The Italians call it Firenze, but by any name, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Florence, the capital of the region of Tuscany, was where the Renaissance evolved in the 15th and 16th centuries, primarily due to superb artists Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Donatello, and many others. They lived and worked in Florence, nurtured by the picturesque city around them.
As a student at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art (now University of the Arts), I often roamed through the museum’s large Italian Renaissance collection, admiring their artistry. Several years ago, I had the opportunity and great privilege to visit Florence, the city where the Renaissance was born. Among countless art and architectural wonders, I recommend five must-sees:
As a student, I was required many times to draw from a replica of the world’s most famous statue in charcoal, pastel, and other media. Each sketch gave me more insight into the genius of Michelangelo’s statue of the biblical David as he prepared for battle with Goliath. Standing 17 feet tall, the 16th-century marble figure is on display in the Gallerie dell’Accademia among other works of Renaissance art and sculpture. The museum is closed on Mondays, and adult admission is $8.50. Tickets include admission to the Department of Musical Instruments.
Gallerie degli Uffizi
Housed in the 16th-century Palazzo degli Uffizi, the Uffizi Gallery features famous works of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. Built for the ruling Medici family, this museum is popular with both locals and tourists. I found its courtyard a delightful combination of street performers and talented young art students offering to draw or paint my portrait in Renaissance style. The Uffizi is closed on Mondays and costs $8.50. Smart travelers buy their tickets online to minimize waiting.
The medieval arch bridge over the Arno River is great for strolling, viewing, and shopping as you cross. On each side of the middle pathway are 400-year-old souvenir and specialty shops with apartments poking out above them. There’s a tradition of young couples attaching small padlocks all along the bridge railings and other places to become lasting symbols of their love.
Piazza della Signoria
This centrally located square is the largest in Florence, with famous buildings and statues surrounding it. It’s also infamous as the 15th-century site of the martyrdom of Savonarola and his religious followers, who were burned at the stake there for their blasphemy.
Piazza del Duomo
Dominated by the golden dome over the Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore, this is one of the most popular tourist sites that define the Renaissance city of Florence. It was designed by 15th-century masters Brunelleschi and Donatello. Alongside stands Giotto di Bondone’s 277-foot-tall Campanile (bell tower). I climbed the 414 steps to the top for a breathtaking view of Florence and the hills around the city.
On the southern bank of the Arno, Pitti Palace houses the Medici art collection. Outside are the Boboli Gardens, a great place to relax for the visitor who needs a few moments of reflection and rest before embarking on more Florentine adventures.
You can follow travel writer Ted Sherman on Twitter @travel4seniors and check out his blog travel4seniors.com.
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