Florence: The City of Flowers

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Ruchira takes us on a tour of Florence, the fountainhead of European Renaissance. The very mention of this movement conjures up names of legendary artists – Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Botticelli among many others. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Florence is the fountainhead of European Renaissance. The very mention of this movement conjures up names of legendary artists – Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Botticelli among many others. Having read about all this in history textbooks at school, I would dream of touring the spot. Years later my dream became a reality. At 21, when I got an opportunity to visit Italy, I grabbed it with both hands.

So, one bright autumn afternoon, after a comfortable bus ride from Rome I arrived in Florence. I looked around me and was bemused! There was art everywhere! The buildings and other edifices were so picturesque. The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, Florence aptly derives its name from the Latin Firenze meaning flowers /floral. In fact, it is hailed as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

A Walking Tour 

We alighted at the Piazzale Michelangelo a massive square located across the Arno River from the center of Florence. From the square, the visitors can enjoy a breathtakingly beautiful view over the city sprawling below. A replica of Michelangelo’s magnum opus– a statue of David–perched on a pedestal, towers over the square. Indeed so enchanted was I that I decided to share the moment with my family. Forthwith I bought a picture postcard from one of the hawkers milling around, got a postage stamp from a tabacchi shop (In Italy tobacco shops vend stamps among other things!) and posted the card at the nearest post box. Since this historic city is not too large our group embarked on a walking tour of the city. It was fun walking through the narrow cobbled streets lanes and by-lanes; we were virtually transported to a bygone era! 

Crème of Renaissance

Our first halt was at Santa Maria del Fiore the domed cathedral which is familiarly hailed as the Duomo. This is the most famous landmark of Florence. Rated as the world’s largest masonry dome, this splendid cathedral houses brilliant artworks and architecture created over 600 years. Its picturesque Gothic facade of red, green and white marble, the elaborate interior of stained-glass windows, mosaics, frescoes and bronze statues, the impressive Baptistery and Giotto’s bell tower are indeed a feast to the eyes! If you can muster the energy to climb to the top of the cathedral, the incredible view of Florence will mesmerise you! Located in the city’s central business district, the Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches of Florence. Its premises served as the graveyard for principal members of Medicis Florence’s ruling family. The edifice was originally designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and dates back to the 15th century. The façade of this church was never completed, thus lending it a distinctly rustic look. The interiors of the shrine are the epitome of Renaissance architecture.  

A must see in Florence is the grand palace Palazzo Vecchio, dating back to the 12th century, it was the residence of the Medici family and Florence’s supreme governing body for nearly six hundred years.  Since 1872, it has doubled up as a museum and the town hall.  This building is replete with charming frescoes, sculptures, painted ceilings, intricate carvings the major theme being scenes from The Bible.

The Piazza Della Signoria is a famous artistic square in Florence. It is a virtual treasure trove dotted with globally renowned sculptures e.g., Michelangelo’s David, Fountain of Neptune, Hercules, and Perseus with Medusa’s head. 

We also visited the Ponte Vecchio. Linking the two banks of the Arno River, it happens to one of the city’s oldest bridges. Famous for its three segmented arches, the bridge was first built by the Etruscans and later rebuilt in the 14th century. At night the bridge presents an ethereal view when its lights begin shimmering upon the dark waters.

Palazzo Pitti is a massive 15th-century palace located in a quieter area on the bank of river Arno. The rulers of Florence lived here till about 1919. Thereafter it was taken over by the government and transformed into a museum complex. Situated on an elevated spot overlooking Florence, the Palazzo retains the atmosphere of a private collection in a grand house.

Florence is a massive flamboyant canvas whose vistas cannot be covered within a given time frame. To enjoy it you must let your imagination run riot, must have unlimited time on your hands. Wallow in the beauty you see all around…let it permeate into your soul. It’s a pity that while on a tour of the city I did not possess a camera. Nevertheless, the beauty of the city was etched in my mind forever.

©Ruchira Adhikari Ghosh

Photos from the Internet

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Born in Guwahati Assam, Ruchira grew up in Delhi and Punjab. A product of Sacred Heart Convent, Ludhiana, she holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Armed with a P.G diploma in journalism in Journalism, she has been a pen-pusher for nearly 25 years. Her chequered career encompasses print, web, as well as television. She has metamorphosed as a feature writer, her forte being women’s issues, food, travel and literature.