by Sandy Lai
The Renaissance started in Florence in the 14th century, which eventually spread across Europe. Florence was the most important city in Europe for a period of 250 years, and its residents were among the best and brightest. Da Vinci apprenticed here. Other Florentines include Galileo, Dante and Brunelleschi, the famous architect and master of linear perspective whose work is at the heart of the city. The city is replete with places that hark back to that major cultural movement.
Nowadays, even Jersey Shore couldn’t taint Florence’s historic beauty. It also remains its status as a cultural hub with over eighty museums to visit, including the Uffizi and the Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s David.
To get acquainted with all the beautiful buildings in the old town centre, climb up the Duomo, or more formally, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the symbol of the city. The dome of the cathedral was one of Brunelleschi’s greatest feats of engineering and is the largest brick dome ever built. The cathedral’s structure is massive, and it
can be hard to get a sense of its real size from the street. From the top, or you can also climb the adjacent Giotto’s Tower, you are rewarded with a fine view. Just try to spot all the glorious churches that dot the city, including Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella.
Walking around is obviously another great way to soak in the art and architecture. The Palazzo Vecchio contains some fantastic art, though don’t be fooled by the replica of David on the outside. There are actually a few fakes scattered throughout the city, with the real one being at the
Accademia. Still, the sculptures around this area lend to a wonderful atmosphere. A walk along the river Arno is called for any time of day or night. Ponte Vecchio is the city’s oldest bridge to span the river and has been lined with jewelry shops since the Medici days. To get a better view of the river, and of the city in general, head to the hills. Piazzale Michelangelo, on the south bank, is a plaza on a hilltop that is the best place to spend sunset. From here, you can watch as the city changes its colours and glow as the lights come on for the night.
Everyone wants to visit the Uffizi and the Accademia, so expect long lines if you’re planning a visit. With so many other museums to choose from, there’s no escaping the city’s art and culture. The Pitti Palace, the former residence of the Medici family, is filled with their treasures and art. As a bonus, the Boboli gardens behind the palace makes for a nice stroll and offers more views of Florence. The Museo Galileo makes for an interesting visit for anyone wanting to see how scientific instruments have evolved. It houses some of Galileo’s original instruments and even has his right middle finger on display.