Scenery

Florence is a great place to walk. Around every corner is something interesting.
After the churches and all the art history of the other pages, this page displays
some of the scenery encountered during my excursions in this fascinating city.

Click an image to open a larger version
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Sunrise over the Arno
Piazza Santa Trinita
Interesting Lunettes

Medieval Street Scenes
Ancient Tower-Houses
Medieval Torch-Holders

Florentine Security
Street Musicians

Medieval Towers
Aerial Scenic Views
Bridges, Vasari Corridor

Medieval City Walls
Monte alla Croci Scenics

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Florentine Scenery:

Florentine Scenery

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection

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ArnoSunrise_4217


Arno Sunrise 4217

One of the few good things (photographically speaking) about a partial overcast is when there
is a gap in the east at sunrise and enough cloud cover to catch and hold the color. One morning,
I got up early to check the sky (as we photographers will do when we’re trying for a sunrise shot),
and when I saw that everything looked perfect, I grabbed my stuff and practically ran the half mile
down to the Arno. I made it in plenty of time, so I walked east to find the perfect spot. The image
above was taken just as the sun crested the hills east of Florence, from the bank of the Arno
east of the Ponte Vecchio (at the rowing club launch). The bridge is the Ponte alle Grazie.

ArnoSunrise_4218


Arno Sunrise 4218

To catch the glow in the eastern sky over the Arno, I had to hurry back to the Ponte Vecchio.
The color lasts for less than five minutes from the moment the sun crests the hills (as I am sure
you have noticed), so I hastily moved the eighth-mile or so onto the bridge and took this shot.
I got a few others too, of course, but the color was already starting to fade (the following shot
taken 15 seconds after this one is far less saturated). Every second counts during a sunrise.

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Column of Justice Piazza Santa Trinita 3925

Atop the Column of Justice is the porphyry statue of Justice,
by Francesco Ferrucci del Tadda (a specialist in Porphyry).

Palazzo_SpiniFeroni_3929


Palazzo Spini Feroni 3929

The column in the image to the left, standing in the center of the Piazza di Santa Trinita, was from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. It was given to Cosimo I by Pope Pius IV in 1565 to commemorate his victory at the battle of Montemurlo in 1537 against 200 members of the families who had exiled the Medici in 1527 (after the Sack of Rome ousted the Medici Pope, the Medici’s rivals in Florence took the opportunity to gain power). After the Siege of Florence reinstated the Medici in 1530, the Medici rivals were exiled. They gathered under Filippo Strozzi (the Strozzi Conspiracy) and attempted to return to power in Florence. The Battle of Montemurlo was decisive, and after this battle all remaining rebels were killed.

Behind the column is Palazzo Spini-Feroni, built in 1289 for the rich cloth merchant and banker Geri Spini. At the time, it was the largest palace in Florence until Palazzo Vecchio was built. The building was divided into two properties at the end of the 14th century, then the building passed through many hands, was reunited in the 1840s, and it was finally bought in the 1930s by Salvatore Ferragamo, the Italian shoe designer.

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Santa Trinita Lamentation Crest 3987

The Lamentation crest above the main portal to Basilica di Santa Trinita.
The facade was created in Mannerist style by Bernardo Buontalenti in 1593-94.
The church itself was built in 1258-1280 to replace an earlier church from the 11th c.
As you can see from the very interesting doors below, the church was closed and
I was unable to see one of the first Gothic churches in Florence, with its vaulted
crypt and nave and its Baroque decorations created in the late 16th century
during the Counter-Reformation period. I wanted to see the Strozzi and
Sasseti Chapels and their spectacular frescoes, but alas... closed.

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Santa Trinita Main Portal 3991 M
949 x 1600 (486 KB)

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Santa Trinita Right Portal 3989

The doors have superb carved panels.

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Madonna Child Lunette 4997 M
1500 x 1225 (486 KB)

As you walk around Florence, you can’t help noticing
the exceptional lunettes and other architectural nuances
of the buildings. This bas-relief of the Madonna and Child
is one of three examples I will show you in this section.

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Madonna Child Lunette Polychrome 4331
1500 x 1092 (507 KB)

An example of the tin-glazed polychrome terracotta pottery introduced by the della Robbia family in the 1400s. This new glaze made pottery durable in the weather, and it took (and held) paint far better than anything before. The charming style of the della Robbia family’s work was very popular. There are other della Robbia pieces on several of the Florence pages.

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Lamentation Lunette with Heraldry 4366 M
1500 x 1290 (568 KB)

This beautifully-sculpted double-recessed lunette shows another sort of Lamentation scene, over a set of Heraldic Shields (of the style pinned to Heraldic women of the Kingdom of Italy) on a field of fleur-de-lis, over the door of Chiesa di San Giuseppe  on Via S.Caterina di Alessandria. I’m not an expert on heraldry, but I’ll give it a try:

The first shield is a standard Latin Cross, a typical emblem of Christianity.
The second shield shows an image of the Florentine Baptistry of St. John.
The third shield is an ornate Florentine Lily, the coat of arms of Florence.

The shield with Sun (and rays) in heraldic terms means “in Splendour”.
The shield with the Dove in heraldic terms means “Love and Peace”.

If it’s heraldic language: Christianity Baptizes Florence in Splendour, Love and Peace.
If not... it’s just a cool set of shields under a lunette over the door of the Church of San Giuseppe.

FlorentineStreet_3930


Florentine Street 3930

Have you ever wondered why some Italian cars are
so small? It may have something to do with the width
of the medieval streets. Some are too small for cars.

FlorentineStreet_3936


Florentine Street 3936

Many of these streets would be crowded with three people
walking abreast. Think of them as wide sidewalks between
buildings and you will have the idea. Florence was laid out
within a restrictive city wall back when barbarians roamed.

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Florentine Street Arch 3941

In many places, two houses or towers are connected
above the street. Where that happens, there is an arch
allowing the street to pass through the connecting space.

FlorentineStreet_4166


Florentine Street 4166

Note the rusticated surface of the building on the left
side of this image. During the Renaissance, this method
of leaving the surface stone unfinished became popular.

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Torre Pierozzi Via Della Canonica 4309

Torre dei Pierozzi, near the Cathedral of Florence, is one of the ancient towers from the Commune period of Florence. Built in the late 10th through 12th centuries, these tower houses were often united into Tower Societies and controlled areas of the city. The most famous of this tower’s inhabitants was St. Antoninus (1389-1459, Archbishop of Florence).

Torre_della_Castagna_4779


Torre della Castagna 4779

Another of the ancient towers, this was documented as early as 1038 (when it was given to Badia Fiorentina for defense of the monastery). It was used as the first meeting place of the Priors of Florence before the Palazzo della Signoria was built beginning in 1299. It is right around the corner from the house designated as “Dante’s House” (see below).

DanteHouse_4769


Dante House 4769

A 12th-13th century tower house in the medieval quarter of Florence was rebuilt in the early 20th c. to house a museum to honor Dante Alighieri, the Florentine poet who wrote the Divine Comedy and who is considered to be the father of the modern Italian language. Dante was exiled in 1301 under trumped-up charges by his Black Guelph enemies, and died in exile in Ravenna. The city of Florence did not reverse their condemnation of Dante until 2008 (687 years after he died), but they did try to retrieve his remains from Ravenna several times (unsuccessfully... the monks in Ravenna hid his bones).

DanteHouse_4773


Dante House 4773

Michelangelo offered to create a tomb for Dante in the 16th c. before one of these attempts to retrieve Dante’s remains, but the city fathers were not ready to forgive him yet. After all, he had only been dead for 200 years, and Florentines hold their grudges far longer than that. One can only imagine what the tomb that Michelangelo designed would have looked like. The intransigence of the Florentine city council cost the world a major work of art. They did (eventually) build a cenotaph to Dante in Santa Croce (click the Santa Croce link to see the cenotaph and the statue of Dante erected in the 19th century).

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Florentine Scenery:

Florentine Scenery

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection

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RusticatedWalls_PalazzoMedici-Riccardi_5154


Rusticated Walls Palazzo Medici-Riccardi 5154
795 x 1290 (554 KB)

Michelozzo designed Palazzo Medici for Cosimo de’ Medici (the Elder), head of the Medici banking dynasty. It was built with three levels, rusticated masonry on the bottom and ashlar above. It is considered to be the premiere example of 15th c. Renaissance architecture. Note the torch-holders.

Torch-Holder_Rein-Ring_PalazzoMedici-Riccardi_5156


Torch-Holder Rein-Ring
Palazzo Medici-Riccardi 5156

Close-up detail of one of the torch holders with rein-ring on the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. This is the medieval version of the parking lot. Just ride up to the palazzo and tie up. Simple.

Below, you can see more ornate lighting systems.

MedievalTorchHolder_5911


Medieval Torch Holder 5911

For the medieval palazzo-owner who has everything... what do you get? Why, a dragon torch-holder, of course. These were far and away the most interesting torch holders.

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Medieval Lantern Florence 5891 M
980 x 1600 (374 KB)

A truly cool medieval lantern with serious spikes.
Note the Medici ducal coat of arms in the background.

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Florentine Security 4986

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Florentine Door Guardian 5184

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Florentine Door 4168

Florentine Security Systems

With their imposing towers and palazzos, the Florentine houses simply oozed the scent of money, and probably had a herd of drooling thieves constantly thinking of how they were going to get in and make off with some of the booty. Security had to be a major consideration in the design of these places.

You probably noticed the heavy window grates on all lower floor windows of the houses and towers in the earlier images. Sometimes these window grates got together, and the inevitable occurred. You can see the results of some of these trysts in the image above left, which shows five pregnant window grates. Seriously... these protruding grates were out of the ordinary, so I thought I’d show them to you.

The image at left shows one of the typical, heavily studded doors and strong window grates seen on many of the older buildings around Florence. They said, with no subtlety at all: “Keep Out (this means you, and your dog Toto, too)”.

Of course, even with the heavy studded doors and imposing window grates, sometimes a little extra help is required. For this, you called in Giuliano’s Garden Gnomes and Guardians. Giuliano supplied more than your typical garden gnomes. He also specialized in Door Guardians, an obscure type of ogre which sits benignly on your door, resembling a cute medieval sprite, until an enemy or a thief approaches at which time he springs into action. Jumping off of the door, he grows to 100 times the size he appears when in his sprite mode, and then he eats the intruders, bones, clothes and all, then climbs back onto his spot on the door like nothing ever happened.

The image directly above shows one of Giuliano’s Guardians, still on the job after all these hundreds of years. What a guy.

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Florentine Street Musicians 5914

Piazzas are the life of Italy. People gather to talk, sip an espresso, eat, drink or just hang out. Sometimes a group of musicians set up in the piazza for an impromptu performance. These fellows were playing tunes similar to Gypsy (Rom) music, with guitar, violin, xylophone and bass. They also did an interesting form of jazz. They had an unusual style and were very good.

On the other side of the piazza from the musicians was another form of Italian entertainment: the bazaar. They had what must certainly be the bane of every woman alive. Italian scarves, shawls... and worst of all: shoes. Don’t get me wrong, Italian shoes are great, especially their boots, but if you get a woman anywhere near one of these places, you may never see her again. Italian bazaars eat women. Voraciously.

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Florentine Street Musicians 5916

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Badia Fiorentina Bargello 4163

Badia Fiorentina and the Bargello from street level at sunset, seen from the
Piazza San Firenze, in front of the Baroque church of San Filippo Neri (right).

The Bargello was the former Palace of the People (essentially a prison and police station). Derived from the Latin bargillus (fortified tower), in the Middle Ages, Bargello was the name given to the military captain who kept the peace, generally from a foreign city (the police chief). Built in 1255 (and expanded several times), it is one of the oldest buildings in Florence (and the oldest Palazzo). Its sparse styling was used by Arnolfo di Cambio as a model for the design of the Palazzo Vecchio. It was converted to an Art Museum in 1865 and houses many of the sculptures from the Grand Duke’s collections, such as Donatello’s David, and a number of Gothic decorative art objects, paintings, polychrome terracotta, etc.

Badia Fiorentina was founded in 978 as a Benedictine Monastery and was one of the most important buildings in medieval Florence. Built over the earlier church of St. Stefano, the Abbey (Badia means Abbey) opened a Hospital in 1078, and operated vineyards as well. The Campanile (bell tower) was built on an octagonal base in 1310-1330 to replace the one which was destroyed by the city in 1307 to punish the monks for refusing to pay a city tax. The Campanile is Romanesque at the base and Gothic in the upper sections.

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Bargello Badia Fiorentina 4825
1346 x 1175 (754 KB)

The next several images were shot from atop Giotto’s Campanile.
There was a storm, so rather than walk around in the rain or sit it out,
I thought I would rather climb the 414 steps to the top of the bell tower.

A close view to the south, showing the Medieval Towers of the Bargello and Badia Fiorentina, and the San Niccolo Gate Tower in the left background. Porta San Niccolo was built in 1324-27 by Andrea Orcagna (Da Vinci’s teacher). It is the only Gate that was not reduced in height in the 1500s, but it is no longer part of the walls as the walls have been torn down (late 19th c.). It was recently restored and opened to the public as a tourist attraction. The arches you see were the rooms used by the guards when they were on station. The merlons were restored in the 19th century.

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Palazzo Vecchio Fort Belvedere 4823
960 x 1290 (474 KB)

Views of Arnolfo diCambio’s tower (Torre d’Arnolfo, 1302) atop the Palazzo Vecchio from the top of the Campanile, with Fort Belvedere in the background.  Note that machicolations and merlons are visible on the tower. The merlons are in the Ghibelline style (swallow tail), which showed the Florentine support for the Holy Roman Emperor. Rectangular (Guelph) merlons were used on the Palazzo Vecchio (below), which showed the change in support to the Pope). Machicolations were used to drop rocks and hot oil on attacker’s heads.

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Palazzo Vecchio Tower 4841

The difference in the light was caused by the storm.

The Torre d’Arnolfo incorporated the ancient tower of the Foraboschi family into its foundation, and the Palazzo was built atop the ruins of the Palazzo dei Fanti which belonged to the Uberti, who were banished from the city along with Dante and many Ghibellines and their successors, White Guelphs.

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Stormy day in Florence 4788
1600 x 990 (475 KB)

The view south from atop the Campanile with Torre dei Visdomini and Torre dei Ricci in the foreground,
with the Palazzo Vecchio directly behind them in line (background). On the far left is Santa Croce,
and in the left center are the two medieval towers of the Bargello and Badia Fiorentina. The
11th century Torre dei Visdomini was built during the period of the Communes, when it
was necessary for a noble family to have a tower of refuge in case of attack. The
entrance to the tower was through an upper story wall of the attached house.
Later, the towers became houses themselves, and a street-level door
was added. The Torre dei Ricci is another of these towers, built
in the 11th century, and later turned into a tower-house (1250).

The Palazzo Vecchio is the crennelated, Romanesque town hall.
Designed in the late 13th c. by Arnolfo di Cambio, its 308 ft. tower
dominates the skyline. It was used by the Signoria (city government),
then as the palace of the Medici until 1549 when Cosimo moved to the
Pitti Palace and changed the name from Palazzo della Signoria to “Old
Palace” (Palazzo Vecchio). It is decorated in a high Renaissance style.

The Bargello, now an Art Museum (since the late 19th c.), was the prison and essentially the police station for hundreds of years. The oldest palazzo in Florence, it was built in 1255 and expanded several times. Badia Fiorentina is an Abbey and Church. Founded in 978 as a Benedictine Monastery on the site of the earlier church St. Stefano, it has been an important part of Florentine life for over 1000 years. Its campanile is a Romanesque tower with a Gothic upper section, built in 1330 to replace the one which the city tore down when the monks refused to pay a tax that the Signoria imposed on them. Imagine that.

Santa Croce is the Pantheon of Florence and the largest Franciscan Church
in the world. There is an entire page on the art and monuments of Santa Croce.

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Stormy day in Florence 4817
1350 x 990 (546 KB)

The southwest view. In the foreground is the Piazza della Repubblica (site of the old Roman Forum). In the background at top left are the enormous Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, home of the Medici from 1549. Santo Spirito is background center, and Seminario Maggiore Arcivescovile with its library of medieval manuscripts.

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Stormy day in Florence 4821
1338 x 990 (534 KB)

The south view, with Santa Croce at the left, the Bargello and Badia Fiorentina center left, Palazzo Vecchio at center right, the Porta San Niccolo in the left center background and the San Miniato al Monte church and Fort Belvedere are in the distant background (on the hills). Torre dei Ricci is in the foreground, at right center.

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Santa Croce Storm 4828
1669 x 1020 (620 KB)

The Southeast view from the top of the Campanile. Beyond Santa Croce, you can see the River Arno.
Right are the remains of San Niccolo Gate (now just a tower as the walls have been demolished).
The background is the Oltrarno District (other side of the Arno) and the hills of San Miniato.

Torre San Niccolo was built in 1324, and was the only gate not reduced in size in the 1500s.
The open arches you can see were rooms occupied by guardsmen on watch at the Gate.

In the image above, you can see why I composed with the right side of Santa Croce out of frame
 in most of the other images. They had the entire right side of the facade obscured by scaffolding.

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Santa Croce Storm 4846

SantaCroce_Storm_4850


Santa Croce Storm 4850

The view to the Southeast, with Santa Croce on the right side of the frame. Behind it is the Arno River and Ponte San Niccolo. In the left image, the tower (left center) is the Torre della Zecca Vecchia, the Mint Tower, which was not only the Mint, but guarded Florence at the Arno. Executions used to be held there, and as the condemned prisoners were led to the Piazza Piave, where the Tower is, they would stop at a little outdoor chapel for a last prayer. That corner chapel is just beyond the bell tower at the left center of the left image above, the Church of San Giuseppe, built in 1519 on the site of the 14th century monastery (the Monastery of San Giuseppe). On the distant hill is the Sacred Heart Institute.

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Basilica di San Lorenzo 4835c
1346 x 1175 (685 KB)

This is the Medici Chapel Dome and Campanile of Basilica di San Lorenzo.

The dome of the Medici Chapel resembles Brunelleschi’s Dome for Santa Maria del Fiore,
but it is significantly smaller (of course). Completed by Bernardo Buontalenti in 1603-1604.

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Brunelleschi Dome 4806
1500 x 1065 (690 KB)

The Southeast view past the Brunelleschi Dome towards Santa Croce (top right).

Considered to be the Father of Renaissance Architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) was the inventor of linear perspective (a method of depicting on paper what is seen by the eye, using geometric mathematics to determine the ratios, and using foreshortening). Giotto addressed the perspective issue using an algebraic method, 100 years before Brunelleschi, but it wasn’t until the Renaissance artists Lorenzo Ghiberti (see the Baptistry page) and Brunelleschi that geometric methods were applied. Brunelleschi demonstrated the effect with a painting of the Baptistry and a mirror, and after that, his geometric methods were used by every artist in Florence and Italy. He also developed complex theatrical machinery for special effects in church theatrics, which helped him to design the machinery required to lift the enormous weights involved in the building of the Dome. He designed fortifications, hydraulic machinery, clocks, and some of the seminal buildings and spaces of the Renaissance.

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Brunelleschi Dome 4803M
1418 x 1550 (707 KB)

Brunelleschi’s Dome and the smaller Transept Dome (bottom right).

The holes in the dome, which now let in light and ventilation, were originally
used to anchor the scaffolding that workers stood on while building the dome.

More information on Brunelleschi’s Dome is available on the Architectural Scenics page.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Florence Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

Direct Link to the Gallery with images of Florentine Scenery:

Florentine Scenery

There are a number of images in this section that are not yet on the Photoshelter site.
If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 11 Galleries in the Photoshelter Florence Collection

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Bridges

Two of the most famous bridges in Italy are the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte Vecchio.
One is a High-Renaissance architectural masterpiece that is the oldest elliptical-arch bridge
in the world, and the other is a medieval hold-out with 16th and 17th century shops and Vasari’s
Corridor grafted onto the superstructure, looking as if they are hanging on by their fingernails.

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Ponte Santa Trinita from Ponte Vecchio 3955
1500 x 1092 (342 KB)

The Ponte Santa Trinita is the bridge just downstream from Ponte Vecchio (shown below).
It is the world’s oldest elliptical-arch bridge. Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati (with some
input from his teacher Michelangelo) between 1567-69 and completed by 1571. It was built with
long, flattened arches that have a great strength, necessary because of the occasional Arno floods.

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Ponte Santa Trinita from Ponte Vecchio 3956
1500 x 1092 (336 KB)

The original bridge built spanning the Arno at this spot was made of wood in 1252, but it collapsed in 1259 under the enormous weight of a crowd watching a show on the Arno. It was rebuilt (in stone this time), but the tremendous flood of 1333 swept it away, along with every other bridge except the Ponte Alle Grazie. It was rebuilt again, but took over 50 years. That bridge, completed in 1415, was destroyed by flooding in 1557, and Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned the bridge you see here, which survived until 1945, when it was destroyed along with all other bridges (except Ponte Vecchio) by the retreating German Army.

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Ponte Santa Trinita from Ponte Vecchio 3956c
1600 x 750 (282 KB)

Most of the stones were recovered from the Arno in the 1950s, and the bridge was reconstructed to
the original design with the original stones (and some replacements from the original quarry) in 1958.

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Ponte Vecchio 3981
1500 x 1092 (353 KB)

Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge) stands across the narrowest point of the Arno, on the spot where
the original Roman ford stood. It is a symbol of Florence and is one of the world’s famous bridges.
Since the destruction by the Germans of the original Ponte alle Grazie (the Rubaconte, built in 1227),
the Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence, rebuilt in 1345 after the disastrous 1333 flood.
15th and 16th century tradition held that Taddeo Gaddi was responsible for the bridge design, but
modern historians consider Neri di Fioravanti a likely architect, despite the account in Giorgio
Vasari’s “Lives of the Artists” (Vasari repeated the traditional attribution to Taddeo Gaddi).

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Ponte Vecchio 5865
1500 x 1092 (431 KB)

The original bridge at this spot was built in Roman times, an extension of the Via Cassia
the ancient Roman road through Tuscany to Genoa. The Roman bridge had stone piers and
a wooden superstructure, and it was destroyed by the flood in 1117. It was rebuilt in stone, but
that bridge was also destroyed in the flood of 1333, the worst on record. The bridge rebuilt after
the 1333 flood is the one that now spans the Arno, complete with its shops jutting over the river.
In 1442, the town authorities moved the butchers onto the bridge to remove the stench (caused
by scraps falling from the carts as they were being carried to the river) away from the palazzos,
and to give the butchers an easy way to get rid of their scraps (they were dumped in the river).

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Ponte Vecchio Vasari Corridor 5858
1500 x 1092 (374 KB)

Above the bridge, beyond the shops, can be seen the corridor which was built by Giorgio Vasari allowing
 Cosimo I de’ Medici to travel from the Palazzo Vecchio through the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti across the river.
Cosimo wanted a safe, rapid path between Palace and Offices (Uffizi), which had just been built by Vasari,
and his home (the Palazzo Pitti), as well as to Fort Belvedere, built above the Palazzo Pitti to house the
Medici treasury and to act as a refuge in case of civil unrest or invasion. The Vasari Corridor was built
in only five months. In 1593, they moved the butchers out to “increase the prestige of the bridge” and
 to avoid the stench in the summer (making the Duke a lot of new friends in the displaced butchers).

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Ponte Vecchio Vasari Corridor 5868
1500 x 1092 (474 KB)

The three panoramic windows were built in 1939 on the orders of Benito Mussolini. Originally,
they were discreet Renaissance-style windows, but Mussolini wanted to have a vast panorama
available for Hitler, who was visiting Rome and Florence in 1939 to consolidate the Axis of Power.
Mussolini said that the view was very pleasant to Hitler and the Nazis with him, and it may be that this
is what saved the bridge in 1945, because Gerhard Wolf, the Nazi representative in Florence, personally
stopped the German Army from blowing the bridge, stating that it was Hitler’s order to leave it intact. They
did blow up buildings at both ends of the bridge though, which is why the neighborhoods on either side
look as modern as they do. The entire area on both sides of the bridge was blown to rubble by the
Germans to stop the passage of Allied tanks. The only way from North to South Florence during
the period of Liberation was through the Vasari Corridor and past the ancient sculptures.

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Ponte Vecchio 5855
1500 x 1092 (453 KB)

Since 1593, by decree of the Duke, the shops on the Ponte Vecchio were Goldsmiths and Jewelers.
The “back shops” (retrobotteghe) which you see jutting out over the river were built in the 17th century.

Apparently, the economic concept of bankruptcy originated here, as a merchant who could not pay his
debts had his table (banco) broken (rotto), plus he was liable to be imprisoned or even executed if the
creditors could not recover their debts from him in any other way. Debtor’s Prisons were notorious.

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Ponte Vecchio Vasari Corridor 4408
1500 x 1092 (728 KB)

A look at Ponte Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor from the other side of the Arno (Oltrarno),
shot from Piazzale Michelangelo. Here you can see the original small windows (replaced by
Mussolini’s panoramic windows seen on the other side of the Corridor), plus you can see the
bends in the corridor to get around Palazzo dei Girolami and on to the Uffizi (with the arcade
supported by arches in both directions below the elevated Corridor). The three open arches
in the center of the Ponte Vecchio between the shops is where I took the second sunrise
shot at the top of this page, and the green area below the Vasari Corridor, where it
disappears past the Palazzo dei Girolami, is where I took the first sunrise.
The bell tower of San Niccolo Oltrarno is in the foreground at right.

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Vasari Corridor Torre dei Manelli 5854

The Vasari Corridor from the Oltrarno side. This is the ancient Torre dei Manelli, built to protect Ponte Vecchio from invasion (there were originally towers at the four corners of the bridge, but Torre dei Manelli is the only survivor of the original towers). The tower was damaged when the structures around the bridge were blown up by the Germans, but it was repaired.

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Vasari Corridor 3961

The Manelli family refused to allow Cosimo I to destroy their tower to construct the Vasari Corridor, so Vasari had to build the Corridor around the tower, bracing the structure with the large brackets and supporting arches seen in these images. The tower in the background is ancient Torre degli Ubriachi. The Ubriachi allowed Vasari to build through their tower. An old banking and wood/ivory-working family, the Ubriachi were mentioned as one of the Usurers in Dante’s Inferno.

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Vasari Corridor Torre dei Manelli 3965 M
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This image was shot from closer to the tower, directly up at the angle.
Note the scaffolding holes in Torre dei Manelli, and the evidence of recent
construction. The upper windows are modern, as is the room at the top
which is an expansion into the original attic. Like many tower houses
which were originally built like miniature castles for defense, access
was originally from the upper stories. The two windows just above
the Vasari Corridor were originally the easily defensible doors.

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Porta San Miniato 4385

Porta San Minato was one of the city gates built at the end of the 13th c. through the early 14th c.
Completed in 1320, it is the only gate which has no defensive tower. Soldiers manning the gate
stood on a protected gallery above the door (demolished long ago). The gate was built across
the road which leads to the ancient Church of San Minato al Monte (and also provides access
to Piazzale Michelangelo and some spectacular views, seen below). Note the three-wheeled
truck parked in a space originally intended for a couple of bicycles. I suppose you remember
how small the streets (or should I say sidewalks) are. You need a small delivery vehicle here.

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Florence City Wall Porta San Miniato 4387
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A section of the city wall just east of Porta San Miniato. The people sitting on the bench can provide scale. These walls weren’t intended to stop cannon fire (they were built in around 1300), so during the Siege of Florence, Michelangelo was put in charge of creating fortifications further from the river which could be more easily defended and could withstand cannon. He did the best that he could, but Florence was without allies at the time, and it eventually fell, restoring the Medici to power.

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Michelangelo Wall Bardini Gardens 4404
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This is a section of Michelangelo’s walls between the Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato al Monte. Note the towers. This wall was built in a big hurry, but it was built to withstand a siege for a while, and it was intended to be defended. Beyond the wall is the recently restored Bardini Garden. Originally an orchard at Palazzo Mozzi, it was made into a Baroque garden in the 17th century, then enlarged and converted to a Victorian garden in the mid-19th century. It has been recently restored.

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13th c. Florentine City Walls Palazzo Pitti 5673

This is a section of the 13th century walls that was intended to be defended. It is part of the earliest walls built on the Oltrarno side of the river, just after the original plans were completed in 1282. These walls, the sixth and most comprehensive set of city walls constructed in Florence, were over 8500 meters long, enclosing five times as much area as the current city walls at the time, and were the most expensive commitment ever undertaken by the Florentine Commune. Due to wars and the cost, these walls took a long time to build (50 years). Much of the 13th century wall was demolished in the 19th century. This section and the areas around a few gates such as Porta San Miniato are all that remains.

This section is just behind the Cypress Lanes, a vast area of the Boboli Gardens behind Palazzo Pitti, just west of the Knight’s Garden (which is behind the Porcelain Museum).

This part of the wall is additionally guarded by a hill, and didn’t take quite the hammering that other parts of the wall took during the Siege of Florence, so it’s in fairly good condition.

I don’t know if you noticed earlier, but they still keep highly trained lookouts on these walls, in case of another Siege:

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Fort Belvedere from Boboli 5677

The image above was taken from Boboli Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace across the Arno River.
I thought you might like a little closer look at the Fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere.
Built for Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici by Bernardo Buontalenti to protect the city (and the Medici rulers),
it protected the Pitti Palace, held the treasury of the Medici, and was the final shelter for the Medici if the city
was attacked. Passages led to the Pitti Palace and to the Palazzo Vecchio through the Vasari Corridor.

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Poggi Stairs Monte alla Croci 4393

This is the stairway up Monte alla Croci, leading to Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato al Monte. The image at left was shot on the way up. Does it look steep to you? It did to me too... but the risers are fairly low and widely spaced. Not too bad if you’re in decent shape. It is really worth climbing up here for the views, assuming you’re into that sort of thing.

Giuseppi Poggi executed a plan between 1864-70 to change Florence from the provincial backwater it had become since the decline and end of the Medici dynasty in the late 16th and 17th centuries. He knocked down most of the city walls and created ring roads for urbanization, created office buildings and turned the sprawling central market into the enormous Piazza della Rebubblica, and built Piazzale Michelangelo and new residential districts inside and outside the ring road.

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Poggi Stairs Monte alla Croci 4444

The stairs look just as steep on the way back down.

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Florence Vecchio Campanile 4395
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The view from just beyond the top of the Poggi stairs.
I said it would be worth the climb. What do you think?

That tall medieval tower on the left is Palazzo Vecchio and the Torre di’Arnolfo. On the right, the dome of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo just behind the bell tower of San Niccolo Oltrarno (in the foreground). At the far right: the Campanile and the Badia Fiorentina and Bargello medieval towers.

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Florence Vecchio Campanile 4410
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This is from a little higher up the hill.

In the foreground is the bank of the Arno River, beyond which is one of the ubiquitous cranes. Behind the crane is the 16th c. eastern extension of the Palazzo Vecchio. At the far right are the Campanile and medieval towers mentioned in the caption under the previous image. Between us and the towers are some of the enormous Renaissance palazzos of Florence.

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Florence from Monte alla Croci 4399
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This shot was taken just after the one above left. Not far beyond the Poggi Stairway, on the winding
road leading to Piazzale Michelangelo, a lot next to a house that is being used for a garden offered
a perfect gap through which I got one of the more scenic views. There’s Florence in all its glory. Other
than the towers you already know about, you can see Brunelleschi’s Dome on the far right of the image.

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Monte alla Croci Park Path 4437
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At the top of the hill, between Piazzale Michelangelo and
San Minato al Monte is this wonderful park path and some
unusual park lamps. Note the base of the lamp (detail right).
Somebody had an interesting imagination. Let’s follow it:

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Monte alla Croci Lamppost detail 4449

If you’re going to create a three-footed lamp, why shouldn’t it have actual feet? ... and considering it has to stand there for a long time (hopefully), and we want the lamp to be comfortable, it makes sense that the lamp is squatting. Either that, or this is a mythological creature: Lamposaurus Electriclighticus.

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Florence Arno from Piazzale Michelangelo 4411

This is the view we climbed the hill for. The other views are nice, don’t get me wrong, but this is
definitely the scene to remember. Wow. Florence. Birthplace of the Renaissance. What a place.

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If an image you want is not yet uploaded, contact Ron Reznick (info at bottom of page).

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