Monuments


Florence Dome
The monumental Florence Dome or Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, is by far to many the most remarkable Florence monument. The Basilica and Dome we see today was laid on the very antique church of Santa Maria Reparata which at the time, had become to small to hold the growing population of Florence.
When the cathedral was finally done, complete with Brunelleschi's Dome in the mid 1400's, it was the largest cathedral in Europe with a holding capacity of up to 30,000 people.
The project of the church was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and began in 1296 but only 5 years later Arnolfo died and the project was interrupted for nearly 30 years until it fell under the supervision of Giotto with the assistance of Andrea Pisano. Unfortunately, Giotto was able to carry on the project for only 3 years until he died in 1337. Another interruption stopped building in 1348; the Black Plague which devastated Florence.
Work resumed full force again, when the threat of the plague was over, by a team of talented artists and architects who took the project up to 1400 when the major part of it was completed leaving only the Dome incomplete to be finished by the ingenious Brunelleschi in 1436 when it was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV.
Other additions and improvemnets continued to take place over the years like those of Michelozzo, Brunelleschi's friend, who finished the lantern in 1461 and the architect Francesco Talenti who was responsible for further construction with the addition of the gilt copper ball and cross by Verrocchio, set in place in 1466.
Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari added other painted decorations to the dome between 1572 and 1579. Most of the decorations we see today, done by masters which include Andrea Pisano, Donatello, Luca Della Robbia, are copies of the originals that include 56 relief carvings and 16 life-size statues in the niches.
These copies can be found in the Museum dell'Opera.


Basilica of San Lorenzo
The Basilica of San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence) is noted for being the parish church and burial place for all noted members of the famous Florentine family the Medici's. It is one of the largest and oldest churches in Florence, consecrated in 393, and was the Cathedral of Florence for 300 years.
The later history of San Lorenzo proved it to be a milestone in Renaissance architecture when its renovation began in 1419 by the design of Brunelleschi, which unfortunately a few years later was changed because of lack of funding. When the Medici's took over funding in 1442 work was continued and in 1446, when Brunelleschi died the new supervision was handed over to other architects. The church itself was completed in 1459 but construction of the Medici chapels went on for another twenty years.
The church of San Lorenzo today is part of a complex which includes an Old Sacristy, done by Brunelleschi which remains the oldest part of the church we see today, and the Laurentian Library, repository of thousands of early book printings and manuscripts, done by Michelangelo in 1525 who had already designed a façade in white marble in 1518, never to be built, and an inner façade, as well, consisting of three doors and a balcony on two Corinthian columns. Michelangelo also designed the New Sacristy in 1520 along with the Medici tombs found there.
Works of art to be admired in San Lorenzo include the fresco "The martyrdom of San Lorenzo" done by Bronzino, two bronze pulpits and bronze doors found in the Old Sacristy by Donatello, the tombs of Giovanni and Piero de Medici found in the Old Sacristy by Verrocchio and many more by valued artists of the time.



Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is a place sure to leave you impressed when visiting Florence.
The large piazza is located in the center with streets leading into and out of it in all directions while passing and discovering interesting storefronts with genuine Florentine articles, cafés, restaurants, and monuments.
The main building in Piazza della Signoria is Palazzo Vecchio, done by Arnolfo di Cambio dating back to the 13th century. Without even going into the building, which is also the official municipal seat of Florence, one can admire Arnolfo's exquisite bell tower and clock as well as the remarkable states and sculptures in front of it like the bronze and marble Fountain of Neptune finished by sculpture Ammanati in 1565, the statue of Hercules and Caco and of course the world renown statue of David by Michelangelo which in reality happens to be a copy of the original now found in the Academia Galleria of Art for preservation purposes.
Stroll under an open air arcade with its important columns while admiring other works of art like the statue of the abduction of the Sabines, Hercules and Nero, and many more.
Off the Piazza there is a little street leading to the Uffizi Gallery and museums where even here without going in, you can admire an exquisite architecture with arcades on both sides.
An interesting story about Piazza della Signoria dates back to 1497 when the noted, originally artist and then Dominican Friar and religious leader, Girolamo Savonarola persuaded the Florentines to burn immoral items that included obscene pictures, pagan books, sculptures, gaming articles, some musical instruments, clothing, etc.in a huge bonfire "Bonfire of the Vanities" in the middle of the Piazza. Although he was a devote Christian, he believed that the Roman Catholic Church acted in pompous ways and wanted only to correct its transgressions.
Unfortunately, one year later, Savonarola and two of his closest friends and friars were charged with heresy and brutally tortured, hung by chains and burned in the exact same spot that one year earlier the bonfire was lit.
Indeed Piazza della Signoria holds a rich history and well worth visiting while in Florence.



Academia Gallery
The Academia Gallery of Art and Design in Florence began as the first art gallery of drawings in Europe founded in 1561, funded by members of the important Medici family and contained drawings by three masters of mannerism; Giorgio Vasari, Angelo Bronzino, and Bartholomew Ammanati.
Years later, in 1784, the Academia Gallery of Art and Design became the Academia of Fine Arts when the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Pietro Leopoldo, decreed that all schools of drawing in Florence were to be combined under one roof with the addition of a gallery of paintings by master artists to assist the apprehension of less experiences artists.
The Gallery has held the original David by Michelangelo since 1873 in a special tribune (its copy can be seen in Piazza della Signoria). In fact, it was the intention of the Academia gallery to build a museum dedicated to the great artist Michelangelo exhibiting his original drawings and sculptures but instead the gallery holds only a few of his works like the unfinished statues of the "Captives" and "Saint Mathew" and the sculpture of the "Pieta" which has raised doubts as to whether is truly the work of Michelangelo.
Other notable collections on display were done by artists that include Sandro Botticelli, Andrea del Sarto, Ghirlandaio and many others. The famous depiction of "Rape of the Sabines" in plaster done by Giambologna is also a masterpiece to admire in the Gallery. A section of the gallery, created by the Grand Dukes of Lorraine, is dedicated to an interesting collection of Russian icons and most recently the Gallery has added a curious collection of antique musical instruments.
 
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