View from the cupola
I am glad to report that Italy has lived up to its expectations so far. The people are incredibly friendly, itâ€™s much harder to find a bad meal than a good one, and the language barrier is rarely an issue. The only down-side I have found to Florence
is the narrow breadth of the art and architecture. All of the cathedrals are late-Gothic/early-Renaissance, along with most of the art, which gets a bit mundane after a while. The one thing I really loved about Spain was getting to see 20th Century conceptual art a day after seeing some of the greatest Renaissance and Mannerist works on display. But donâ€™t get me wrongâ€¦I have had a blast touring the museums and churches here.
On our first full day in Florence, which was unfortunately cut short by rain, we toured the Bargello museum, which is home to some great statues and sculptures (most notably, Donatelloâ€™s â€śDavidâ€ť).
Me with Florence in the background
It was the largest concentration of sculpture weâ€™ve seen yet, so that made it all the more interesting. After leaving the museum, we made our way to the center of the city to check out the Duomo Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore). We were able to go in and see the interior for a while, which subsequently provided shelter from the rain. The architecture was extremely unique in comparison to the Gothic churches we saw in Spain; the walls and arches here were considerably denser, with the exterior adorned with marble completely from ground to roof. Instead of bearing the load with buttresses on the outside, the side walls are supported with thin tension rods that run across the nave, which gives the seemingly heavy arches a much more weightless feel. The next day, we returned to climb to the top of the dome, which was definitely worth the â‚¬6 spent for admission.
The initial climb takes you up a tight winding staircase to the base of the dome, where you can get a much different view of the interior space. From there, we ascended the staircases between the interior and exterior skins of the dome, which only allowed about 3-4 feet of space. At the top, we were able to see the entire city of Florence in all directions, which is near impossible to put into words.
Later that day, we went to see the Medici Chapel and the Uffizi museum, both of which I enjoyed a lot. The Medici Chapel is known for the tomb sculptures by Michelangelo, and the Uffizi was home to many of Sandro Botticelliâ€™s great works, including â€śThe Birth of Venus.â€ť That night, we got a large group to go out for dinner and a few bars and clubs, just to get a taste of the nightlife.
Me atop the cupola again
The next day began early with an appointment at Santa Maria del Carmine, which is home to a series of famous frescoes by Masaccio. When we first arrived, they showed us an extremely long video detailing the history of the painting, which we all found to be a bit much for the scale of the works. They were definitely impressive, but I donâ€™t think it warranted an hour-long dissection of the painting techniques and so on. Following that visit, we walked back across the river to an open air market to do some souvenir shopping. The selection and pricing on all the items (leather purses and jackets, silk scarves and ties, to designer bags and sunglasses) has yet to be matched, so I was able to get a lot of my gifts out of the way then and there. We then hiked over to the Academia to see Michelangeloâ€™s â€śDavid,â€ť undoubtedly the most famous statue in the world.
The interior of Il Duomo (seen from the cupola)
The sheer size of the work was impressive in itself, and to see such incredible detail and accuracy made it all the more awesome. As you stand there before a 20 foot tall marble sculpture, it is amazing to see how the posture and stance make it seem to nearly float. I easily spent 30 minutes there, in complete awe.
That night, we were scheduled to see a ballet, so Ashley, Allison, and I took a cab to the other side of town to grab a bite to eat before the show. Upon finally finding a place that was open (since most restaurants donâ€™t begin serving dinner until 7 pm), we had no idea what good of a value we were in for. The place was a small pizzeria that sold pizza by the kilogram (1 kg for â‚¬10). The three of us got food and drinks for â‚¬11, by far the cheapest *good* meal weâ€™ve gotten in Europe.
View of Florence climbing the dome
After that, we walked to the theater for the ballet, which turned out to be very disappointing. Our music teacher purchased the tickets with no idea what company would be performing and no idea what ballet they would be enacting. Needless to say, we lost the crapshoot, but it was still mildly entertaining.
Overall, Florence has been a blast, but I still think that I enjoyed Barcelona more. Iâ€™m really looking forward to Rome
and Venice holding up to the same standard as Florence. Ciao for now!