Florence - the cradle of art and renaissance
Enter Florence - the center of art and the cradle of renaissance. Florence or Firenze (in Italian) is very much accessible by road. Milan is quite close to Florence and hence accessible by air also. Driving to Florence is an excellent mode of transport because you can enjoy the beauty of nature and also pass through an amazing number of tunnels built through the mountains. In fact, we passed through about 60 tunnels when driving from Milan to Florence.
Florence is believed to have been founded as early as 59 BC by the order of Julius Caesar. River Arno flows in the center of the city and the soil is believed to be very fertile and hence Florence - dedicated to "Flora" the fertile spring goddess.
Art is the focal point in Florence. The Florentine art has given birth to some great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michealangelo, and Rapheal etc. Today, Florence's rich bounty of art invites people from all over the world.
It is best to walk in Florence as all the places of interest are close to the railway station. Once you are at the railway station, you can see the Duomo. The Duoma or the cathedral is one of the main attractions. This cathedral built in the late 13th century is supposed to be built by artists like Giotto. The bell tower of the cathedral is breath taking with white, pink and green marble. This is in fact referred to as 'Giotto's bell tower' (All old cathedrals in Italy have a baptistery and a bell tower).
The baptistery in front of the cathedral is a 5th century marble building. It is octagonal in shape. This implies that when a circle is drawn around the cathedral and baptistery it makes a perfect eight. The number eight means eternity or infinity! The sculpted doors on three sides are celebrated works. However, the best known is the east door. It is called 'Door of Paradise'. Ghiberti sculpts it with Old Testament stories. This door is indeed breath taking. Michelangelo, it seems, on looking at them remarked that the doors were fit to be the doors of paradise. Inside the baptistery, there are many paintings with three dimensional effect painted during early renaissance. The ceiling has a beautiful painting of 'Christ the Savior in judgement'.
The piazza Della Signoria houses some of the great sculptures of all times. Here in the open air museum is the famous sculpture of 'Rape of the Sabine Women', Perseus, Hercules staying the centaur Nersus and many more. There are many museums of art in Florence but you could not miss the 'Academia' or the gallery of Academy.
Academia houses some of the finest sculptures of Michelangelo. Here you can find the world famous statue of David. It is the symbol of Florentine freedom. The remarkable features of David are that the entire weight of the sculpture is thrust on the right leg and the anatomical features. The face of David with and expression of determination is the most significant. David is considered as a self-portrait of Michelangelo, glorifying the Renaissance man. The rest of the museum focuses on the Florentine painting from the pre-renaissance.
Having come to Florence, you should expect the city to be spread with galleries and museums. Another place worth visiting is the Uffizi gallery. The 'Tribune' of the Uffizi gallery is the best known. This octagonal plan was designed to display the most precious works. The 'Merdi ci Venus' is the best known here. This octagonal plan was designed and created in the late 16th century. There are many more museums like the archeological museum, the museum of St.Marks and Bargello National Museum which houses Donatollo's David, Michelangelo's bust of Brutus and many others.
When in Florence you should not miss the ice cream. Florence is very famous for ice creams and everyone loves Vivoli. A perfect evening in Florence would be to go to Vivoli, buy ice cream and walk along the river Arno and gaze at some amazing structures scattered in the city.
Once in Florence you can also visit Pisa, a small town very close to Florence. You could take one of those many trains to Pisa or simply drive through the numerous village lanes.
Pisa is a small town, which is the proud owner of the leaning tower. It is one of the seven wonders no doubt because this sight is worth all the trouble. Again in Pisa the cathedral has the bell tower and a baptistery. It is this tower that is leaning. It is in one entire fenced area. This tower is believed to have tilted even as it was being built because of the lack of homogeneity in the building material. In fact, it is believed that many buildings built at that time this was built also tilted. Today we can see the top most part of the tower sort of erect and not leaning so that the center of gravity is taken care of. Previously, people were allowed to go on top of the tower but not any more. It is believed that every year the tower tilts further. Today renovation is in full swing. Strong steel ropes are tied around the tower and these ropes are fastened against some strong poles a few yards from the tower to prevent the tower from falling. The world really cannot afford to miss such a marvelous structure.
You can even visit the baptistery and the museum, which are also in the same premises. This museum has some beautiful paintings and it also gives you information about Pisean architecture. There is also a cemetery. This is a must-see place because it has some very good old frescos that are breath taking. Over all, this place is beautiful with sculptures and carvings.