Italy Vacation 2003
Day 15, Sunday, Oct. 19th

Today we spent the entire day in Florence. We started out at the Academy Gallery where we see another of those famous Michelangelo works 'David'. This is a no photo area but I am again drawing from that trip of 20 years ago and you'll get to see 'David". The rest of the day is a walking tour in which we saw the Cathedral with Giotto's Bell tower and the 'Gates of Paradise', then onto Signoria Square. We then went on to the Basilica of Santa Croce where Michelangelo lies buried. In this area we also attended a gold demonstration and a leather demonstration. After this there was some free time to look around. This took until late afternoon when we returned to the hotel to get ready for the 2nd to last optional tour of the trip called a Dinner in the Tuscan Hills. More about this later. Here are the pictures for the main part of this day.

This is the less than obvious entrance to the Galleria dell' Accademica or the Academy Gallery where "David" is housed. Here is David in this August, 8th 1983 picture. He was unveiled (take this any way you wish) in 1504. He's 5m or 17ft tall.
I don't remember all the details but there is some very important meaning to the fact that this hand is out of proportion to the rest of the body. A closer view. Michelangelo was 29 when he started working on David.

Our next stop is the Duomo or cathedral. It is famous for its red tiled dome. Building started in 1296 and it was consecrated in 1436. Finishing touches to the facade were still being done as late as the 19th century. We weren't able to go inside because it was Sunday but there is some indication that the inside is not all that interesting anyway. The two most notable features of the exterior are the dome and Giotto's Bell tower.The dome was built between 1420 and 1436. Michelangelo patterned his dome for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome after this one.

As we walked from the Galleria dell' Accademica we could see the Duomo, also known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, at the end of the street. This is the Baptistery just across the square from the Duomo. It's the oldest structure in Florence and dates from the 11th & 12th centuries.
I think these are the set of bronze doors now called the Gates of Paradise. These were made by Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1425 and 1452. The name comes from something Michelangelo said when he saw them. The Duomo. This place is so big that it's hard to get a picture of it. This building style is called Florentine Gothic.
This is Giotto's Bell tower or the Campanile di Giotto. The tower is 84m or 274 ft. tall and has 414 steps to the top if you wish to see the view. Probably the most distinctive thing on the Florentine skyline is Brunellechi's red tiled dome. It has 463 spiralling steps to the top. The view is better from farther away.

The next stop on our walking tour of Florence was the Piazza Della Signoria or Signoria Square.This is an L shaped square that was the centre of non church life during the time of the best known rulers of Florence, the Medici family. All the big names of the Renaissance passed through this place. People like Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci to name a few. This is also the civic centre of Florence.

A general view of the Piazza.
This is where David stood for centuries until he was moved to his current location in 1873. This ones a copy.
This is the Loggia della Signoria, a small, mostly open air museum of sculptures.
A closer view of the Loggia.
This is a copy of the statue Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa. The original stood here from 1545 to 1996. The original is being restored. The Palazzo Vecchio or Old Palace built between 1299 and 1302. The tower is 94m or 308-ft high, quite a structural feat for that time. As you can see it's being restored.

From here we continued on to the Basilica di Santa Croce. One reference book describes this church as "Tuscany's Westminster Abbey". This church contains the tombs of Michelangelo, Machaivelli, Dante, Galileo and many others.

The facade of the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The tomb of Michelangelo, I believe. He was originally buried in Rome but was smuggled here much to the disgust of the Pope of the time.
Another tomb, but I'm not sure who's. It may be Dante's.
A straight on view of the facade taken a bit later in the day with the sun on it.

The remaining pictures for this part of the day were taken during the free time period.

The Arno River looking east, I believe.
The Arno looking the other way.
The Ponte Vecchio bridge.
This is the Ponte Vecchio in the middle. It looks just like any city street. You don't realize that your actually on a bridge over the middle of the river.

The easterly view from the Ponte Vecchio.

The Ponte Vecchio was built in 1220. It is the last remaining medieval bridge. There were several more but they were blown up by the Germans during their retreat in 1944. The stores on it were once butchers but these were cleared out by Ferdinand de' Medici. Now there are jewellery stores and the like. There was a flood in 1996 that washed much of the jewellery away.

This completed the daytime portion of our stay in Florence. We headed back to the hotel to prepare for our evening optional tour, 'Dinner in the Tuscan Hills'. We left the hotel and headed into the hills of Tuscany around Florence to a farm house that had been converted into a restaurant. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the restaurant. The speciality of the house was Steak Florentine which most people had. It was really good. There was an Italian tenor singing typical Italian and Neapolitan songs. Here is a few pictures from this evening.

Our private dining room.
These really are the only group pictures we have of this tour.
The waiters serving the steaks.
Paula and the tenor dancing as he did with just about anyone who wanted to.
Paula salutes her dancing partner.
The singer with Kathy from Utah.

After this very enjoyable portion of the evening was over we left the restaurant and headed back to the hotel or so we thought. We were informed that there was going to be a surprise stop. We had no idea what this was until we arrived. It turned to be Piazzale Michelangelo. This is a view point known for it's picture postcard or maybe in this case Renaissance painters view of Florence. There is another copy of Michelangelo's David here along with a gelato (ice cream) stand called, strangely enough, the Gelateria Michelangelo. The main thing is the view so, here it is.

Another copy of David overlooking Florence.
David from the front.
The general view.
The Duomo with its famous dome and bell tower.
Basilica di Santa Croce.
The Ponte Vecchio.

After this we headed back to the Sheraton Firenze Hotel for the night. Tomorrow, the final tour day, we have the last optional tour to San Gimignano, a very wet stop in Siena, and the return to Rome with a visit to the Trevi Fountain and the farewell dinner.

On to day 16.

Originally Created: February 6th & 7th, 2004
Final Edit: February 18, 2004 4:47 PM