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Tuscany; Florence

Tuscany, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tuscany, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

We spent less than 2 hours in Pisa, and were on the road again, this time to Florence. Our driver took us up a back road to give us a view of the Tuscany countryside. Again, it was but a taste of what is there for the viewing.

Tuscany, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tuscany, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Much of this country is sprinkled with one of the primary forms of agriculture in Mediterranean Europe: Vineyards.

Tuscany, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tuscany, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

After a brief stop, we were on to Florence.  We started with a high view of Florence, at Piazzale Michelangelo, giving us a panoramic shot of the city.

Florence Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The “birthplace of the Renaissance,” and home to the powerful Medici family; Florence was responsible for much of the commerce born out of “The Dark Ages” (Medieval times) immediately preceding and during the early Renaissance, and is a center of art and science even today. Its currency, the florin, fueled the development of finance and industry throughout Europe from the Medieval period forward.

Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Florence was central to Dan Brown’s Inferno, which I was encouraged to read before my trip in 2013. His thriller started in Florence and took his protagonist, Robert Langdon, on a breathtaking chase through the city, including discoveries in the celebrated art gallery, Accademia. In spite of the high points of the trip, our visit to Florence occurred on a Monday, and as it happens, Accademia is closed on Mondays. So we did not see the gallery or its numerous noted and influential artworks, by such preeminent artists as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Bruno Botticelli (all of whom made Florence their home for a least a period of their lives.

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

 We then visited one of Florence’s most famous landmarks, Ponte Vecchio. Meaning “Old Bridge,” Ponte Vecchio spans the same Arno River that bisects Pisa. Much like the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto), years ago, commercial shops, including fish and meat markets, produce markets and other necessary commercial establishments of the day, lined the bridge on both sides. Today there are retail shops aimed primarily at tourists.

Duomo Florence Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Duomo Florence
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

What is unique about Ponte Vecchio, is the famed “Passageway” which provided private and safe passage from the Medici residence to the old Palace (Palazzo Vecchio). Known as the Vasari Corridor, the passageway crosses Ponte Vecchio on its way. Historic literature, as well as Brown’s Inferno, romantically describes the corridor, which is mostly closed to the public. The exterior view was a little underwhelming to me (though I understand the interior is magnificent in places). But still, to be at the place of history (and of thrilling historical fiction novels) was inspiring.

Duomo Florence Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Duomo Florence
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

After a short stop at Ponte Vecchio, we visited the Duomo of Florence. Similar to the Pisa Duomo, the bell tower is a separate structure. But the Duomo is the draw, here. When you hear the phrase, “The Duomo,” used by itself, it is pretty likely referring to this cathedral, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). The complex housing the Duomo and the Bell Tower is known as Piazza del Duomo. The dome was engineered by artist and architect, Filippo Brunelleschi. The dome was the largest of its kind (and may be the largest of its kind in the world). It can be climbed, and I hope to do that someday. There is an interior “dome-inside-the-dome” which has stairs and was constructed to maintain and paint the interior of the main dome. We did not get inside to view Brunelleschi’s masterpiece as the line was long and time was short.

Palazza Vecchio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Palazza Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Finally, before sadly running out of time, we visited Piazza della Signoria, and the Florence seat of government, the Palazzo Vecchio (a/k/a Palzzo della Signoria). This “town hall,” has actually had a number of names over the years, changing as governance changed, from Plazzo del Ppolo, Plazzo dei Pirori, and Palazzo Ducale. On the façade of the building facing the piazza, is the small porch where the emperor Mussolini, made his speeches to the crowds.

Mussolini's Balcony Palazzo Vechio Florence, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Mussolini’s Balcony
Palazzo Vechio
Florence, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

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