Being a bit of an art history nerd, Florence was somewhere I had been dying to go for it’s amazing artistic history. Home to Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and pretty much every great renaissance artist you’ve ever heard of, Florence is overflowing with amazing art and architecture. This was all made possible by the Medici family. During the Renaissance period, the church and wealthy families were most often the patrons of the arts, providing the funding for all these amazing works we have today. They turned to biblical scenes and scenes from antiquity to provide the artwork for their homes and other important buildings. The Medici’s were an extremely wealthy banking family who pretty much ruled the city they were so powerful. Members of their family ended up as pope, and they extended their influence into the church. The Medici’s were keen patrons of the arts, and are the reason that we have so many of the works that we do today.
One of the most important and iconic buildings in Florence is the Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. With construction starting in 1296, the cathedral was altered at the hand of several artists (head stonemasons as they would have been at the time) to develop into the amazing building we have today. In 1420, the artist/architect Brunelleschi, added the dome after winning a competition for the commission. The dome is equal parts puzzling and interesting to historians for several reasons: the octagonal base it rests on is not even, therefore the weight distribution is not even; Brunelleschi used the light material brick, and developed a herringbone pattern so it would hold steady; the dome is made of an inner and outer layer that would walk between to get out onto the top; Brunelleschi designed many of his own machines and plans, and once he was done he burned them all so they could not be stolen and used again; to this day, we still can’t work out how he did it because it mathematically should not be possible.
The interior of the dome is an absolute masterpiece. Painted in luxurious gold and depicting many biblical scenes, standing and gazing up into the dome, it is truly breathtaking how much time and effort went into building it.
One of the most striking things about the cathedral is the way it has an almost ethereal quality at night. The white marble is so reflective that it appears just as bright at night as it does in the day, if not more so.
Florence is a truly incredible city, and it seems it just continues into the evening. We spent many glorious evenings wandering round the streets stopping for ice cream, or to admire a merry go round, and on one night, stopping to hear an orchestra play in the loggia at the Piazza della Signoria, surrounded by famous statues carved by prolific renaissance artists. It was absolutely magical. The food, as would be expected, was also incredible. Italian is probably one of most people’s favourite cuisines, it is hard to go wrong with indulgent bowls of pizza and pasta.
Another stunning place in the city was the Pitti Palace. The palace is surrounded by gardens that made such a peaceful, welcome break from the city. Compared to Rome, Florence felt so much calmer and was generally much nicer to just wander around, but I do always love getting back into nature. We also went to go and see the infamous Ufizzi gallery, again, it was amazing to see so many of the artworks I have spent years learning about now.