I’m one of those annoying people who want to ring on every doorbell just to see what’s behind that door. This is particularly true when you travel with me through a city like Florence. I want to explore every nook and cranny, climb every decrepit stairwell no matter the vertigo, and peer inside every window just for a glimpse of how life goes (or went) somewhere else.

Today I’m taking you to one of my favorite spaces in this beautiful city, the Orsanmichele or Kitchen Garden of St. Michael.

This church was a grain market in the early 1330s then converted into a chapel for the craft and trade guilds at the end of the 1300s. Originally the ground floor was the loggia or portico that served the grain market. The second floor was used for offices and the third floor for grain storage. The guilds eventually commissioned statues of patron saints to decorate the church façades and 14 architecturally designed niches were carved to hold these sculptures like so (the first is of St. George by the great Donatello and the second is of Christ and St. Thomas by Andrea del Verrocchio):

All of the original sculptures have been moved into the museum space that presently occupies the two upper floors of the Orsanmichele to preserve and protect them. If you are lucky enough to be in Florence on the day that the museum is open to the public, you would see what I’m about to show you. But first, let me set up the scene. This is what you would see around you as you search for the entrance…

Then you are immediately inside the chapel. If you wonder why there are no interior shots of the church itself it is because photography is not allowed there (only in the museum). But once you have paid your visit you are directed to take these narrow stairs:

These spiral, steep, and usually cold stairwells are always the bane of my existence. I fear them like the plague yet I know I must climb them to get to the prize. This is my prize today:

Do you see that piano on the podium with the sculptures? I can only imagine what a nighttime concert that would make! To the far end of the cavernous space, there is still another spiral staircase (grumble, grumble):

But what else could possibly be better than the space I was standing in? Perhaps this?

From this top floor of the building you can see these views of Florence that I mentioned in the last entry:

If I could have one property in the whole wide world as an apartment this would be it. But how selfish that would be to not have that whole world enjoy this beautiful space and art! Anyway I finally pry myself away from the building as the sun begins to set. To exit I have to go across the roof…

down more stairs and then I am back out on the street:

It all feels like a dream. Plenty more dreamscapes to come from Florence but in the next entry, let’s eat and shop. And happy 2014 everyone!


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