Florence on the Fly

Thanks to Princess Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. See our entire Mediterranean voyage aboard the Royal Princess here

Human statue outside the Uffizzi in Florence, Italy
A hilarious human statue street performer

We hate to say it, because Florence has treasures that could take days, weeks, months, years, or perhaps a lifetime to fully explore, but we were going to attempt to absorb as much of the historic capital city of Tuscany as possible within the confines of one day.

We should add that we had an assist from the tour office of our ship, The Royal Princess, docked in nearby Livorno. Joining their group provided invaluable information and allowed us to skip the lines at the museums.

A human statue street performer in Florence, Italy

Widely heralded as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Firenza is the center of Italy’s art universe, and home to many of the world’s greatest masterpieces.

If there is one must see work among those, it would have to be Michelangelo's David, so that is where we started our day. The sculpted giant slayer stands seventeen feet tall in a special rotunda at the Galleria dell'Accademia.

Human statue of David in Florence, Italy
NOT the real David

At only twenty-six years old, Michelangelo transformed a huge block of stone -- that most had deemed unworkable -- into this marble miracle.

Unfortunately photographs are not allowed, so there was nothing to do but stare for as long as possible hoping to permanently imprint the image onto our brains.

The fake David in Florence, Italy

We did get a chance to snap a few shots later, when we saw the statue’s original location in the Piazza della Signoria. A respectable replica now stands in the spot, since the authentic David was moved inside for protection in 1873.

The Accademia is home to many other incredible works we would have loved to linger over but, unlike The Rolling Stones, time was not on our side. We had to make tracks if we were going to accomplish a respectable overview of the city in our allotted time, so we headed for the focal point of Florence, the Piazza del Duomo.

The dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fior in Florence, Italy

The plaza is dominated by the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fior, or Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower, which is the main church of Florence.

Work was begun in 1296 and ended one hundred and forty years later with the finishing touches on what is still the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fior in Florence, Italy

Giotto's Campanile in Florence, Italy

Remarkably, the duomo may not be the most impressive structure in the plaza, Giotto's Campanile towers above it, nearly three hundred feet high.

The colorful exterior of green, pink, and white marble panels matches the façade of the basilica.

Still, the most notable work in the piazza isn’t on either of these buildings, it is on the doors of the nearby baptistery.

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The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating back to 1059, and is renowned for the notable Renaissance figures who were baptized here, including the poet Dante.

The gates of paridise at the Baptistery in Florence, Italy

But even more impressive are the bronze reliefs on the doors. The south doors, sculpted by Andrea Pisano, depict scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist and the eight virtues of hope, faith, charity, humility, fortitude, temperance, justice and prudence.

<-- The east doors

These are without a doubt some of the finest bronze work we could ever hope to see, but it is the east doors, created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, that draw the most attention.  

Joseph Sold Into Slavery and Moses and The Ten Commandments on the Baptistery Doors in Florence, Italy
Joseph Sold Into Slavery and Moses and the Ten Commandments

These works, portraying scenes from the Old Testament, were proclaimed by Michelangelo to be the “gates of paradise.” Unfortunately, the ones we were looking at are not the same ones good ol’ Mike praised so highly. The panels currently on display are copies, the originals are safely tucked away in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo for their own protection.

David and Goliath and The Fall of Jericho on the gates of paradise in Florence, Italy
David and Goliath and The Fall of Jericho

With so much left to see we had no time to dawdle, so we high-tailed it over to the Piazza della Signoria for a quick look at several other world famous masterpieces. A huge statue of Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli is opposite the replacement David, standing guard at the doors of the Palazzo Vecchio.

Hercules and Cacus at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Beyond them the square is dominated by The Fountain of Neptune.

The Fountain of Neptune in Florence, Italy

The fountain was completed in 1565 as a symbol of Florentine dominion of the over the sea, but once again we were looking at a reproduction, the original god of the deep is in the National Museum.

Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa in Florence, Italy

Along one side of the plaza the Loggia dei Lanzi serves as an open air gallery of Renaissance sculpture.

We strolled through, able to stop and stare just inches away from Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna and the famous, often-copied Medici Lions.

The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna in Florence, Italy

The Medici family was the main force behind Florence’s rise as a world power and art center. They made their fortune as early big wigs in banking, a pretty exclusive business back in the fourteenth century and, in addition to ruling Tuscany, the family produced four popes and two queens of France.

But our interest in the family was their incredible legacy as patrons of the arts. Over their reign they commissioned works by most of the Renaissance masters, and it was one of the Medici popes, Clement VII, that got Michelangelo to paint The Last Judgment for the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.

<-- The Rape of the Sabine Women

Much of the Medici collection is on display in the Uffizzi gallery. Once used as the family's offices, The Uffizi now houses Botticelli’s Primavera (often known as The Birth of Venus, or Venus on the Half Shell to goofballs like us), Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation, and Raphael’s Madonna. The gallery is also home to the only painting by Michelangelo remaining in Florence, the Doni Madonna, sometimes called The Holy Family.

The Medici Lions in Florence, Italy

The gallery is set up with rooms dedicated to each artist along a huge hallway. Almost every exhibit we entered was centered on a priceless masterpiece that we recognized instantly. Once again photos were not allowed, so we had to settle for a shot of the Ponte Vecchio through a window.

Good enough, the old bridge would be our final destination, and there is no way a photo could have done justice to the amazing artwork that had just been permanently branded onto our brains.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

More of a crowded mall than a transportation route over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio is unique and celebrated for the myriad of shops that hang precariously over the side.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

It is also the only bridge in the city to have survived World War II intact, so it holds a special place in the hearts of the city’s residents.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

A tiny shop on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

<-- The shops are so tiny!

For us it meant the end of a whirlwind day of art overload, and a lifetime of recollections that will have to hold us over until we can spend a respectable amount of time reveling in all that Florence has to offer. 

Anybody happen to have a Florentine house that needs sitting for a month or so?

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Thanks to Princess Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. See our entire Mediterranean voyage aboard the Royal Princess here

See all of our adventures in Italy!

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