Kay and I have been to Florence only once and it was more than fifteen years ago. Unfortunately, I made no notes about the trip, but we both have our memories. I must confess that we were often uncomfortable during our week-long visit.
Staying in a hotel in the historic center, we were put off by the crowds, yet worse than our fellow tourists was the noise.
The narrow streets of the historic district are lined with hard surfaces that amplified the sound of the ubiquitous motorcycles to a painful degree. Walking around wasn’t fun. Things may be different nowadays, but at the time we often felt assaulted.
As conscientious tourists, we made a point of viewing as many of the city’s treasures as we could, and I remember being thrilled by much of what we saw. Until recently, I hadn’t looked at my photos for a long time, and now that I have, I realize again just what an extraordinary open-air museum the city is.
The Renaissance began in Florence and nowhere else is it represented better:
We got our first impressions on the Piazza del Duomo. What a church! It was only later that we learned its history. By 1418 all that was missing was its dome, which would be one of the largest ever built. And who would figure out how to build it? That story is told in detail in Ross King’s fascinating book, Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture.
Quattrocento and cinquecento Florence produced a lot of geniuses or at least gave great artists the opportunity to create masterpieces.
There are Giberti’s golden Gates of Paradise on the Duomo’s Baptistery.
And Donatello’s haggard figure of Mary Magdalene in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
And Fra’ Angelico’s frescoes in Museo di San Marco.
And Cellini’s Perseus on the Loggia della Signoria.
And Donatello’s Judith & Holofernes
And the paintings by Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci in the Uffizi.
Of the city’s other iconic buildings, we remember:
The Churches of Santa Maria Novella
And Santa Croce
The Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
And the Pallazzo Vecchio.
The views along the Arno were magnificent
As were the views from Boboli Gardens.
We found beauty everywhere in Florence.
Even the uniforms of the police were eye-catching.
Florence, together with Rome and Venice, is easily one of the most often visited cities in Western Europe and in the world. Looking at the pictures and remembering what we experienced there, we understand why.