FIRENZE


 

Uffizi Palace

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral 

Piazza della Signoria

Church of Santa Croce

Pitti Palace

Baptistery

Bargello Palace

Campanile di Giotto

San Marco Monastery

Casa Buonarroti

Church of San Lorenzo

Ponte Vecchio

Fiesole

House and Tower  od Dante

Medici-Ricciardi Palace

San Miniato al Monte

       

 

UFFIZI PALACE          

This Renaissance palace was commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I, creator of the junior branch of the Medici family, to domicile the uffizi, or government offices. The magnificent edifice was designed and built by the architect Vasari between 1560 and 1574. The world-renowned Uffizi Gallery was established by Cosimo's son Francesco I, a dedicated patron of the arts, who appointed Bernardo Buontalenti to assemble the art and sculpture group of the Medici. Additions to the gallery were made in the years, and with the passing away of the last Medici in 1737 the gallery was given to the Tuscan state on the condition that the collection constantly remains in Florence. Today the extraordinary painting collection on the second floor showing the development of Italian painting as well as other European schools and culminating in the Sandro Botticelli Room, which contains such masterpieces as The Birth of Venus and Primavera is considered to be the richest and most varied in the world.

 

 

CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE           

Nominated in reference to the lily on the city crest, that marks the original story that Florence was created in a field of flowers, the cathedral was commissioned by the Florentine republic and cloth makers’ guild and was started in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio. The multi­colored marble-faced structure was finished in 1434 with the in­stallation of Filippo Brunelleschi's great 350-foot-high dome. With the many significant events that took place here was a dramatic experience in the plot of the Pazzi banking family, abetted by Pope Sixtus IV, against their rivals the Medici, who ruled Florence. During mass on April 26, 1478, the church choir was the scene of the attempted assassination of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was stabbed but escaped to protection; unlike his brother Giuliano who was killed by the hired assassins. In 1493, Girolamo Savonarola, the fanatical Domin­ican prior of the monastery of San Marco, fulminated from the pulpit here against worldly vanities before terrified audiences. The axial chapel contains the bronze sarcophagus of Saint Zenobius, first bishop of the city, shaped by Ghiberti. In the first chapel of the north transept is the incomplete Pieta executed by Michelangelo at the age of 80. The artist Giotto was buried in the corner of the cathedral close to his campanile. Under the building are the leftovers of the basilica of Saint Repartata, Florence's first cathedral.

 

 

 

 

PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA           

Serving as the political and public center of the Florentine republic, this beautiful square has witnessed many important historic moments. Here un­folded the fierce struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines (rival political factions) that divided Florence for decades. The piazza was also a battleground of the 1478 plot of the Pazzi banking family against the Medici. In 1497 Savonarola had a huge pyramid of "vanities'" (costumes, masks, cosmetics, musical instruments, books of poetry, and works of art) burned on the square; a year later, on May 1498, Savonarola was himself burned at the stake at a spot now marked by a bronze medallion. During the 15th and 16th centuries the piazza was also the scene of public festivals, tournaments, and bullfights. So many statues of prominent Florentines (as well as such works of art as Donatello's sculpture Judith and Holofernes, symbolizing liberty) were located on the piazza during this time that it became vir­tually an open-air museum. A copy of Michelangelo's David, (the original is in the Galleria dell' Accademia), is also here. Dominating the piazza is the battlemented Palazzo Vecchio (old palace), started in 1298 to serve as a residence for the members of the “Signoria”, the city's ruling council, and as a place for public de­liberation. Savonarola was confined in its lofty tower for six weeks in 1498 before he was burned. In 1550 Cosimo I de Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, occupied the premises. Since 1881 the building has been used as the town hall. The Loggia dei Lanzi on the piazza (raised between 1376 and 1383) was used as a public meeting place in rainy weather and in the mid-1500s served as a guardroom for the Lanzi, foot soldiers of Cosimo I. Other buildings on the piazza in­clude the Mercanzia, the former chamber of commerce built in 1559, and the Palazzo della Condotta, the domicile of officials en­trusted to pay the condottieri, the captains of mercenary armies.

 

 

CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE          

This Franciscan church was started in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio and quickly became the preferred Florentine place of burial. Within the single spacious nave are the sophisticated tombstones of such illus­trious Italians as the poet Dante, who was actually buried at Ravenna because he had been banished from Florence for po­litical reasons, the sculptor Ghiberti, the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, the painter and sculptor Michel­angelo, and the scientist Galileo. Built for the great Florentine banking families, the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels were adorned with frescoes by Giotto about 1310. At the end of the 13th-century cloisters to the right of the facade is the Pazzi Chapel, designed by Brunelleschi between 1429 and 1446.

 

 

PITTI PALACE            

Intended to exceed the rest of the Florentine palaces, this monumental Renaissance structure, faced with blocks of stone, was built after plans by Brunelleschi in the mid-1400s for Luca Pitti, a wealthy merchant and one of the principal opponent of the Medici. After Luca's attempt to kill Piero de' Medici in 1466 failed, he lost his supremacy and the building was left uncompleted until 1549, when it was obtained by the Medici grand duke, Cosimo I, and com­pleted as his house. Later that century the Grand Ducal Palace, as it was called, was the home of Cosimo I's granddaughter, Marie de' Medici, the future wife of King Henry IV of France. From 1865 to 1871 the Pitti Palace was occupied by the king of Italy when Florence was capital of the kingdom. Today the left wing of the palace contains the Palatine Gallery, with its priceless paintings collected by the Medici that include masterpieces by the greatest artists of every age like Filippo Lippi, Titian, Tintoretto, and Rubens. Other sights at the Pitti Palace are the Royal Apartments, the Silver Museum, and the Gallery of Modern Art.

 

 

BAPTISTERY            

Builded for Saint John the Baptist, patron and guard of Florence, this octagonal construction was originally erected in the seventh or eighth century, possibly on the site of a former Roman temple, and was used as the principal church of the city till the erection of the cathedral. In 1200 the wool merchant’s guild had the building remodeled in its present form. The “Signoria” (governing body of magistrates), sponsored a competition early in the 1400s for the baptistery's bronze doors, which was won by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Completed between 1425 and 1452 with scenes from the Bible, the doors were a century later deemed by Michel­angelo to be "worthy of the gates of Paradise." Inside the mag­nificently decorated interior, the poet Dante (1265-1321) and others were baptized. On the opposite side the baptistery, the 14th-century Loggia del Bigallo was where lost or abandoned children were showed to the charitable citizens.

 

 

BARGELLO PALACE           

Started in 1255 and finished in 1258, this forbidding-looking palace, built around a magnificent courtyard, was initially the home of the “podesta’”, Florence's head magistrate, which according to the city statutes was at all times a foreign person. During its history the structure was the place of violence and blood. Throughout the 14th century the palace suffered from fire and insurgence. In 1574 the building was transformed into a prison and place of execution for criminals under the direction of the police chief, or “Bargello” whence its name. The vaulted hall was used as a torture chamber. Instruments of torture were burned in 1782, and from 1867 to 1875 the palace was renovate to its present appearance and converted into the National Museum of Arts and Crafts. Today the museum houses a magnificent Renaissance sculpture collection, including the famous David of Donatello, the first naked statue executed from antiquity, and numerous of Michelangelo's young works.

 

 

CAMPANILE  DI GIOTTO              

In 1334 Giotto presented to the “Signoria”, the city magistrates, a project for a bell tower adjacent the cathedral, which was approved. A decree was issued that "the Campanile . . . exceeds in magnificence, height and excellence of workmanship everything of the kind that had been previously achieved by Greeks and Romans when at the zenith of their greatness," and the founda­tions were laid. After Giotto's death in 1337, the project was finished by his successors in agreement with the original plans. Today the 276-foot-high structure, with its graceful lines and multicolored marble facing, remains unsurpassed in beauty.

 

 

 

 

MONASTERY OF SAN MARCO                

Initially erected for Sylvestrian monks in 1430, this monastery was moved to the Dominicans at the behest of Cosimo de* Medici in the mid-1400s. The architect Michelozzo refurbished the edifice, and the artist Fra Angelico adorned the walls with fres­coes. In the cells of distinguished monks, Fra Angelico executed edifying scenes in order to encourage medita­tion. Later in the century, from 1490 to 1498, the monastery was the seat of the great Dominican prior and preacher Savonarola, who be­lieved that his divine mission was to make Italian urbanites repent of their profligate ways and abstain from luxurious living. Although his impassioned oratory from the pulpit at San Marco and later the cathedral initially swayed the people, and he briefly became their political and religious leader, Savonarola antagonized Lorenzo the Magnificent and Pope Alexander VI, was excommunicated, and was eventually burned at the stake in 1498.

 

 

 

 

 

CASA BUONARROTI              

The great sculptor, painter, and architect Michelangelo (1475-1564) lived here. His house was transformed into a museum, bequeathed to the city. The building houses youthful sculptures of the artist, including two marble reliefs ex­ecuted under the patronage of Lorenzo the Magnificent, as well as manuscripts, drawings, and models.

 

 

 

 

CHURCH OF SAN LORENZO               

Erectd on the place of a church consecrated by Saint Ambrose in 393, this Renaissance edifice was started in 1419 by Brunelleschi and his scholars and paid for by the Medici. The facade was never finished. As the parish church and family vault of the Medici dynasty, San Lorenzo witnessed baptisms, the fabulous marriage of Lorenzo the Magnificent to Clarice Orsini, when the population of the city was feted for three days and nights, and funerals; the church was also the place in 1564 of the solemn funeral ceremony for Michelangelo, whose dead body was buried in the church of Santa Croce. This church is renowned for its two Medici chapels. The New Sacristy, a quadrangular building, was designed between 1520 and 1524 to hold the tombs of Giuliano de' Medici, duke of Nemours, and Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino. Surmounted with huge statues representing the former as a man of action and the latter as a thinker, the tombs occupied Michelangelo for ten years and are among the world's sculptural masterwork. Builted in 1604, the octagonal Princes' Chapel hosts the sarcophagi of the six grand dukes of Tuscany. Next to the church is the famous Laurentian Library—Europe's first public library—designed by Michelangelo in 1523 and containing 10,000 books.

 

 

 

 

PONTE VECCHIO             

Florence's oldest bridge has controlled the crossing of the Arno River at this site since Etruscan times. About 200 b.c. the Via Flamina, the large road connecting Rome with northern Italy and Germany, passed over the bridge, and the Roman camp of Florentia on the banks of the Arno River subsequently developed into a rapidly growing town. The Ponte Vecchio was given its current look by Taddeo Gaddi in the 14th century a.d., and in 1345 butchers in­stalled themselves in the 40 shops flanking the bridge. In the 16th century silversmiths and goldsmiths occupied the lateral shops, above which a corridor linking the Uffizi and Pitti palaces on either side of the river was built by Vasari. During World War II the Germans destroyed all bridges on the Arno except this one.

 

 

FIESOLE             

At the time that Rome was a simple village this hilltop town was a prosperous Etruscan city; groups of its inhabitants are believed to have mi­grated to the near valley and founded a settlement that later be­came Florence. Fiesole subsequently became a Roman colony. Conserved today are the ruins of the cyclopean Etruscan Walls, a well-preserved Roman Theater built around 80 b.c., the Tuscan-Romanesque Cathedral, with its battlemented bell tower, founded in 1028, and the Monastery of San Francesco (Saint Francis) on top of the hill. At the foot of the hill is the Villa Palmieri, where the company of ladies and gentlemen in Boccac­cio's Decameron spent ten days saying stories after they fled from plague-stricken Florence in 1348. The nearby Villa of Careggi, the most well-known of the Medici villas, was built by Cosimo the Elder in the 1400s and after became the preferred residence of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

 

 

 

HOUSE AND TOWER OF DANTE          

This medieval residence and tower was the birthplace in 1265 of the poet Dante Alighieri. The fortress like building was built at a time of civic unrest when members of the Florentine nobility had towers to which they could retire in the event of risk.

 

 

 

 

MEDICI-RICCARDI PALACE             

 

This huge Renaissance palace was erected by the architect Michelozzo di Bartolommeo between 1444 and 1452 for Cosimo de Medici the Elder. The Medici family subsequently lived here for the next hundred years. Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92) made this establishment a brilliant center of the arts, which was visited by the most well-known personalities of the time; his son Giovanni, the future Pope Leo X, spent his childhood here; and Catherine de Medici, who became queen of France, was born at the palace in 1519. The Riccardi family later acquired the structure. Principal features include the tiny secret Chapel, decorated in 1469 with exquisite frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli for Piero de* Medici (the Gouty), the Medici Museum, containing the death mask of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and the Gallery, with its immense ceiling fresco created in 1683 by Luca Giordano.

 

  

 

SAN MINIATO AL MONTE           

Started in 1013 and finished in the 13th century, this excellent example of Tuscan-Romanesque architecture was dedicated to Saint Miniato, who introduced Christianity to the city. The church and surrounding monastery are enclosed by ramparts erected by Michelangelo in 1529; it was at these fortifications the following year that the artist distinguished himself in the defense of Florence against the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, who were besieging the city. Near is the Torre de Gallo (Galileo's tower), where the famous scientist invented the telescope in 1609 and made his astronomical observations and interpretations.

 

 

 

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