Abby and Dan enjoying the view of Florence

This is a copy of Michelangelo's "David" done by the students at the Academy years ago. The original is in the Academy Museum. This one is in the square positioned as the original stood.Saturday was our day to explore Florence. We began at the “Academy Gallery” where many artists still study. There we saw a room full of paintings as we waited to enter the room with several marble statues by Michelangelo. The statue room was long with large marble slabs on either side that contained half carved statues of men labeled “prisoners.” While looking at these figures, it was as though I could feel their energy as their twisted bodies struggled to burst forth from their marble encasings. At the end of this great hall was “David” by Michelangelo. The combination of beauty, form, and anatomy displayed in this carving from a single slab of marble is exquisite. We had not made the connection before this trip that the statue is a depiction of the biblical David just before using a stone and slingshot to defeat Goliath. However, the svelte, seventeen-foot tall David certainly appeared to be an even match for any Goliath he would encounter. Although, according to our guide, the location and angle of David in his original courtyard home intimated that the Goliath he was facing was the government.

Statue in Florence: All of these pictures were taken in the same square.  Neptune  This is a beautiful marble statue. The "rough draft" in stone is in the Academy Gallery.  Another statue illustrating "spiral" design of much of the sculpture in Florence.  Many original statues were places in an area next to this square. The bronze one represents the death of Medusa.

Florence CathedralAfter this museum we walked into one of the town squares where we could see the cathedral, or “Duomo,” of Florence. The white, pink, and green marble covering the entire building was only eclipsed by the hundreds of statues and carved facades inlaid around the whole structure. The cathedral has a tall, rectangular bell tower on one side and a large dome on its top. We had no hope of capturing on film (or digital flash cards) the enormity and intricacy of this religious beauty. On the opposite side of the small courtyard was the baptistery celebrated for its bronze and gold doors. The solid gold is carved into three-dimensional scenes from the bible and glistened brightly in the sun.

Gold detail of baptisty door. There are 10 of these panels on the door. Part of cathedral tower and cathedral dome
Detail above cathedral doorway More detail further above cathedral doorway

Santa Croce BasilicaContinuing the sensation of moving like cattle among the many tour groups in town, we were herded into another square. (Dan likes to “moo” occasionally while we walk.) This square is highlighted by the Santa Croce Basilica which contains the tombs of many famous Italians including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. Even though we did not go inside, we appreciated the outside detail that parallels the cathedral and noted the large Star of David symbolizing the Jewish ancestry of the Catholic faith.

Upon our arrival in Florence, we were told it is the city of shopping. It is the center for both leather and gold within Italy. We were routed into one local store and given a lesson on the uniqueness of the quality of gold in the region and shown many beautiful pieces including their specialties of design with diamond-cut gold and black gold. The leather shop set up a small, humorous fashion show for us to explain what to look for in quality leather. Many of their coats were beautiful and incredibly light. They also talked about their craft of gold stamping which is famous in Florence. Yes, we were a little suckered in and bought a few items here, but we are happy with our purchases of quality pieces that should last for a while. No new leather coats though…The thought of that in 100 degree weather was unbearable.

Palazzo Vecchio: Town Hall of Florence  Arch in Florence  Enjoying the walk through Florence

Bell tower of cathedral taken from top of domeOur herd now scattered as we were given some time to ourselves. Dan and I were interested in climbing to the copula at the top of the dome on the cathedral. One year ago (if not to the day) we were in Las Vegas and took a smooth elevator ride to the top of the mock Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel seeing from above the lights and sights of Sin City. Here in Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, we knew we were in for a different project when we saw the sign warning in six languages that there were 463 steps with no lift available. After about 150 steps we found ourselves inside the dome at the edge of the great painting that covered the entire ceiling. Some commented they thought it showed the Last Judgment and upon closer inspection we could see all kinds of grotesque, hellish images portrayed in beautiful colors, sweeping strokes, and abundant detail. The climb continued with narrow stairs, slanted roofs, tight corners, and at times two-way traffic. Eventually we saw the light and made it to the top. The view was fantastic! In every direction we saw a sea of View of Santa Croce Basilica from the top of the domered tile rooftops with church spires and a few towers poking through toward the sky. City buildings are regulated to be no taller than the government building so everything looked very even creating subtle waves of burnt orange spanning outward to the green hills framing Florence. After a full round of photography, Dan and I walked the rim once more and I could not help but cry as I was overcome with emotion of the setting and the company. I do not believe I have seen in my life a more beautiful view.

We saved lunch for after the climb which was smart since we would otherwise have had to carry the weight of our tortellini and spaghetti with us up the stairs. After eating we explored a little more of the center of town and met back with the rest of our Globus group.

Presentation of the Prime RibNearly everyone opted for the traditional Tuscan Dinner. We drove out through the rolling hills of Tuscany. The landscape is a luscious green, a mix of natural brush and organized vineyards blended with olive trees. Old farm houses and villas in stone and soft colors are sprinkled throughout. Our meal was at a farmhouse converted into a restaurant.Tour Director Luca with Dan The setting was gorgeous and the meal delicious. I cannot think of another time when I ate food that tasted so fresh. The main course was prime rib presented in a style reminiscent of a Abby and Dan enjoying another romantic group dinnerHawaiian luau with two men carrying flaming racks of ribs sitting on a bed of soft, yellow potatoes. Anticipating a long meal, Dan brought some balloons for the kids and these became an infinite source of entertainment for them as well as the waiters and our tour director, Luca. The six (or was it seven?) course meal was followed by a gorgeous red sunset surely ordered up just for us.

Tuscan landscape with sunset  Tuscan landscape from bus window

Today we are driving to Venice and we will be stopping soon in Verona for a little sightseeing and lunch.

Continue to Verona, Italy


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July 2008