Greater Florence today stretches down the Arno Valley and into the hills north and south of the city, but more important attractions can be found in the area, which you can walk across in half an hour. A short walk from the train station brings you to the Baptistery and the Duomo; the area from here to Piazza della Signoria - where Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi are located - is the inner core of the city, where most tourists are crowded. Had to draw a circle, on the perimeter of which they would be on opposite sides of the duomo and the Uffizi, it would surround both of Florence's best-preserved medieval streets, as well as most of its fashionable streets.
The San Lorenzo quarter is just north of the duomo, where market stalls surround one of the city's most magnificent churches; in a short radius from here is the Monastery of San Marco with the paintings of Fra Angelica, Accademia with Michelangelo's David and Piazza Santissima Annunziata, widely regarded as the most attractive square in Florence.
The Uffizi overlooks the Arno River from the rear, behind which there is a district called Oltrarno; Palazzo Pitti makes the greatest impression here, then the churches of Santo Spirito and situated on the hill of San Mianiato al Monte.
Near the eastern side of Piazza del Duomo stands the Bargello, main sculpture museum; further east, the area around the Franciscan Church of Santa Croce is the heart of the city's life. In the western part of the city, exactly opposite the train station, is the Florentine seat of the Dominican Order, church of Santa Maria Novella, which must be visited.
Duomo and surroundings
From Santa Maria Novella Station, most visitors head for Piazza del Duomo, be following others, be heading towards Brunelleschi's vault, which dominates the landscape of the entire city more than any building in Italy. But although the enormity of the duomo is already visible from afar, that's when we stand in front of the cathedral and the adjoining baptistery, we are almost shocked by the patterned colors of their walls, sharply contrasting with the dark brown of the surrounding buildings.
Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)
Somewhere in the 7th century. The diocese of Florence was moved from the Church of San Lorenzo to the ancient church built on the site of today's Santa Maria del Fiore, florence cathedral. Later generations rebuilt the church, until finally, in the thirteenth century. it was decided, that a new duomo is needed, to better show the wealth of the city and at the same time to wipe the nose of Pizzans and Sienese. Amolfo di Cambio, whom in 1294 r. entrusted with the construction, designed massive, vaulted basilica, concentrated around a vaulted gallery encompassed by three polygonal galleries. After his death, the work was stopped, and then they were taken up by successive architects, who roughly followed Arnolf's plan. Do 1418 r. the nave and galleries were completed and a drum installed, who was to bear the vault, conceived by Amofel as the crowning of the church. The concept was great: the vault was supposed to be forty-odd meters in diameter, rising from a base raised by some 55 meters above the nave. It would be the largest vault ever built, and no one knew, how to solve it technically.
A stonemasons' guild commission was formed, to consider this problem, and to them /. was Filippo Brunelleschi. His arrogant claim, that only he knows the solution, and refusal to provide more detailed information, except that he will build a vault without the use of scaffolding, did not make him popular among possible patrons. In the end, however, they relented and Brunelleschi was commissioned, but provided, that he would work with Ghiberti - the collaboration did not last long, though Ghiberti's contribution was probably greater, than Brunelleschi admitted. 25 brand 1436 r. - Annunciation Day and Florentine New Year - the vault was completed and the Pope consecrated the cathedral. However, the lantern crowning them was not yet made and many people were skeptical, whether the structure can bear this weight. Other architects were consulted, but Brunelleschi had his way again; the lantern was built in the late sixties and a golden ball and a cross were placed on its top, cast by Verrocchio.
At the same time, the overloaded and pedantic main facade is a 19th-century imitation of the Gothic front, and the marble used is from the same sources, what was originally used - a white Carrara stone, red with Maremma, green from Prato. The southern side is the oldest external part, but the most attractive ornament is the Porta della Mandorla on the other side. The name comes from the oval frame (mandorla), containing a bas-relief of the Assumption of Mary, made by Nanni di Banco approx 1420 r.
Interior of the duomo (codz. 10.00-17.00) it is the opposite of exterior decor, a huge space among the bare stone. In this fourth largest church in the world, congregations counting 10000 people once listened to Savonarola's sermons. Its climate is more like a meeting room than a temple, and no wonder, that the most conspicuous elements of the decoration are the two painted monuments of condottiers on the wall of the northern aisle: statue of Giorvanni Acuto (sir Johna Hawkwooda), painted in 1436 r. przez Paola Uccello, and the statue of Niccola da Tolentino created twenty years later by Andrea del Castagna. Immediately behind them is painted in 1465 r. by Domenica do Michelino a painting of Dante explaining the Divine Comedy, where the artist pays almost as much attention to the newly finished vault, what the hill of Purgatory.
Judging by size, a more important work of art in the duomo is the Last Judgment fresco inside the vault, currently hidden behind scaffolding and conservators' mesh. A considerable number of Florentines do, that this joint work of Vasari and Zuccari disfigures Brunelleschi's masterpiece and should be removed. Below the fresco are seven stained glass medallions designed by Uccella, Ghibertiego, Castagna i Donatella; they are best viewed from the gallery running just below, forming part of the route to the top of the vault (pn.-sb. 10.00-17.00; 3000 L). Climbing takes place mainly between the outer and inner shells of the vault, and the view from the top is so delightful, that there should be no room for dizziness.
With my feet back on the ground, be sure to take a look at the entrances to the two sacristy, on both sides of the altar. The glazed terracotta bas-reliefs in the aisles are the work of a creator named Luca della Robbia, who also made the door to the northern sacristy - his only work in bronze. When Giuliano de'Medici was fatally wounded with a knife on the steps of the altar by the Pazzi conspirators, his brother, Wawrzyniec, he took refuge in the northern sacristy - a massive new door blocked the way for his potential killers.
In the 1960s, the remains of the previous temple, the Church of Santa Reparata, were discovered under the western end of the nave.. Subsequent excavations revealed a medley of Roman ruins, paleochristian and romanesque as well as fragments of mosaics and scraps of 14th-century frescoes (codz. 10.00-17.00; 1500 L). The explanatory diagrams darken the picture even more, so to understand it all, it is worth looking at the detailed model, which stands deeper in the crypt. During the excavations, Brunelleschi's tomb was also discovered, the only Florentine honored buried in the duomo - the tombstone can be seen through the grate on the left at the foot of the stairs.
The construction of the campaign began in 1334 r. Giotto, and continued after his death by Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti, who corrected the artist's computational inaccuracies, doubling the thickness of the walls. Erosion caused by air pollution made it necessary to replace the sculptures of the tower with copies - all originals are in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (look down).
First floor, the only part of the tower built exactly according to Giotto's design, it is covered with two rows of unusual reliefs; the lower one illustrates the Creation of Man and the Liberal and Mechanical Arts and was made by Pisan himself, and the top by his disciples. The figures of the Prophets and the Sibyl were made by Donatello and others. View from the tower attic (in summer every day. 8.30-19.30; in winter every day. 9.00-17.00; 3000 L) gives way to the panorama from the cathedral's vault, but it makes you more dizzy.