Florence: The Renaissance is Here.

Monday, July 19, 2010 at 2:05 PM
I'm working on the entry. For now, enjoy these pictures from Florence! In order of appearance, food, Gates of Paradise, Santa Croce, Campanile from Duomo dome, my orange shoes, and Duomo. Enjoy!

So yesterday, I walked all around Florence, and saw 3 different churches. Florence was the source of half the Renaissance, and I could clearly feel it from the things I saw around the city. Dinner turned out to be amazing, making up for the mediocre first two meals that I had in Florence. I was almost ready to write off Florentine cuisine. Dinner description and pictures are at the end. Now, on to the art!

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Our first stop was the Church of Santa Maria Novella, just a few minutes walk from our hotel. It was bright and balmy out, even at 10am. Even though the high’s for the day was supposed to be around 90, I wore a black collared shirt and my jeans. I’ve been getting this habit of dressing up whenever I visit churches. It feels more proper. What I noticed first about the Italians: a lot of them wore sun glasses. Which was cool, since I brought mine too. Aviator glasses seem to be really popular here.

When we arrived at the church, I was pretty impressed. The Church of Santa Maria Novella was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, and is the only church in Florence to have it’s original façade in place. An arrangement of white, green, and rose colored marble covered the front. Three open aired frescoes filled up three arches. I wasn’t sure if these were original frescoes as well. The outside of this church was very neat looking. It looked more like a cheerful palace, compared to the rather brooding churches of Paris.

The original facade of this church is still in place, from around the 15th century? Notice the clean looking white marble.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, which is a shame because I think it had the most beautiful interior out of all the churches I’ve seen this trip. Many of the walls were replete with paintings and frescoes. Among the famous works there were both Giotto and Brunelleschi’s Crucifix. It was interesting to see the different styles. Giotto’s painted crucifix was decidedly Medieval, with less emphasis on accurate physical description of Christ’s body. Brunelleschi on the other hand, gave Christ strongly defined muscles, and really made his agony seem real. The western transept was also cool. It had a gold altarpiece, with pictures depicting Christ, Madonna, and other people. Dante’s Inferno was painted on two opposing walls, with Paradise depicted on one, and Purgatory/Hell on the other. I noticed on the altar piece that Christ was handing keys to St. Peter, and a book to St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas Aquinas is actually present in many places in the church. My favorite part of the church is the chapel to the right of the main altar. Chapel of Fillipo Strozi. Most of the works in there were done by Fra Filipo Lippi. His paintings on the wall attempted to trick the eye into thinking they were actual carvings in the stone. He painted columns and reliefs into the chapel wall, making careful use of shadowing to achieve his intended result.

One last thing to mention about Santa Maria: Masaccio’s Trinity fresco is there, and is the earliest known piece to show the use of linear perspective.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or Il Duomo, was our next stop. If the Santa Maria Novella was impressive, the Duomo was absolutely breathtaking. The marbling patterns were much more intricate, with heavier usage of the green and rose marbles. In addition, there were more carving in the façade of the church. I just stared at the massiveness of the marble designs. Notre Dame in Paris has nothing on the Duomo.

Facade of the Duomo.

Facade of the Duomo.

A side shot of the Duomo, which I thnk illustrates the complexity of the cathedral exterior. In addition to the carvings, there's white, green, and rose colored marble. Amazing.

We climbed up the dome for which the Duomo is so famous for. The church was built starting at the end of the 13th century, but the dome was constructed in the 15th century by Brunelleschi. It was an ambitious engineering feat for the time, having been constructed without scaffolding, and being so huge. The climb to the top was hot and made me sweaty; I had to take off my shirt halfway up. It was all worth it though. The view from the top was gorgeous. We could see the neighboring Giotto’s tower(Campanile) there, as well as the rest of the city. There were red roofs ranging far, surrounded by picturesque Tuscany hills. We sat and enjoyed the view for sometime.

The view of the Campanile from the dome of the Duomo.

In front of the Duomo was the Baptistery of St. John. We did not visit the interior that day, but we saw the famous gates outside. The short backstory: In 1401, Ghiberti famously won a design competition for the gates, beating out fellow famed sculptor Brunelleschi. So successful were his north gates, he was invited to create the east gates. Michelangelo was so impressed with he east gates, that they would go on to be named the “Gates of Paradise”. The Gates of Paradise were indeed masterpieces. I saw that they were full of detail, and very lifelike. Ghiberti was able to give a sense of depth in his scenes by sculpting with higher detail the closer and more important figures. He raised those figures out of the door, while keeping the unimportant servants flat against the gate. These gates are probably one of the most impressive art pieces that I’ve seen. I think Ghiberti spent 27 years on these gates.

Gates of Paradise. These are probably my favorite pieces of art in Florence. Detailed, skillfully made, and intricate.

The last stop for the day was the Church of Santa Croce. Its known for having the tombs of many famous Florentines, including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. I was pretty tired and hot by this point, so I’ll skip the description. I did really like all of the inlaid patterns on the marble floor. I’ll leave you with a picture of the marble inlays on the floor of the church, along with a picture of my bright orange shoes.

Allez l'Orange!

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Dinner for the day was at a place we saw walking around once. It had lots of review stickers on the restaurant’s window, which gave us high hopes. The food turned out to be delicious, and relatively inexpensive. I had a egg noodles with proscuitto and creamy sauce for my primi plate, and then grilled lamb with rosemary for a secondi plate.
Salami antipasti. I realized salami was just really old, raw meat that night.

Tagliatelle with proscuitto and cream sauce.

I think I was actually pretty full by this point. Grilled lamb with rosemary.

The best part about Italy is the wine. I love the red wines that we have here, particularly the chianti wines. I feel like my wine experience in Europe started with sweet, light, and fruity wines in Spain. I progressed from white wines to drier red wines in Paris, eventually to the really dry chianti wines in Italy. It’s as if we started slow, and eased our way into stronger stuff.
Matching wine glasses for the trio.


-Howitzer

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