Pisa, Train Journey to Florence

“Magnanimous Florence! Her jewelry marts are filled with artists in mosaic. Florentine mosaics are the choicest in all the world. Florence loves to have that said. Florence is proud of it. Florence would foster this specialty of hers. She is grateful to the artists that bring to her this high credit and fill her coffers with foreign money…” –  Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

With the benefit of a quiet room at last it was an excellent night and so was the weather when I woke up especially early and went out once more onto the terracotta-tiled roof garden to make the early morning meteorological inspection.

This cheered me up considerably because today the plan was to go to Florence, the political capital of Tuscany and the cultural capital of Italy, the city of the Medici and the Renaissance and a UNESCO World heritage site.  The Medici were a powerful and influential Florentine family from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries who produced three Popes and a succession of rulers of Florence and the family was also a leading influence at the beginning of the Italian Renaissance.

This was a much better journey today because the sun was shining.

Tuscany Landscape

Arriving in Florence we went first to the Cathedral, or Duomo, which although completed as long ago as 1436 is still the tallest building in the City.  Even though it was relatively early in the morning there was a huge queue of visitors waiting at the entrance and snaking in a seemingly endless human coil around the building so being naturally impatient decided we couldn’t afford the time to wait.  Although the streets immediately surrounding it are all pedestrianised the Cathedral is closed in on all sides by other buildings so it was difficult to fully appreciate the scale of the building as we circled around it and were restricted to gazing skywards to the top of the impressive dome.

After the Piazza del Duomo we walked along Via dei Calzaiuoli to the Piazza della Signori, a spacious square and home to an array of impressive buildings and fine works of art.  Here was Michelangelo’s David; well actually it’s a duplicate because the original has been sensibly removed to the Museum, although this copy was in its original position.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, engineer and all round clever-dick and probably most famous for painting the Sistene Chapel at the Vatican.  The statue of David was completed in 1504 when Michelangelo was only twenty-nine; it is seventeen feet high and depicts the biblical hero David who slew Goliath, (although if he was seventeen feet tall he must have been a bit of a giant himself!)  Also here we marvelled at the Neptune Fountain and the Loggia dei Lanzi, which is an open building lined with Roman statues as well as the Palazzo Vecchio, the traditional Town Hall of Florence.

Florence was very briefly between 1865 and 1871 the capital of the United State of Italy before, much to the relief of the taxpayers of the city, the privilege and the expense was transferred to Rome when it eventually became part of Italy in 1870.   I was looking for the inevitable statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi but didn’t find it but but did instead come across the Statue of the Battle of Mentana  of 1867 which depicts a Garibaldi freedom fighter during the Third Italian War of Independence when with the secret complicity of the Italian government Giuseppe led a private expedition into the Papal States but which ultimately failed when defeated by French troops protecting the Papacy.  Florence had to wait another four years before transferring the capital status to Rome.

The freedom fighter stretches his body to the point of near contortion in order to take the ideal shot. In his left arm is a fallen comrade who struggles to prop the flagstaff with his final breaths.

The weather was in complete contrast to the previous two days and the sun was shining so we decided to find a pavement café for an early drink and identified a place in a sunny corner of the Piazza and after having confirmed with the owner that it was open for business competed with the cleaner for occupation of the bathroom and then sat down and enjoyed the sunshine (at last) and the beer.  We were the first customers of the day in the café but there soon followed a steady trickle of others until the place was quite full and before we left the owner thanked us warmly for having given a kick-start to the day’s business.

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7 responses to “Pisa, Train Journey to Florence

  1. Very nice perspective!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

  2. I have great interest in history, culture and architecture and this post is truly amazing want to visit this place soon.

  3. My dear friend Andrew, I really do love you to bits (as does my Other Half, Larissa) …so do not take personally anything that follows! It is all said with a twinkle in my eye.
    1. The Bryson book you are reading is a SHORT history. Yet I see it shown on your post every day as your current reading! I submit that you must be the slowest reader this side of the Ural Mountains!
    2. Only you could go to the magnificent Girona and not walk the sensational Roman Walls. Just as only you could go to St Petersburg and not visit the amazing cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery
    (which despite its tiny size, has a Who’s Who of musical and literary greats to rival the fifty times bigger Pere Lachaise in Paris!), or the even more incredible Piskaryovskoe Memorial Cemetery (where lie 420,000 victims of the Siege of Leningrad). But break the news gently to me that you went to Florence and did not go to The PIazzale Michelangelo !! (I hope to find tomorrow that you DID get there: otherwise you will not hear the end of it, when you call in my house for a cup of tea in a few days from now. Ha !!) BTW, do not worry if you have no cheese to bring: the only gift I require from you, is YOU and your engaging presence and conversation that always keeps both myself and Larissa … ENTRANCED.
    3. The view from Piazzale Michelangelo is the best urban view I have ever seen ANYWHERE …and that includes the view from the top of the WTC in NYC, The Eiffel Tower and/or the steps of Sacre Coeur in Paris, or that from the top of Parliament Hill in London and/or the stunning viewing platform at the top of the newly built Shard here in the UK in London.
    This picture does not come even CLOSE to capturing it, but is the best I can find online. My thanks go to to the blogger who posted this brave attempt at capturing the greatest view in the world:

    Looking forward to your visit to Woosnam Towers! And thanks for another entertaining read.
    Dai Woosnam
    Grimsby, UK
    daigress@hotmail.com

  4. Seventeen feet? What an accomplishment. I had no idea of the height of the statue. 😉

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