City of the Renaissance

SEPT. 14 - FLORENCE - At long last, we have arrived in Florence, the fair city of the Renaissance. As we walked to our hotel, a few blocks from Brunelleschi's famous Duomo, I marvelled at the sheer immensity of the dome and its adjoining cathedral. Michelle captured the feeling best: when one sees photos of famous works of art (such as the Mona Lisa), the real thing can sometimes be anticlimactic. But though I've seen numerous photos of Florence's cathedral, I never imagined it would be so HUGE. It far surpassed any expectations I may have had.

Other artistic and architectural delights that we've enjoyed have been the Ufizzi art gallery (of course) and the magnificent Pitti Palace (one-time home of the Medici ruling family). The latter reminded me of the Louvre, in the way that priceless works of art covered walls which were themselves sumptuous works of art.

Perhaps most special to me, however, has been my visit to the monestary - now a museum - of San Marco. Here lived, studied and preached Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, the man who briefly transformed Florence with his Bonfires of the Vanities in the late 15th century. Though he brought Republicanism to the city, he incurred the wrath of the licentious Borgia pope Alexander VI, who excommunicated him and sentenced him to death in 1498 (I also saw his memorial plaque in the Piazza della Signoria, where he burned at the stake). The enigma of Savonarola, a lesser known footnote of history, has always fascinated me, so a visit to his cell in San Marco was an experience that will stay with me for some time.

Next: Bella Toscana

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