dome shells, the stairs actually become part of the dome itself. Our view from the top was great.  Well worth the eight euro we paid for the hour and the exercise.  I would totally not have eaten lunch so that I could go up the dome!  The city layout made alot more sense from up above.  The medieval streets collided with the Renaissance in the Piazza di S. Giovanni, the large public space surrounding the Baptistery and the Piazza  del Duomo below me. 

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We could see S. Minato al Monte, the first place that we had seen the skyline of Florence from, Santa Croce near the river, then moving westward, the Palazzo Vecchio tower.  To the Northwest past San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel, the rain clouds hung over the mountains.  Bursts of sunlight came across the tangled city blocks and then out into the country side.  It was a beautiful place to be.  We took advantage of the break in the rain.

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Also while in Florence on our own last weekend we went to see the Pitti Palace.  This home is huge, and the funny thing is that it doesn’t really seem as large when you are standing right next to it.  Here is an example.  This is Maggie and I.  You can see that in the picture it doesn’t show much more than the bottom third of the building.

 

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So… don’t tell the Texans here at Santa Chiara… they need to figure it out for themselves while they are here… everything is really bigger in Italy.  Its older as well.  Florence is wonderful, still my favorite city from the ones I’ve seen.  I will be going back tomorrow, Friday, February 13th.  It shall be wonderful! Ciao!

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