Florence, a train ride through Medieval history
Here’s the six or seven-mile walking path for today’s adventure in the Medici City of Florence. What a spectacular place, the boulevards and large buildings remind me of Munich, but when you get into the details and old buildings, it’s all Italian. Our friends and I trained into Florence while Ursula remained behind in Lucca to climb some of the City’s towers. The ride was pleasant enough, only taking about an hour and 15 minutes. There were no transfers on the way in, but a short one in Pisa on the way back ‘home’ to Lucca.
George signed us up for the free city tour, and while I was a bit leery of it at first, it turned out the be a fantastic experience. The young lady who served as our tour guide was an art history expert; she did an excellent job relating the City’s history, art, and culture as well as the stories of the Medici family. These little tours are definitely the way to get a good overall picture of the CityCity before heading off on one’s personal excursions.
The City center, the Uffizi Palace (a.k.a. the Medici’s home), and the Piazza out front are utterly captivating with all the statues and the fascinating stories behind them. They take on a life of their own as you learn the fascinating politics behind their purchase and specific imagery intended to sell a Public Relations message. On such story is with Medici’s acquisition of the bronze statue Percales with the beheaded Medusa standing under the logia in front of the David. The story goes that it was a threat to the people of Florence. The message was that if they messed with the family’s control over, they’d get the same treatment as the Medusa (figuratively speaking – or was it?).
One of the more engaging backstories to this tale is with that of the artist, Cellini. Apparently, he was a gambling man, and a poor one at that. To finance a series of bets, he sold off much fo the bronze that Cosimo Medici gave him for the project. He promptly lost the money as he was such a foolish punter. Cellini knew he couldn’t approach Cosimo to ask for more bronze, so he scoured his home for every piece of metal he could find (dishes, pots, forks…..) and melted it down to add to whatever was left of the bronze bullion so he could cast the stature. Kind of funny that this threatening PR statute, incredibly beautiful as it is, is part bronze and some cheap metals from Cellini’s kitchen!
The Ponti Vecchio was another site I had not seen previously. It was much wider than I had imagined, and it was open to the sky. For some reason, I thought it was enclosed as you walked through the houses to get to the other side. Again, with another fascinating Medici story. They built a walking passage on top of the bridges’ homes and shops so they wouldn’t have to mingle with the ‘common people’ as they were carried from their downtown digs to their palatial palace on the other side of the Arno River. Before their passageway was built, the bridge was home to all the fishmongers. The bridge was ideally selected for health precautions to prevent the noxious, rotting fish from infesting the streets and alleyways of the town. With the market position on the bridge, all the offal and rotten fish could antiseptically be thrown into the water and safely washed downstream away from the City’sCity’s population. Legend has it that the Medici’s, the ‘advocates of the public,’ would have not of it….because of the smell. The chased all the fishmongers off the bridge and installed the City’sCity’s gold merchants, who sell from there todayOur tour guide was filled with such captivating stories. But, alas, she had to leave as the tour concluded, and I was on my own to wander the streets to make up my own local histories.
There’s just too much to see and do in one day, and with the throngs of tourists, there’s really no way to get around quickly. But, I managed to get more pictures of the Bridge, the Duomo, the Basilica, and several other Piazzas, Churches, markets, and a slew of other impressive buildings and sites.
Florence is a ‘Must See,’ and I’m hoping to return again with more time on my hands to see the museums and get inside some of the more ornate buildings.