I was invited to take a walking tour in Florence by The Roman Guy, a group doing guided tours of Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence.
Even though I know Florence quite well I thought it would be fun to see it from another point of view.
We met at 8.00am in the Piazza San Marco, underneath the statue.
Our guide was Chiara, a delightful young woman brimming over with enthusiasm.
The first stop was the Accademia museum to see its most famous resident, Michelangelo’s magnificent David. First up is the concrete model of the sculpture we would see later in the Piazza Signoria. It is rare for these to still exist.
I see the copy of David in front of Palazzo Vecchio regularly, but there is nothing like seeing the real thing in this beautiful setting. David takes your breath away just by standing there.
Chiara’s knowledge is extensive and we could sense her love for her subject. She had some great stories about Michelangelo and his work in Florence.
There are lots of other things to see in the museum and we were given some time to wander about. There are lots of religious paintings and a gallery of faces.
We then walked towards the Duomo and once again Chiara had some tales to tell. She showed us the spot where David was supposed to be placed. I think he would have been completely lost up there on the roof…at the bottom of the slide bit.
We stopped to admire the gorgeous doors to the baptistery, and Chiara pointed out some of the fine detail. The doors are copies of the original doors which are now kept in the Duomo museum.
After the Duomo we headed for the medieval section of Florence, with a quick stop at the workroom for the Duomo, where we could see where repair work is carried out.
It was fun to walk through the narrow streets, with a reminder from Chiara to look back for glimpses of the Duomo.
Florence was once a town of tower houses. Residents competed with each other to have the highest tower. The more money you had, the bigger the tower.
Most have been reduced in height, but the communal tower is still original. This was the city office and nobody’s tower could be higher than this one.
Nearby is the house where Dante Alighieri was born. It is now a restaurant.
There is a Dante museum in the area as well. Perhaps a visit is in order to find out why he always looks so stern.
Orsanmichele was our next stop. It is the fabulous church which was once a granary. It is possible to see where the open arches were filled in when the building was converted.
I have often wondered why the statues sit in the alcoves on the sides of the building. The building renovation was paid for by the various guilds, the equivalent of today’s unions. The more money they gave, the more elaborate the alcove and the better the position. It was a form of advertising.
The best spots were beside the doors and these alcoves had bronze statues instead of cheaper marble ones.
Inside is the beautiful Gothic Tabernacle by Andrea Orcagna (1355-59) built off centre because the columns were already in place. It is made of beautiful carved marble, yes, even the curtain around the Madonna is marble.
It is still possible to see the chutes where the grain would come down from above.
A little further on is the Straw Market. This is what Orsanmichele looked like before the conversion.
No visit to Florence is complete without patting the snout of Porcellino, the bronze of a wild boar. (beside the staw market) If you place a coin in his mouth and it falls into the grill below good luck will be yours.
Piazza Signoria is the big and impressive piazza filled with giant sculptures. There is the David copy beside the door of the Palazzo Vecchio, where the city administration operates today…the old tower would not be big enough now.
Behind the sculpture opposite David…
…is the graffiti said to be done by Michelangelo.
The Loggia opposite is like an open museum and lovely Chiara had more takes to tell about these. The bronze by Cellini (1545) of Perseus beheading Medusa has a face at the back…who knew? The photo is taken with the light in precisely the wrong place, which is why it is fuzzy.
Here is the finished marble sculpture of the concrete one we saw in Accademia.
We walked past the Uffizzi with its huge lines of people waiting to get it and walked via a back street to the Ponte Vecchio. On the way Chiara pointed out the olive tree planted to commemorate the bomb set off my the Mafia in 1993 that killed 5 people. There is also a recently erected memorial on the side of a building above.
The Ponte Vecchio was the perfect place to end our tour.
Chiara had lots of excellent suggestions for things to see and do in Florence.
I had a great 3 hours revisiting old friends and learning new things about them. I think a walking tour is the very best way to see a city, especially with a knowlegeable local who loves her subject.
Thank you Chiara…and The Roman Guy. Look them up if you are visiting Florence, Rome, Milan or Venice.
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