My Last Few Days in Florence

I had been out really late the night before so I got a bit of a late start to my sightseeing that day. Before going anywhere I got a panini for lunch. The place I went to was randomly playing Hava Nagila inside. I have no idea why but I thought it was pretty funny.

The Duomo
Hava Nagila playing in a Florence panini shop

After getting my sandwich I decided to start my sightseeing at the Bargello, which many say is the equivalent to Renaissance sculpture as the Uffizi is to Renaissance painting. The building was originally built to house the magistrate of Florence but it ended up serving as the home of the police chief, and eventually served as a prison before being turned into a museum. It houses an incredible collection of sculptures from some of the most famous artist including Donatello, Michelangelo and many more.

Interior courtyard of The Bargello
Flying Mercury by Giambologna. I saw a smaller version of this statue in the Art History museum in Vienna.
Florence Triumphant Over Pisa by Giambologna. Commissioned for the Hall of the 500 in the Palazzo Vecchio for the wedding of Francesco de Medici.
Bust of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra, commissioned by his nephew for the family tomb (left). Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John by Michelangelo. He left for Rome before finishing the sculpture (right).
David/Apollo by Michelangelo. The sculpture was never finished and some, including Vasari interpret it to be Apollo taking an arrow from his quiver, while others believe it is David with goliath’s head at his feet (left). Bacchus by Michelangelo, one of his earlier works (right).
Painted ceiling in the Bargello (left), Very large, detailed old cannon (right).
Depiction of St. Paul at the back of the cannon (left), The Medici crest decorating the cannon (right).
Oceanus by Giambologna. This is hislargest marble statue which stood in the middle of a fountain in the Boboli Gardens until 1911.
Madonna and Child with Angels by the Workshop of Lucca della Robbia (top) and Madonna and Child, called “Madonna of the Rosebush” by Lucca della Robbia.
David by Donatello. This is Donatello’s first work, which was commissioned for the Duomo but was probably never placed there.

The two bronze David’s, one by Verrocchio and the other by Donatello are another highlight of the museum. These two statues along with Donatello’s earlier marble David are often analyzed to show the progression of sculpture at the time toward the High Renaissance return to Ancient Greek and Roman antiquity and the change in the emphasis of the artists in their works. This transition culminates in Michelangelo’s famous David which fully encapsulates the ideals of Renaissance art in its return to the Greek nude form and its praise of the human body.

David by Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci’s teacher (left). David by Donatello, Donatello’s most famous work and the first nude full-round statue made since antiquity (right).
Saint George by Donatello. This statue was commissioned by the Guild of Armourers and Sword Makers for a niche on the exterior of the Church of Orsanmichele. The niche here is a copy of the one at the church and a replica of the statue stands in the original niche now.

Perhaps the most famous and important pieces housed in the Bargello are the panels from the competition for the Baptistery doors. The Guild of Merchants decided to commission a new set of doors for the Baptistery of the Duomo and held a competition to see which artist would receive it. Each entry needed to depict the scene of the Sacrifice of Isaac. The two remaining panels, by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, were deemed the co-winners, although Brunelleschi declined to share the commission for the doors and thus Ghiberti received the commission himself. This competition is often referred to as the start of the Renaissance and in fact Art History class in high school started by analyzing these two panels on the first day. There is a lot of history that followed due to this competition between these two men who ultimately worked together on the construction of the dome of the Duomo, although Brunelleschi had the last laugh on that occasion. These panels have such an important place in the history of art and it was really cool to see something up close that I have learned so much about.

The Sacrifice of Isaac by Lorenzo Ghiberti (left), The Sacrifice of Isaac by Filippo Brunelleschi (right).

The Mary Magdalene Chapel is also a cool part of the Bargello. It was originally designed to house people who were sentenced to death before they were executed. In the 16th century the frescoed walls of the chapel were plastered over when the Bargello was converted to a prison. In the 19th century they went searching for a famous rumored depiction of Dante by Giotto on the walls of the chapel and it was eventually uncovered. In the chapel is a painted wooden image of Jesus’ Crucifixion which was has no documentation but has been attributed to Michelangelo due to comparisons with his other works. Many art historians agree with this attribution but recently it has been brought into question and is now a debated topic in the art world.

The Mary Magdalene Chapel (left), Crucifix attributed to Michelangelo (right).
Cool ivory double sided chess and backgammon board
Three Acolytes by Arnolfo di Cambio, the original architect of the Duomo.
Exhibit of Maiolica glazed pottery from the Renaissance
The interior courtyard of the Bargello (left), The exterior of the Bargello (right).

After finishing up at the Bargello I went straight over to the Palazzo Vecchio to see inside as well as see the views from the battlements and tower. The first room I saw was the famous Salone dei Cinquecento or Hall of the 500. It got this name because it was designed to house the Grand Council of the Republic at the end of the 15th century, which consisted of 500 members. Giorgio Vasari was commissioned to enlarge the hall in the 16th century so that Grand Duke Cosimo I could use it to hold his court. Vasari raised the ceiling and covered it and the walls with large frescos. In doing so he actually painted over the remnants of frescos by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo!

The ceiling in the Hall of the 500 (left), The hall of the 500 (right).
Paintings on the walls of the Hall of the 500

Right off of the great hall is the Studiolo of Francesco I, a small room without windows where Francesco I de Medici spent time. It was designed by Vasari and has works of art by him, his students, Giambologna and others inside.

Ceiling of the Studiolo of Francesco I (left), The Studiolo of Francesco I (right).

Next I walked through the apartments of Leo X of the Medici family.

Ceiling in the room of Cosimo il Vecchio, the center painting by Vasari shows him returning to Florence from exile.
Ceiling in the Room of Lorenzo the Magnificent (left), Room of Leo X (right).
St. John’s Day Fireworks in Piazza della Signoria, depicting the event from 1558. The painting shows how the square looked at the time with the original brick paving and the Uffizi not having been built yet.

Next I went upstairs to the Apartments of the Elements, which were built by Cosimo I as an extension of the Palazzo to house his private quarters. These apartments have the exact same floor plan as the ones below and each room in these apartments corresponds to a room dedicated to a member of the Medici family in the apartments below. Each room in the Apartments of the Elements is decorated with and dedicated to a god of classical antiquity which is meant to draw the comparison between these gods and the Medici family as “deities on earth”.

The Earth (left) and Fire (right) frescos in the Room of the Elements. This room is directly above the Room of Leo X and is supposed to represent Leo X as the basis for the Medici dynasty just as the elements are the basis for everything in the world.
Room of Ceres, directly above the Room of Cosimo il Vecchio (left), Paintings from the Room of Opis which was above the Room of Lorenzo the Magnificent (center and right).
Paintings from the Room of Jupiter, above the Room of Cosimo I.
Putto with Dolphin by Andrea del Verrocchio
Scenese from the Room of Hercules depicting scenes from his life. Hercules as a baby strangling the snakes that Hera had placed in his cradle to kill him (left), Hercules killing the Hydra (center), and Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion (right). This room is right above the room dedicated to Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, Cosimo I’s father.
Views from the Terrace of Saturn. The paintings on the ceiling have been pretty damaged by being in the open air for so many years. The terrace is directly above the room dedicated to Pope Clement VII (Giulio de Medici).
View of the Hall of the 500 from the balcony at the end of the room

Next I walked through the Apartments of Eleonora. These were part of the original building and had housed the members of the medieval city’s government during the 14th and 15th centuries. When Cosimo I moved into the building he gave these apartments to his wife Eleonora. Vasari was commissioned to redo the apartments for her, which he completed in 1562, just before Eleonora died of malaria. All of the rooms are dedicated to important women and the Frescoes reflect their lives and virtues.

Chapel of Eleonora decorated by Bronzino (left), Fresco in the Room of the Sabines (center), Fresco in the Room of Esther (right).
Frescoes from the Room of Penelope, Penelope at her loom surrounded by river gods (left) and Ulysses blinding the cyclops Polyphemus (center), Fresco from the Room of Gualdrada was a Florentine girl mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy, who would not let Emperor Otto IV kiss her as she would only allow her future husband to do so. This is supposed to extoll the virtues of purity and modesty, but also reinforce the idea of Florence’s independence (right).

The next part of the Palazzo Vecchio was the Apartments of the Priors where members of governing body lived.

Mask of Dante Alighieri, originally thought to be a death mask molded directly from his face, it is now thought to be a cast.
Chapel of the Priors
Ceiling (left) and Wall Fresco (right) from the audience Chamber where Cosimo I would grant audiences.
Judith and Holofernes by Donatello (left), View of the Hall of Lilies (right).
Hall of Geographical Maps (left), 16th century map of Great Britain (center), 16th Century map of California (right).

After exploring all of the interior of the Palazzo Vecchio I went up to see the views from the ramparts and the tower.

View from the ramparts of the Palazzo Vecchio: The Piazza della Signoria (left), Rooftops of Florence (center), A new statue being unveiled in the piazza of a guy riding a giant gold turtle (right).
The Duomo form the ramparts of the Palazzo Vecchio (left), A view through the floor into the piazza below (right).
Panorama from the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio
The Bargello and the Synagogue (left), Santa Croce (right).
Piazzale Michelangelo (left), The Uffizi Gallery (right).
Views of Florence down the Arno from the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio
The Duomo from the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio
The Synagogue on the left and Santa Croce on the right
Staircase up to the bells in the Palazzo Vecchio tower (left), The bells in the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio (right).

After seeing everything at the Palazzo Vecchio I decided to go across the river and have a little picnic in the rose garden right below the Piazzale Michelangelo. I stopped at this tiny panini shop which had a sampler of tuscan salumi that I got packed to go. I sat in the rose garden and ate for a while and then walked up to the Piazzale to read and take in the view for a bit.

Beautiful flowers in the rose garden (left), View from the rose garden (right).
Picnic with a view
View from Piazzale Micheangelo
Panorama from Piazzale Micheangelo
Selfie from Piazzale Micheangelo

After admiring the view I walked back across the river to my apartment.

Beach on the Arno (left), View of the Ponte Vecchio (right).

That night I went back across the river for dinner by myself. I walked around for a while, trying to decide where to go and I ended up at Trattoria Pandemonio where I had minestrone soup and meatballs with white beans, both of which were very good!

Minestrone Soup (left), Meatballs and white beans (right).

The next day I had booked a spot on a Vespa tour through the hills of Tuscany. The guy who was leading our tour drove us from Florence to the Castello del Trebbio, an old castle which is now a family run winery and olive oil producer. Once there we got a tour of the castle and wine cellar before we left on our Vespa ride. On the tour the women who worked there told us the story of the castle which had originally been built in 1184 by the Pazzi family, one of the leading banking families in Florence, other than the Medici. In 1478, during the height of the Renaissance, the Pazzi family met in the castle to plan their plot to assassinate Lorenzo de Medici and his brother Giuliano, hoping to take control of Florence away from the Medici family. The assassination attempt occurred in the Duomo during services and while they were successful in killing Giuliano, Lorenzo survived. After the failed plot Lorenzo banished the Pazzi family from Florence and attempted to erase their family name from history. Almost every Pazzi family crest, made up of two dolphins on a shield, was destroyed throughout the city. One of the only remaining crests lies inside the Castello del Trebbio. Lorenzo spared it as he was a great patron of the Arts and the crest in the castle was made by the great artist Donatello. After learning about the castle’s unique history we were given a tour of the wine cellar and told a bit about the different wines they produce.

View of the Arno outside of Florence, on the way to Castello del Trebbio (left), Entrance to Castello del Trebbio (center), View from Castello del Trebbio (right).
Pazzi Family crest above a door in the Castello del Trebbio. It was made by Donatello and is one of the only Pazzi crests remaining today.
Casks of wine in the cellar (left), Old wine flasks (right).
Old wine bottles (left), Sparkling wine being made using the classic method (right).
The Castello del Trebbio (left), Chickens at the Castello del Trebbio (right).

There were about 8 of us on the tour and I was the only guy. Before leaving on the ride our guide taught us how to use the Vespas and made sure we were all able to drive them well enough. I went first and although initially it was a little strange, it was pretty easy to pick up. Some of the girls had some issues learning but eventually we were able to get on the road. We rode through the hills for a while and eventually stopped to take some pictures at a beautiful lookout point. We kept on riding, going through a little town and down a beautiful windy road until eventually ending up back at the castle for lunch.

Pink Vespa (left), The Vespa I rode (right).
Me with my sweet Italian mohawk helmet.
Vespa with a beautiful view
View of the Tuscan countryside from my Vespa tour
Me on my Vespa
Cool Vespa pictures
Panorama of the Vespas in the beautiful Tuscan countryside
Me riding a Vespa

When we got back to the castle they served us a delicious lunch in a beautiful old room. The meal was cooked by an old Italian grandmother and it was great!

Table set for lunch at the Castello del Trebbio

After lunch we had some sparkling wine which we opened using a sword! Then we had some time to browse the shop where I bought a couple of bottles of wine and a bottle of their olive oil. The Vespa tour was awesome and it was a great way to spend one of my final days in Italy!

Opening the sparkling wine bottle with a sword

Afterwards we headed back to Florence. As I was walking back to my apartment I came across a random parade of people dressed up in Renaissance era clothing. I have no idea what the parade was for but it was pretty cool.

Parade of people in Renaissance garb walking through the streets of Florence
A parade of people in Renissance clothing walking through the streets of Florence

That night I cooked for the last time in florence. I made pasta with homemade tomato sauce, as well as sausage, peppers and onions, with a side of roasted eggplant.

Pasta with homemade tomato sauce (left), Sausage, peppers and onions with roasted eggplant (right).

Sunday April 17th was my last full day in Florence. I started off the day by going to see Medici Chapel in San Lorenzo. The Medici Chapels are made up of two rooms, the Chapel of the Princes and the New Sacristy. The Chapel of the Princes was the idea of Cosimo I and was supposed to be a monumental family tomb. Its construction was started in the 17th century but wasn’t actually completed until 1962. There are six giant sarcophagi on the walls around the room but they are all empty as the Medici family is all buried in the crypt of the church. The chapel has been under restoration for a long time as a marble block fell off the facing in 1999.

Tombstone of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici who was the sister of the last Medici Grand Duke, Gian Gastone. When her brother died in 1737 she bequeathed the Medici fortune to the city of Florence, which is what allows us to be able to enjoy all of their amazing artifacts and contributions to the city (right), One of the six niches in the Chapel of the Princes (right).
Beautiful floor of the Chapel of the Princes including the Medici crest (right).
Each niche was supposed to contain a statue but only two remain, Cosimo II (left) and Ferdinando I (right).
Altar in the Chapel of the Princes
Vertical panorama in the Chapel of the Princes
The interior of the dome of the Chapel of the Princes

After admiring the Chapel of the Princes I went in to the other portion of the Medici Chapels, The New Sacristy. Meant to hold funerary monuments to four members of the Medici family, only two were completed and they were of the relatively unimportant Lorenzo di Piero, Duke of Urbino and Giuliano di Lorenzo, Duke of Nemours. The monuments to Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother Giuliano (yes, its confusing because they are different people from those with the same names above) were never finished and instead they are buried underneath an altar on one side of the room. The room and the monuments inside were designed by Michelangelo but some of the sculptures were left unfinished when he left for Rome.

Statues placed above Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano di Medici’s Tomb by Giorgio Vasari. The center statue is the Madonna and Child by Michelangelo (left), The tomb of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano di Medici (right).
The original lantern, designed by Michelangelo, that sat atop the New Sacristy
Tomb of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours with statues of Night and Day (left), Tomb of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino with statues of Dawn and Dusk (right). Both tombs were sculpted by Michelangelo.
The inside of the dome of the New Sacristy (left), The altar in the New Sacristy. The two candelabra on the ends were designed by Michelangelo but made later and the bronze crucifix is attributed to Giambologna (right).
The exterior of the New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo (left), A closeup of the crown of the lantern of the New Sacristy, the original of which is housed inside (right).

After seeing everything at the Medici Chapels I tried to go see the Laurentian Library, also designed by Michelangelo in San Lorenzo, but I found out that it was only opened during the week. One more thing that I have on my list for my next trip to Florence!

From there I headed over to the Duomo to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower which I hadn’t done yet. I had to wait in line for a little while and then you have to climb your way up a very narrow spiral staircase before you can eventually take in the amazing view of the city and the dome of the Duomo. It was beautiful!

Giotto’s Bell Tower (left), details on the facade of the bell tower (right).
The stairwell inside the bell tower 9left), View of the Duomo from one of the landings on the climb up to the top of the bell tower(right).
View of the Duomo and the city from a landing of the bell tower
View of the Baptistery from a landing of the Bell Tower
View of the dome of The Duomo through the deigns at the top of the Bell Tower (left), View of the dome of The Duomo from the top of the Bell Tower (right).
The Dome of the Duomo with a view of the Synagogue in the background (left), The lantern of the Duomo (right0.
View of the Bargello and the Palazzo Vecchio from the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower (left), View of the Palazzo Pitti and the Piazza della Repubblica (right).
View of the Baptistery (left), View of San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale (right).
Me at the top of the Bell Tower
Another gorgeous view of The Duomo and the city of Florence from atop Giotto’s Bell Tower

After descending from the Bell Tower I decided to go get lunch from the most popular panini place in Florence. On my way I stopped to check out the statues in the niches on the exterior of Orsanmichele, originally a grain store in the center of the city which was later turned into a church. The different guilds of the city each sponsored a niche and paid for a statue to be placed in it. They chose subjects that would show off their guild’s craft, for example, the Guild of Armourers chose St. George, as he is known for slaying a dragon, and thus could be shown with a sword and shield. The statues were done by a number of different, many of whom are very famous, including Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, Nanni di Banco and Andrea del Verrocchio. All of the statues are now replicas with the originals now held inside or in other museums.

The statues in the niches surrounding Orsanmichele
The strange new statue of a man riding a turtle that I had seen being installed from the top of the Palazzo Vecchio tower a few days earlier
My “Inferno” panino from All’Antico Vinaio. The panino was named after the most recent Dan Brown book which takes place largely in Florence. I read it while I was there and apparently they named the sandwich as it was what Ron Howard ordered while directing the movie of the book. It was delicious!

After a quick lunch I headed back over to the Duomo to explore the Duomo museum which houses many artifacts from the building’s history.

A model of the original facade of The Duomo (left), Statues from the original windows of the Duomo (center), States from the Duomo by Donatello and Nanni di Banco (right).
A small dome that they found when building the Duomo Museum on what was Brunelleschi’s worksite. It shows the herringbone patter of bricks that was instrumental in the construction of the dome. It is unknown whether Brunelleschi made this dome or not but it is definitely related to him in some way as he was the one who introduced this herringbone pattern to the western world.
Reconstruction of the original facade of The Duomo
The original sets of doors for the baptistery made by Ghiberti (center and right).
Sculptures by Arnolfo di Cambio, the original architect of the Duomo, and an ancient Roman sarcophagus
Central sculptures by Arnolfo di Cambio, Saint Reparata (left), Mary in Majesty (center), and Saint Zenobius (right).
The North Door of the Baptistery by Lorenzo Ghiberti which he won the commission for in the famous contest (left), The “Gates of Paradise” doors to the Baptistery by Lorenzo Ghiberti (right).
A Panel from the “Gates of Paradise” that I learned about in my art history classes
Doorjamb of the original Facade by Arnolfo di Cambio(left), Architrave of the main door of the Cathedral by Arnolfo di Cambio (right).
Pieces of the original facade of The Duomo. Many were found when excavating the nave of the church to find the remains of the Santa Reparata church. They discovered that they had actually reused many of the pieces of marble from the original facade to pave the floor of the nave.
Sculpture of Mary Magdalene for The Baptistery by Donatello

Michelangelo’s Pieta was his second to last sculpture and was originally meant to stand at the altar of the Roman Church where he thought he was going to be buried. He started in in 1546 but mutilated it in 1555 when he became frustrated by the flaws he was finding in the stone. It was pieced back together and acquired by Cosimo III de Medici who placed it in San Lorenzo where is stood until 1722 when it was moved to the Duomo. The standing figure is Nicodemus, one of men who removed Jesus from the cross, but his face is supposed to be a self portrait of Michelangelo.

Michelangelo’s Pieta (left), Closeup on the face of Nicodemus, meant to be a self portrait of Michelangelo (right).
Closeups of panels from the Bell Tower by Andrea Pisano (left), Statues (center) and panels (right) from the Bell Tower facade.
Dies used to cast the bricks, including the important herringbone shaped bricks for the construction of the dome of the Duomo (left), Brunelleschi’s architectural model of the lantern of the dome (right).
Funerary Mask of Filippo Brunelleschi (left), Brunelleschi’s architectural model of the Dome and two tribunes (right).
View of the Duomo from the viewing deck at the Duomo Museum
Singing Gallery by Donatello from the sanctuary of the Duomo (left), Singing Gallery by Luca della Robbia (right).
Pope Leo X’s Mitre
Pages from old illustrated song books

After I finished going through the museum, which was amazing, I headed over to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella which has some famous artwork inside. The facade is also famous and was completed by Leon Battista Alberti in 1470.

Facade of Santa Maria Novella (left), Courtyard inside Santa Maria Novella (right).
The nave of Santa Maria Novella (left), Holy Trinity by Masaccio, which is one of the earliest uses of perspective in painting (right).
Room now used as a gift shop in the church (left), Chapel of Strozzi of Mantua (center), Wooden Crucifix by Filippo Brunelleschi was made as a response to Donatello’s Crucifix in Santa Croce (right).
Maggiore Chapel (left), Chapel of Filippo Strozzi
Frescos in the Maggiore Chapel by Ghirlandaio (left), Crucifix painted by Giotto (right).
The Green Cloister
Frescoes from the Green Cloister by Paolo Uccello which have been moved indoors to be restored
The walls that the Frescoes were removed from (left), Some strange sundial astronomical device on the wall of Santa Maria Novella (right).

That night I went out to my last dinner in Florence with my roommate. We went to a place called Il Latini which I had heard about from a few different people. They had a set menu that included Salumi, cheese and crostini for antipasti, a few different pastas for primi and Bistecca Fiorentina with spinach soufflé and potatoes. It was a great last meal!

Il Latini wine bottle (left), Prosciutto and finocchiona (center), Crostini with liver (right).
Ravioli (left), Pasta of some sort, I don’t remember (center), Bistecca Fiorentina (right).
Spinach soufflé (left), Bistecca Fiorentina and roasted potatoes (right).

The next day I took a bus to the Pisa airport where I got on a flight to London.

My plane to London

My three and a half months living in Florence had come to an end. They were truly some of the best of my life! Thankfully I didn’t have to completely say goodbye yet as I had plans to travel around Europe for about another month and then I was returning to Florence with my parents for my last three days in Europe before heading back to the States. The next stop on my journey was a week exploring London!