Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Florence without crowds

Two weeks strolling around on hard marble floors viewing edifying cultural works



Engulfed in sweaty crowds in mid-summer Florence more than 30 years ago, one has never gone back, but has always felt cheated.

So, since there's no winter in Switzerland anymore anyway, we'll try a February visit.

Street scenes in Florence, February 2011

This is the splendid Relais Cavalcanti (centre door), a few flights up, on the Via Pellicceria two blocks from the Ponte Vecchio, two blocks from the Piazza Signoria, ditto from the Piazza della Repubblica.

At the bottom of the Via Pellicceria, adjacent to the Relais Cavalcanti, is the Palace of the Guelph Captains, headquarters of the city's military arrangements following the Guelph families' victory over the Ghibelline faction in 1266. Vasari had a hand in renovations in the 16th century.

Via Pellicceria looking towards the Piazza della Republicca, past the huge post office under the long row of arcades

Across the street from the Cavalcanti, this is the administrative seat of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino, a strange kind of free-for-all football (the Florentine Kick Game) invented here in the 1580s and played in the Piazza Santa Croce, formerly with popes in the middle of it giving as well as they got.

There's no served breakfast at the Cavalcanti, but here's the 24/7 commons room with snacks and coffee/tea.

The way round the side of the Cavalcanti's building to the market on the eastern side of it

On the other side of the Relais Cavalcanti, the Mercato Nuovo, or the old Straw Market, now boasting artisanal goods and a big pig.

This big pig, in fact -- the famous "porcellino", with its tourist-polished schnozz. It's just a copy of a beat-up old Hellenistic marble in the Uffizi, but everybody loves it anyway.

The Palagio dei Capitani di Parte Guelfa and the football headquarters from our room

Firenze street scene, with the Badia Fiorentina

The Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria (I couldn't get the top of the tower in)

The Loggia dei Lanzi, at the end of the Uffizi buildings, in the centre. We'll be back. Often.

Bank security

Towers of the Badia Fiorentina and Palazzo Bargello and its museum. We'll be back.

The Ponte Vecchio from the Arno side of the Uffizi Gallery

Kristin at the twin ranges of the Uffizi from the Arno, with the Palazzo Vecchio behind

The Uffizi courtyard, looking towards the river -- the oldest art gallery in the world, as it turns out.

Uffizi front gate, metal detectors within (get the Friends of Uffizi year's pass if you're a recidivist)

The Duomo from the terrasse of the Uffizi's cafeteria

The Palazzo Vecchio from the Uffizi upper terrace

The Neptune by Ammannati, framed by the Badia Fiorentia abbey church (where Dante may first have seen Beatrice Portinari) and the tower of the Bargello Palace

The Ponte Vecchio, here from Roman times, but dating in this iteration from 1345 -- originally populated by butchers' shops, but since 1591 only by jewelers and goldsmiths to this day

The open central spans over the Arno, with the late 16th century Vasari Corridor along the upper level connecting the Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace -- the passageway was built to Vasari's design for Cosimo I de' Medici to avoid having to mix with his subjects when they might be upset about something. The meat markets had to give way to goldsmiths because of the smell.

Palazzo Vecchio from the Mercato Nuovo next to the Relais Cavalcanti

The tower of the Palazzo Vecchio from our room on the eastern side of the Cavalcanti (we changed rooms after a few days for variety)

The porcellino square from our room

The Duomo (the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), begun in 1296 on the site of the 4th century church of Santa Reparata and completed 173 years later

Giotto's campanile, or belltower, begun in 1334. You can walk up it (it takes four days), but we found the cost of doing so outrageous.

The façade

More nice façade

Late 19th century, but very nice anyway

Ghiberti's bronze doors on the baptistery, with amusing reliefs

Giotto's campanile

The Brunelleschi dome in sunlight

Late afternoon sunlight

We've just stopped in for a little lunch and bought an awful guidebook as well.

Like a bat swamping down on your face in a dream. A lot of the marble is green.

Cathedral and the Brunelleschi dome

Urban fortresses

Carvaggio on the city streets (all currencies accepted)

Performance Advertising in the Piazza della Repubblica (for an opera or play or something)

Kristin in the city

Kristin and the 14th century Loggia dei Lanzi. Designed by Vasari and stuck onto the end of the Uffizi in the Piazza della Signoria, it's named for the Medicis' version of Blackwater security, the mercenary German Landsknechts (our word "knights"), or Lanzichenecchi in Italian. So it's like the Blackwater Loggia, or Xe Loggia as they would have it now.

An uninspiring big statue, and the Vasari corridor exiting the Palazzo Vecchio into the Uffizi above -- bound for the Boboli Gardens on the far side of the river

Hercules and the centaur Nessus, by Giambologna (1599)

The famous Rape of the Sabine women (1570s) by the Frenchman Jean Boulogne (same guy)

The Palazzo Vecchio (ca. 1300), with its David copy, and the Loggia dei Lanzi on the right, with Cellini's bronze Perseus waving a head around

Kristin in the city

On the Ponte Vecchio -- jewelers, goldsmiths, and lots of windowshoppers

Ponte Vecchio and the awkward modern bust of the super-goldsmith Cellini on the far side. Young couples snap padlocks proclaiming their undying love with colorful felt pens onto the railings all round it and briefly expect never to get divorced.

The Arno upriver with the Uffizi arcades

More goldsmiths

The Arno downstream

The Pitti Palace -- Brunelleschi built it for Mr Pitti in the 1450s till the Medici family felt that they'd like to have it instead.

Florence from the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens (and the Vasari Corridor running along the wall -- it was built in five months in 1565 for the marriage of Francesco de Medici and Joan of Austria, but coincidentally provided an excellent back door out of the city for Cosimo at a need)

Out the window of the Palazzo Pitti, the S. Spirito tower

Arno and the Ponte Vecchio from the downstream side

Slightly zoomed

Very zoomed

The piazza and church of Santa Maria Novella

A 13th and 14th century church with elements of the façade by Leon Battista Alberti in the mid-15th century

The Prime Minister has been acting up recently, and we're all out on the streets again. This is the tail end of the monster march of Women Against Berlusconi.

After all the outraged feminists and their dutiful partners have filed past, the communists get to make their amplified voices heard as well.

Combat fascism today! Or whenever you have a chance. We're applauding the brothers and sisters in Wisconsin at the moment, too, but Capitalists never lose, they just slide back into the bog and await their next opportunity.

Back through the Piazza del Duomo, the Baptistry in the foreground. More on that later.

The church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, here since 1032, known as Dante's Church "because it may have been here that the poet married Gemma Donati and first clapped eyes on his beloved Beatrice Portinari, whose family had their tombs here" (to quote the plaque on the front door). (We'll come back later to see Dante's house up the street.)

Dante seeing Beatrice for the first time and not making a very good impression at all. (If I recall, Dante himself says that he and Beatrice met with they were both nine.)

Dante in a snit when Beatrice marries someone else


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 26 February 2011.


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