Italy Florence (Firenze) 2002.09.28

Home of Medici

Home to Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and the Medici, Florence is a hub of art, culture, and history. Like Rome, trying to see all the sites of Florence requires planning and dedicated days of site seeing. Our page on Firenze written in 2001 did the city little justice. The primary reason is the restriction against photographing its most spectacular artifacts.

The weekend of September 28 and 29 was European Cultural Day. Government museums throughout Italy waived admission fees. Without knowing of this benefit, we were lucky to stop in Firenze for 6 hours en route from Croatia to Corsica. We intended a single visit to Cappelle Medici to see the intricate and breathtakingly beautiful inlaid patterned marble and semiprecious stones of the Medici tombs. This alone is worth a stop in Firenze. On arrival, when the tourist information office told us that all admissions were free, we made the most of our 6 hours.

Located obscurely, equidistant between the train station and the duomo, adjacent Santa Lorenzo at Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini 6, Cappelle Medici is a dome of colored marble. Marble tombs of the Medici family anchored high on the hexagonal dome walls carry the Medici coat of arms. Decorative inlaid semiprecious stones are cut to such precision that seams are nearly invisible to the naked eye. The professionalism of Firenze stonework is what led us to utter disappointment with the comparatively amateur construction of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Admission to Cappelle Medici is €6.00.

5 minutes walk north of the duomo at Via Ricasoli 60 is the Galleria dell'Accademia that houses Michelangelo's David and several of Michelangelo's unfinished slaves. The finished David is so life-like that the labor to carve the marble appears deceptively simple. Looking at Michelangelo's unfinished works, however, reveals the amount of effort that goes into a single production. No matter how long the line to enter Galleria dell'Accademia, the wait is worthwhile. Admission is €8.50.

Across the Fiume Arno River over Ponte Vecchio (bridge) is the enormous Palazzo Pitti where the Medici family resided. Part of this palace is the Galleria Palatina. The interior belittles most other royal palaces in the world. Artwork from the world's best Italian sculptors, painters, and gemologists fills the palace rooms. More precise inlaid semiprecious stone work in tables can be viewed up close. The sculpted and painted walls and ceilings of the palace are mind boggling. Admission is €6.50.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS In our 6 hours, we also viewed the Galleria degli Uffizi (at Piazzale degli Uffizi 6) with famous paintings of Venus that Wes didn't care for. Admission is €8.50. We lacked the time to visit Museo del Bargello (at Via del Proconsolo 4) with several sculpted woks by Michelangelo, Benvenuto Cellini, and Donatello. We also must return to see Museo dell'Opifiicos delle Pietre Dure (at Via degli Alfani 78) that is dedicated to inlaid stonework. And do not miss seeing the duomo.

There are several tourist information offices in Firenze. The most convenient one on arrival is across the street from the train station. City maps are provided free of charge. Luggage storage at the train station is €3.00 per bag per 24-hour period. Internet in the city is expensive at €6.00 per hour. Several Internet Cafes are located around Santa Lorenzo. Hotels fill quickly. Book ahead.

Florence is on the Roma-Milano line so most trains traveling though the northern half of Italy stop here.

The duomo rises above the surrounding buildings of Florence. This view is from the garden of Palazzo Pitti.

Firenze's duomo was cleaned since our last visit. The white marble surface with inlaid green and pink marble is visually striking and unique.

The statue of Cellini Perseus holding the head of Medusa stands at Piazza della Signoria near the entrance to the Galleria degli Uffizi.

OK. I couldn't resist. Though photos aren't permitted in the Cappelle Medici, I had to capture a sample of the detailed inlaid semiprecious stones. Everything you see here, including the murals, is stone.

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