Visit the Statue of David in Florence
Excerpt from the book On a Tall Budget and Short Attention Span from the Teresa the Traveler Series.
I arrived in Florence around noon on a rainy Friday. The tourist information office was located a few blocks away but I was not sure how to get there so I took my chances on one of the many hotel reps who worked the train station offering tourists free rides to their hotels. I met a guy offering a room near the train station for 40 Euros so I took a chance.
When we arrived, they insisted I pay for the room up front then wait for it to be cleaned before I could see it. When I finally walked into the room an hour later I was totally disappointed but since I had already wasted so much time I decided to tough it out for one night then head to Pisa the next morning. When the rain finally let I went for my own walking tour of Florence.
I walked by the famous Uffizi gallery and contemplated standing in the huge line to go in but decided not to. I had already visited the Louvre and numerous other museums along the way and had seen enough Italian Renaissance art to last a lifetime.
Uffizi is the oldest art gallery in the world and the most important in Italy. It contains priceless paintings such as the Annunciation by Leonardo DaVinci and the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.
The Accademia gallery is a short walk from the Uffizi Gallery. This is where the famous statue The David by Michelangelo, one of the most prized sculptures of Western Art, is preserved. The sculpture, which stands an astounding thirteen feet high (not including the base) depicts David during his biblical showdown with Goliath.
I regretted not visiting the statue of David while I was in Florence but being the clueless travel idiot that I am, I had no idea it was in Florence until I got back to Canada. I did absolutely no research before I left and had no clue about any of the places I intended to visit. I did, however, manage to visit some of Florence’s other highlights such as Santa Maria del Fiore Pitti Palace, Palazzo Vecchio and Battistero di San Giovanni.
Santa Maria del Fiore
Construction of this cathedral started in 1296 and lasted 170 years. Work did not start on the dome until 1420 and was completed in 1436; it was the first octagonal dome in history and is still the world’s largest dome made out of brick and mortar. The paintings on the ceiling of saints, angels and other standard images one would expect to see in a Roman Catholic Church, were started by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari in 1568 and not completed until 1579.
Pitti Palace was originally built in 1458 by a Florentine banker named Luca Pitti. It was purchased in 1539 by the influential Medici family and later became the principal residence for the ruling families who were large collectors of art. In 1919, King Victor Emmanuel III gave the palace and its contents to the Italian people and it was opened to the public.
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall, also serves as a museum. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria and has a copy of Michelangelo’s Statue of David in front - the original statue had stood there from the building’s completion in 1504 until it was moved to the Accademia in 1873. The replica was placed there in 1910.
Battistero di San Giovanni
Also known as the Florence Baptistery, this is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. It was built between 1059 and 1128. The baptistery is famous for its three bronze doors dubbed by the great Michelangelo as “the Gates of Paradise”. These doors are said to have begun the Renaissance. The bronze casting of the South door was done by Leonardo d’Avanzano in Venice and took six years to complete. The reliefs on the doors depict the life and beheading of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus.
The North doors were commissioned to 21 year old Lorenzo Ghiberti. The gilded bronze pictures from the New Testament took Ghiberti 21 years to complete. The Florentines were so impressed with Ghiberti’s work they gave him the East Doors to build. He managed to complete the door with reliefs of the Old Testament in only 27-years. Did this guy only work one hour a day? He spent most of his adult life building those doors, no wonder they are so beautiful. I bet when he was finished he never wanted to see a door again!
The Romans gave Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, its name when they colonized calling it Florentina meaning “destined to flourish”. Built in the style of an army camp, the city was established by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for veteran soldiers.