Along Via Calzaioli we pass Orsanmichele, a church as solid as a fortress. Round its sides, between the richly decorated windows there are statues by Donatello, Nanni di Banco, Ghiberti, Verrocchio and Giambologna. The shadowy interior is commanded by the Tabernacle, a masterpiece of sculpture as minute as goldsmith's work, by Andrea Orcagna (14th century). Next to Orsanmichele there is a fine example of Medieval civic architecture, the Palazzo dell'Arte delta Lana. From this point it is only a few yards to Piazza della Signoria, centre of Florentine life for ten centuries. Here the people rejoiced in happy times and gathered in time of trouble; here Savonarola was burnt, here artists displayed flit works they had just finished, here took place the festivals, the wedding processions, the Medici theatrical performances. Here they still play the football match in 16th century costume, which recalls ancient Florence.
When the Renaissance came along, this Piazza was already built, and it hadto look elsewhere for space to express itself. The Palazzo delta Signoria was finished in 1314, but it took two more centuries to create the interior as we know it today. Gazing up from the ground, it makes one giddy, not so much from the height (308 ft.) but for the boldness with which the tower soars from the facade - a rare example of strength and elegance combined.
The Loggia delta Signoria demonstrates with its semicircular arches that the Renaissance spirit was already mature in Florentine artists a century before. It is of 1381. Here Benvenuto Cellmi left his masterpiece, the Perseus, with its four base statuettes, perhaps even more perfect than the larger statue. Passing a copy of Michelangelo's << David >> we enter the Palace. The left-hand courtyard has remained as it was in the 14° century, but all the rest was transformed in the following centuries. From being the seat of government of a Republic it became a royal palace. Michelozzo built the first courtyard in 1453: Tadda made the fountain, Verrocchio decorated it with his bronze putto; a century later, at a loss to know how to add to the splendour, they applied stucco ornaments to the columns. This profusion of wealth is continued on the upper floors. There is the vast Salone del Cinquecento with Vasari's Battle Paintings and the statue of the << Genius of Victory >> by Michelangelo. Then there is the Studiolo (small study) which Vasari planned for Francesco I and which his pupils trasformed into a document of sensual Florentine Mannerism. The whole of the first and second floors are taken up with the Medici apartments which Vasari and Bronzino built; they alternate with wonderful loggias and terraces giving views of the whole of Florence. Going down into the street again, we enter Piazzale degli Uffizi with its noble Palazzo which Vasari, the great town-planner of Renaissance Florence, built for Cosimo I, who wanted to set the central bureaucracy of the state there. Instead, it houses themost famous Gallery in the world (See ,The Ten Capitals of Italian Painting ).
The morning might well finish with the Uffizi. One can have lunch in one of the restaurants in Piazza della Signoria.
We start again in the afternoon from Piazza degli Uffizi, going from here along the Lungarno (along the Arno - riverside drives) to the Ponte Vecchio. It is not called the Old Bridge for its aspect today, but because when it was built it took the place of another bridge with Etruscan foundations. Through Via Par Santa Maria past the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, with its flower stalls and craft stalls, we reach Via Porta Rossa and the tall brick building of Palazzo Davanzati, a 14° century dwelling with a 15° century loggia. We go back to Via Carpaccio to see the Palazzo del Capitani di parte Guelfa (Palace of the Captains of the Guelph Party), of the 14° century. Brunelleschi modified the facade and Vasari added the graceful loggia. From here we pass Borgo Santi Apostoli, where the atmosphere is heightened by the tall stone buildings and narrow alleyways.
After the Church of the Santi Apostoli, by the side of the massive outline of Palazzo Spini Ferroni, we come out into Piazza Santa Trinita. This takes its name, like the bridge it leads to, from the Church of Santa Trinita, begun by Nicola Pisano in 1258, with a 16th century facade by Buontalenti. The interior is one of the earliest examples of Italian Gothic. In the chapels there is important sculpture by GmFaun da Sangallo, Desiderio da Scttignano. Benedetto da Maiano; in the Sassetti Chapel there are frescoes by Ghirlandaio, and his masterpiece a The Adoration of the Shepherds.
After a glance at the lofty Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni, we come out on to one of the finest of the Lungarni, which takes its name from Palazzo Corsini, one of the very few Baroque palaces in Florence. In the interior is the Corsint Chapel, with several important works such as a Madonna byFilippo Lippi, another by Luca Signorelli- and Raphael's Cartoon for the portrait of Julius II. Our tour of private dwellings in old Florence brings us to Palazzo Rucellai(1451), and the splendid Palazzo Strozzi, begun by Benedetto da Maiano. We are now in Via Tornabuoni, the most elegant street in Florence, and here we will end our first Florentine day.
The second day's tour begins with the Etruscans. We start from Piazza delta Santissima Annunziata, a calm quiet island of early Renaissance peace. Begun in the XIII century, the church was altered by Michelozzo and Antonio da Sangallo: the atrium preserves fine frescoes by Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Franciabigio and Alcssio Baldinovetti. In the Baroque interior there are frescoes and paintings by Perugino, Bronzino and Tombs by Benvenuto Cellini, Andrea del Castagno and Pontormo.
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