The Ponte Vecchio leads you across the Arno River past the stores of jewelry, souvenirs, and other tempting trinkets. It is unique because it is the oldest surviving bridge in Florence. It once housed blacksmith, butchers, and tanners who saw the river below as a convenient sewer. By the end of the Renaissance they were evicted and goldsmith's and other artisans moved in. Fortunately this bridge survived W.W.II because no other bridges in Florence did.
The Duomo of Florence has become the symbol of Florence, is its taller building and is a symbol of the wealth and civic pride of the affluent families of the city during the Renaissance. The church, on which construction began in 1299, is crowned by the massive dome designed by Brunelleschi almost two centuries later. This building did not have a roof for 175 years because it posed a major architectural challenge with the large area the dome had to span. You can climb 463 steps up the dome and view the city below. Ghiberti spent 21 years creating the dramatic bronze doors that depict parts of the Old Testament and lead into the Baptistry. Seven of the great artists of Florence, including Brunelleschi and Donatello, competed for the opportunity to make these doors (and earn the stipend for the work). The doors have been moved into the museum for safekeeping and can be viewed every day except Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter. The art that decorates the Duomo is a mix of late Medieval and Renaissance. It includes 13th Century mosaics, 15th Century stained glass windows designed by Ghiberti, and 16th Century frescoes and marble inlay.
On almost the same status as the Louvre and Hermitage, Florence's Uffizzi is consider by some to be the most impressive art gallery in Italy. It holds The Birth of Venus, one of Botticelli's greatest work. Reflecting the humanist qualities of the Renaissance, Carvaggio made a work of the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, and shows Bacchus in a dark light, in a very accurate form of an adolescent without any cares . Another major painting is Michelangelo's The Holy Family, a painting showing Christ on his mothers lap.
In a city overflowing with art, the Bargello is a museum that houses many other famous works of art. One famous work of art is Donatello's David, again very human in form as Renaissance sculpture was. You can see Brunelleschi's entry in the Duomo door contest. Michelangelo also has a statue of Bacchus in the Bargello, reflecting the interest of the period in the art and ideas of the Roman Empire.
The Galleria dell'Accademia contains one of the most famous statues in the world, Michelangelo's David,. Outside the building is a model of the original while the original has been moved inside for safety. By contrast to the Donatello statue, Michelangelo portrayed David as a strong young man rather than the young adolescent Donatello rendered.
Within a short day's journey from Florence, you can visit the city of Siena. It has a beautiful duomo that tourist visit but it is in July and August, when the people of each neighborhood compete with other neighborhoods in the Corsa al Palio. Waving brightly colored flags, the Siennese race their horses through the Piazzo del Campo hoping to earn bragging rights in the citywide event.
Most travellers will also take a trip to Pisa, to visit the town where the astronomer, Galileo, studied and taught and climb through the famous leaning tower that is now 16.5 feet off center and still slipping. Be sure to bring a camera so that you can be counted among the many photographers who make this one of the most photographed sights in the world.
A longer trip, but worth the time, is to Orvieto. This city is located on the eastern side of Italy with one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Italy. The delicate sculptures lace the exterior that is painted with vibrant frescoes dating back 500 to 600 years.
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