Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 41 - All Roads Lead To Rome - Except That One That Goes To Florence

Hey Team,

After my brief taste of Rome, I hopped an early train to Florence, Italy, to check out where the Renaissance really took off.  Even though they are both very famous Italian cities, Florence and Rome couldn't be any different.  You can walk across the heart of Florence in 20 minutes.  You couldn't do that in Rome on the Metro.  Rome roars with people and activities while Florence, while flooded with tourists, is slower paced and calm.  Picking between the two is tough, but regardless, I would definitely do Florence again.

After I dropped my stuff at the hostel (best hostel, amenity-wise on the trip), I took off for the middle of town, which when done properly is 10 minutes away.  When done with me navigating, it's 30 (although I did get to see a lovely highway leaving the city. . .Don't ask).  I finally found it however, and my first stop was this humongous thing, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or as it's called by everyone, The Duomo.  Duomo is the generic term in Italian for Cathedral Church, but this is the grand daddy of them all.  Depending on who you talk to, this is considered the first building of the Renaissance.  At the forefront is the baptistery building and the famous dome is in the back.

Because it's so big, I couldn't get the whole thing in one click of the camera, so here's a shot of a model of the building as a whole.  The dome was built and completed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1436, and it's still the largest brick dome ever constructed.

This is my weak attempt to show you what the dome looks like from the inside.  As you can see, they basically got a bunch of kids and some chalk and told them to go nuts.

There's a really nice museum at the back of the Duomo.  One of their big ticket items is The Deposition, also called the Florence Pieta, by Michelangelo.  A pieta is a sculpture depicting Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus after he is brought down from the cross.  The guy in the back is supposed to be Nicodemus and is actually a self portrait of Michelangelo in his older years.  We'll see the more famous one later when I go to St. Peter's in Rome.

After that, I went to another famous museum in town, the National Museum of Bargello.  This was another place that didn't allow pictures, so here's a shot of one of my favorites, Ganymede by Benvenuto Cellini, which depicts that everyday situation I'm sure we've all found ourselves in at one point or another:  Flying naked on an eagle without a seat belt.

After that, I headed to find one of the most famous sculptures in the world, The David by Michelangelo. As it turns out, I had a very difficult time locating the museum, The Accademia.  Now this in itself isn't all that surprising, as again, I'm not exactly the guy that someone with a treasure map is going to seek out for help, but this time, it had nothing to do with being lost.  I literally walked right by the entrance.  Why?  Because here's the front door.  Budapest has a public bath house that looks like some of our State Capitols, but one of the most visited statues in the world is located in a building that looks like some rundown apartment complex on the wrong side of town.  Notice the lovely artwork to the left.  Go figure. . .

So here he is.  I was really surprised how much I reacted to it.  Like everyone else, I've seen this sculpture a million times in pictures, so I wasn't expecting some really cool experience in person, but as I came up on it, it really blew me away.  I actually went back to look at it again, I liked it so much.  First off, this sucker is 14 feet tall so it's not like he's some decoration for the dinner table.  For me, the facial features were the most impressive.  You can tell exactly what he's thinking just by looking at his face.

Notice the right hand of the sculpture.  It's over sized compared to the rest of his body.  This is symbolic of God guiding David right before he slings a rock into Goliath's face.  It was also symbolic for Florence itself, as the small undersized city state taking on the rest of the world used it as a mascot of sorts.  Having now been in person, I can see why it is so highly thought of.  If you ever make it to Florence, this is a must see.

As the day wound down, I decided to head to a hill just outside of town that is famous for it's views of the city.  This is a shot of the Arno River, which I had to cross to get to the spot.  It was so pretty, it almost made me want to go rowing too, but then I remembered that rowing blows.  Have you ever done it?  I'd rather run 400's for an hour. Ask my Dad, this means I really really don't like rowing (FYI:  Don't bring up junior high track when you discuss this with him.  It will not end well.).

This is the hill I was talking about, the Piazzale Michelangelo.  It took me a good 30 minutes to get out there, a lot of it going up, but wow, was it worth it.  The Duomo is to the right and the Arno is there on the middle left.  Doesn't hurt that I had about as close to a perfect night as you could ask for either.  The half hour up here was one of the highlights of the trip. Very beautiful and very peaceful.

This is a shot of a replica of The David at the Piazzale Michelangelo.  I thought it was a great silhouette shot at dusk, so I included it here.  Trust me, go to Florence.  You won't be disappointed.