March 9th , 2010 → 8:44 pm @ Susan

Florence Florence (Firenze) lies in the centre of Tuscany, about 60 to 70 minutes drive from Aulla.  Florence is the capital of Tuscany and was briefly the capital of the kingdom of Italy, between 1865-1871. It was ruled for long periods by the Medici family – between 1434-1494, 1512-1527 and 1530-1737 – and was a major centre of medieval European trade and finance.  Often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is world-famous for its wealth of fine art and architecture and at every turn there is something magnificent to explore.  Of the many beautiful sights to see, here are some of the things that should not be missed:

Florence’s Duomo of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore, stands tall over the city.  It is a vast Gothic structure built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.  The Piazza della Signoria on which it stands has been the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century.  The graceful Loggia dei Lanzi, which functions as an open-air sculpture gallery, was designed by Orcagna in 1376, its curved arches foretell Renaissance classicism.  The statue of Perseo holding Medusa’s head, by Cellini (1554), is a stark reminder of what happened to those who crossed the Medici, and along with Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines, are two of many statues found under the Loggia’s arches.

Right behind the Loggia dei Lanzi is the Galleria degli Uffizi (the Uffizi Gallery), Italy’s premier art museum.  The Galleria degli Uffizi is the most important and visited museum in Florence.  The Uffizi was designed and begun in 1560 by the architect Giorgio Vasari.  Built in the shape of a horseshoe extending from Piazza della Signoria to the Arno River and linked by a bridge over the street with Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi was intended to house the administrative offices (uffizi) of the Grand Duchy.  From the beginning, however, the Medici set aside a few rooms on the third floor to house the finest works of their collections and, over time, various members of the Medici family enriched the gallery with further works of art.  In 1737 the palace and collections were left to the city by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heir.  Of the hundreds of magnificent works of art, must-sees include Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus, Filippino Lippi’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels, Titian’s Venus of Orbino, and lots of other works, including those from the early Masters, Cimabue and Giotto, early Renaissance pioneers, Frangelico and Masaccio, and Caravaggio and Rembrandt.

david-florence The Galleria dell’Accademia is Florence’s second most popular museum.  In 1784, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, converted the friary of San Matteo and the convent of San Niccolò di Cafaggio to house the Gallery so students in the adjoining Accademia delle Belle Arti (Fine Arts Academy) could study the greatest works of the past.  The museum houses Michelangelo’s David - undoubtedly the world’s most famous sculpture – as well as five other Michelangelo sculptures – the four unfinished Prisoners and St. Matthew. It also houses a collection of Gothic and Renaissance paintings that were once in the Medici collections.  Michelangelo’s David arrived in 1873, and moved here from the Piazza della Signoria in order to better conserve it.  A copy of the statue still stands in Piazza della Signoria.  Despite the familiarity of the statue’s image, the sheer size of the marble statue comes as a surprise.  Commissioned by the Opera del Duomo in 1501, the work was deliberately designed to symbolize the virtues of Republican Florence and freedom from foreign and papal domination.  Recently it has come to symbolize the ultimate symbol of the artistic and intellectual ambitions of the Renaissance.  The 16-foot high block of marble was transformed in 3 years into the work of art that was to establish, along with the Pietà displayed at the Vatican, Michelangelo’s reputation as the foremost sculptor of his day.  David was always intended as an outdoor sculpture which explains some of the extraordinary physical distortions evident in the statue, such as the overly large hands and head, and the position of the eyes, which are made to be looked at from below.

Among the other works housed in the Galleria are Giambologna’s original Rape of the Sabines (the copy is located in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria), Botticelli’s Madonna and Child and Madonna of the Sea, and a few works by Perugino, Filippino Lippi, Pontormo and Bronzino.  The treasured collection of musical instruments from the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory of Music has been added to the collection.

A great way to visit Florence from Casa Lucia is to let the train take the strain!  For most of the year, there is a daily train service to Florence from Aulla.  Until 11 December 2010, the schedule is as follows:

Depart Aulla 06:23  / Arrive Florence 08:47

Depart Florence 18:57 / Arrive Aulla 21:15

A slight change is made to these times after 11 December, so please check in advance.

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