This year’s Christmas post is from Florence, Italy, one of my favorite places in the world. The first time I came through here, I was blown away to finally see everything I had studied for four years in college about Italian art history. Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Ghirlandaio, Boticelli, Michelangelo, Donatello and other Renaissance masters all came to life to me as I walked through this amazing city and the hallowed halls of the Uffizi and countless other buildings/museums. It is no wonder that the entire historic city center of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On this particular train ride back to Florence from Pisa, I was feeling a bit fatigued. Two months of work on the road were starting to show. I wondered if the goosebumps would still come back once I left the platform from the famed Santa Maria Novella station at the edge of the old town…
The sun was out, casting an amazing glow over the Tuscan yellow buildings…
My hotel was near the Duomo so I headed in that general direction until I could get my GPS to work on my phone. But it was all for naught because as I got close to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (better known as the Duomo), the chills instantly ran back down my spine. I could feel the buzz build along with the crowds–apparently all here for the holiday break–as the church came into view. Yep, goosebumps still there! The phone was better used for pictures than GPS:
Suddenly I wished I didn’t have my luggage with me because I just wanted to drop everything and run toward the dome like I did the first time I saw it. Luckily as it turned out, my hotel was literally two minutes away, and this was the view from my room:
I had about two hours of daylight left in my day so I grabbed my camera and dashed out for these photos of the Basilica, which was begun in 1296 in a Gothic style and completed in 1436 with the classic Mediterranean dome by Filippo Brunelleschi:
Shall we go inside?
The entire complex consists of the basilica, baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni),
and bell tower or Giotto’s Campanile:
You could pay to walk up the 464 steps of the Dome or 414 steps of the Campanile for an amazing bird’s eye view of the city. But I had another idea for such a view and will share that in the next entry. Today I simply wanted to enjoy the cathedral with the rest of the world…
The gilded bronze East doors, or Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti, will take you hours to pour over if you can squeeze past the other tourists. It took Ghiberti some 20 years to complete the 28 panels depicting the life of Christ from the New Testament as well as those of four evangelists Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory. The panels are framed by foliage and busts of prophets and sybils. These doors were originally installed on the east side then eventually moved to the north side.
I took photos of each of the panels but I hope that you will get to see each of them with your own eyes one day. Or if you have already seen them, you’d know why these doors are always the first and the last thing I like to see as I pass through Florence. Anyway, just beyond these doors is the Tourist Information office:
I had to mention this structure at all because it’s not often you can find priceless works of art just hanging casually on the walls of a TI office…
After all, this is not just any city. This is Florence.
Happy holidays from Firenze!