There were a few things on our to-do list left undone on this trip. Some of those were hiking to the top of the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower. With such limited time, we had to be strategic about our priorities, and conceded that our time was better spent exploring and not waiting in hours-long cues. Next time.
We took one last stroll around the cathedral and basked in its sunlit glory.
Our ticket also included the Baptistry, located just opposite the front of the cathedral. As luck would have it, the outside of the building was undergoing renovations, so it was wrapped in a plastic shell that vaguely had the semblance of the real design and architecture printed on it. We didn’t even think to take a picture of the outside of it.
But the inside was magnificent. It was oddly very cool inside. It’s difficult to tell from the photos, but the yellow colors you see in the ceiling mosaics, are actually quite golden and glittery. And its effect is quite impressive. I was amazed how well-preserved the intricate and ornate mosaics are as it is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Florence.
Surprisingly, in the 45 minutes we were in there, of the hundreds and hundreds of people clamoring to get into the Duomo, there were only about 25 people who came in and out of the Baptistery. It was nice to feel like we had the place to ourselves.
As we exited the Baptistry, we headed south toward the last of the sites on my must-see list. In just a few blocks we arrived at Piazza della Repubblica.
We watched the children on the carousel for a few minutes and then continued our walk. But we were quickly interrupted by the discovery of a store that I’ve always wanted to visit, Zara. And it did not disappoint. I walked out with not one, but two new most-favorites.
As we continued down the street, we came upon some incredible chalk artists. Their work was worth far more than the few coins left in their collection plates.
One of my favorite parts of walking through Florence was peering down side streets and alleyways, catching a glimpse of what life is like here. Laundry on the balcony hung out to dry. Hunched old women beating the carpets or shooing the pigeons. Life seems very picturesque beyond those green shutters.
Before long, we could begin to see the tower of Palazzo Vecchio peeking through the alleyways and above buildings.
The fortressed palace makes up one side of the Piazza della Signoria. Out from its side, the Vasari Corridor floats high above. Built in 1564 by Giorgio Vasari, the enclosed passageway was constructed to keep the peasants away from the Medicis as they walked from home to work. For nearly a kilometer, it cuts through existing buildings and snakes across the Arno River to Pitti Palace.
Beneath the corridor are the curved arches of the Loggia dei Lanzi. Once a raised terrace from which the Medicis could watch ceremonies in the piazza, it is now home to a dozen beautiful sculptures.
One of the Medici lions, and the counterpart to the David we saw earlier in London.
Pio Fedi’s Rape of Polyxena. While it makes me a little nervous posting images of abduction and nudity (sorry, Momma), I have such an appreciation for the level of creativity and artistry that went into creating these masterpieces. This was one of the highlights for me, and I didn’t want to censor it.
As you may have gathered from my previous post about the David, I have a great love for sculpture. I love the details. Look at the way his fingers press into her side. Amazing. It’s hard to fathom how something so life-like was chisled from a chunk of marble so long ago.
But my favorite is Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women. This striking work was made from the largest block of marble ever transported to Florence. Giambologna was the first to create a multi-figure composition with the figura serpentina, an upward, snakelike, spiral movement without a dominant viewpoint. It can be equally admired from all sides.
Again, the details. Just stunning.
It was difficult to draw myself away, but the allure of the Ponte Vecchio urged us on southward through more of Florence’s lovely neighborhoods.
As we came to the banks of the Arno, we rested near the great sundial outside the Museo Galileo.
This spot near the museum is a great vantage point to see the sites along the river. Remember the church with the great views we went to our first night? It’s the small white church up on the hill.
In the other direction, you see the buildings propped up to avoid crumbling into the river, and the goldsmith shops along the Ponte Vecchio.
It was also a really great backdrop for portraits. Jeff and I had made plans to update our business website, Vagabond Original, once we arrived in Athens, and this seemed a fitting setting for some photos to include in the “We Are Vagabond” section. The website revamp is now complete and you should check it out if you haven’t in a while.
We were almost to the bridge when Jeff noticed a charming, little shop and suggested we go in. I noticed all the calligraphy supplies and could have easily walked away with the entire store, but settled on a very handsome Art Deco pen holder. Here it is in action from last week’s post when I used it to create an Easter printable.
I’ve been planning my eventual trip to visit the Ponte Vecchio ever since I was little. I’m not sure why I’ve always had such a fascination with this colorful bridge. It probably started upon seeing it in a piece from my National Geographic collection.
Along the Ponte Vecchio, there are many padlocks affixed in various places, and most especially to the railing around the statue of goldsmith and sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini. It’s become a recent and popular tradition for couples. By locking the padlock and then throwing the key into the river, the lovers become eternally bonded.
As romantic as that idea is, the heavy weight of all the padlocks has frequently damaged the centuries-old bridge and have to be removed frequently.
The bridge was quite crowded, but for a few minutes, we had an unobstructed view and took advantage of the moment to capture the beautiful views from the center of the bridge.
We made our way across, and headed to the next bridge just down the river for another view of the Ponte Vecchio.
We had been walking all day and decided to take a much-needed break in the Oltrarno, ‘the other side of the river.’
As the sun began to set, we made our way back to our shuttle bus stop. It was a little bittersweet as we knew this was the last time we’d stroll the streets of a city we’d come to love so much, but also excited for our motorcycle trip through Tuscany the following day.
Earlier in the day, I wasn’t sure that we’d see the Duomo again. It seemed fitting that we’d catch a peek of it to say our goodbyes.
Stay tuned for our next update: Tuscany on a Motorbike
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