Florence – centro storico (historic center)

Florence is such a wonderful city to just walk around and explore. Much of the city center is closed to car traffic, but watch out for bicycles and mopeds and people looking elsewhere! We were so pleased to stay on the Via dei Calzaiuoli at Hotel Calzaiuoli right in the center of the historic area especially in the evening for the passeggiata (evening stroll).

Then of course there is the Duomo! This is Florence’s greatest masterpiece.  It is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore but we know it simply as the Duomo originally begun in 1296. The facade was not completed until 1887! The dome can be seen from everywhere in Florence and is one of the world’s great engineering masterpieces by Filippo Brunelleschi. It was constructed without the use of scaffolding and one of the world’s largest brick built domes as well as one of the largest Duomo’s. 

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The octagonal Baptistry is one of the most impressive monuments of the Italian Romanesque style of architecture having distinctive bands of pink, green and white marble and is one of the oldest buildings in the city dating back possibly as far as the 1st century AD. The round Romanesque arches on the outside of the building date from the 11th century.  The Duomo had no roof for 120 years until a competition in 1418 was held and Brunelleschi figured out how to close it in. It took him 18 years to oversee the construction of the dome.

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Facade of Duomo

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Duomo altar
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The famous bronze Renaissance doors of the Baptistry are decorated with panels that employ perspective and were a complete change of style from the 1st door done by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

The original doors were removed to a museum to protect them from pollution etc. The doors facing the Duomo depict scenes from the Old Testament – the Battle of Jericho, Joseph and the Coat, Adam & Eve, Jacob & Esau, Noah and the Ark, Cain & able, Abraham & Isaac, David & Goliath, Queen of Sheba, the 10 commandments.

The lower panels are “from the viewers perspective” looking down or looking up. his use of perspective creates a sense of depth and a realism that had not been seen since the fall of the Roman Empire.  Michelangelo thought they were so beautiful they could be The Gates of Paradise.  On one of the doors he placed a self-portrait of himself.

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Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore altar

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Interior roof of Baptistry
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We will explore more churches and art in upcoming blogs! Follow along! Did you miss the first two blogs on  Part One: Florence – a very walkable City Part Two: Florence – The Renaissance

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