TRE GIORNI A FIRENZE
Today we start from Museo di San Marco. The museum occupies the oldest part of the Dominican convent, rebuilt by Michelozzo between 1436-1446. Friar Giovanni da Fiesole, known as Fra Angelico, lived in the convent first in 1387 and then from 1400 to 1455. During those years he enriched the building with a cycle of paintings. The name “Angelico” came from the grace of the friar’s brushstroke, but also from his goodness: the Church, in fact, declared him Beato (Beatus) in 1982. You can start your visit from the chiostro (cloister) and the loggia. Right at the entrance you are introduced to Fra Angelico’s first fresco: San Domenico adoration of the crucifix. Enter the Ospizio dei Pellegrini ( Pilgrim’s hospice) and admire Fra Angelico’s painted work on wooden panels. The colors are just magnificent and so is the use of the perspective, visible even in the small format’s panels. The Sala Capitolare (Chapter Hall) houses the Crucifixion. These are all beautiful works; nothing, however, could prepare you to the view that expects you at the corner of the first flight of stairs leading to the cells: The Annunciazione (Annunciation), just breathtaking! I was personally in awe . . . I cannot even describe it.
Take your time to admire this fresco and then move to the cells, each of which is adorned with its own fresco. Before you leave, on the first floor, you stop by the book shop which is adorned by a fresco by the Ghirlandaio depicting the Last Supper.
Outside, on the opposite side of the Piazza, is the Galleria dell’ Accademia. I am not, however, heading there today. I am heading instead to Via Cavour, 3: the entrance to Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
The Palace traces four century of Florentine’s art, architecture and collections. The focal point is the fifteenth-century courtyard by Michelozzo. Here, is where Lorenzo the Magnificents’ sumptuous wedding was held.
The palace’s jewel, however, is the Cappella dei Magi (The Chapel of the Magi) on the upper floor. Benozzo Gozzoli was the artist who frescoed the chapel’s wall with the magnificent image of the cavalcade of the Magi.
Time to head to the market! From Palazzo Medici, make a right on Via de’ Ginori and follow the road to the Mercato Centrale. On your way, you will also pass through the Mercato di San Lorenzo. The crowd could be overwhelming, but you can get some good deals on small leather accessories, such as wallets and hand bound journals (I love those). You are now in front of the Mercato Centrale. The construction was completed in 1874 to satisfy the need of larger market space – compared to the Mercato Nuovo, remember ? Where the Porcellino is. The building, with its light, glass and ghisa (cast iron), structure sitting on top of a stone base, is a perfect synthesis of old and new. Once inside, the light coming in from the large windows above, makes you feel like you are in an open market. The market is great for tasting some of Florence’s specialties, including trippa (tripe), porchetta, panino with prosciutto or finocchiona. The market has been slowly becoming a tourist attraction, yet it still holds the old fashion feeling and offers good quality products.
From the Mercato, we will take a short walk to Piazza Santa Maria Novella, dominated by the homonymous church, and once serving as the track for the Palio dei Cocchi, chariot races, organized by Cosimo I. The church of Santa Maria Novella is the home of the Dominicans. The lower half of the façade is in Romanesque style and was started in the 1300s. Leon Battista Alberti finished the façade, adding a classically inspired Renaissance top that created a Cartesian plane of perfect geometry.
Unlike the exterior, the interior appears rather Gothic.
Just past the pulpit, on the left wall, is Masaccio’s Trinità. In this painting, Masaccio was the first ever to use the rule of linear perspective.
Hanging in the nave’s center is Giotto’s Crucifix, which is just beautiful!
Behind the main altar, in the Tornabuoni Chapel, you can admire a cycle of fresco by Ghirlandaio. The frescos depict the Life of the Virgin and the Life of St. John the Baptist; they, however, also provide a snapshot of the era’s daily life and personages.
From this church’s pulpit, in 1614, Galileo was denounced for his heretical theory that the Earth revolved around the sun.
The complex of Santa Maria Novella also includes three cloisters, open to the public as museum. The Chiostro Verde (Green cloister), is the best known and it is truly picturesque with its cypress-surrounded fountain. It is named for the greenish tint in the pigment used by Paolo Uccello in his frescoes, of which the most celebrated is the dramatic Diluvio Universale (The Flood) .
Through this cloister you can also enter the Cappellone degli Spagnoli (Spanish Chapel) that assumed this name when it became the private chapel of Eleonora of Toledo.
This summer, after being closed to the public for many years, the more intimate Chiostro dei Morti (Cloister of the deaths) will also reopen.
Before heading to the Uffizzi, we must take a quick stop to the Officina Profumo -Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
Founded in 1612, this is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Here you will be inebriated by the smell of the essential oils, soaps, lotions, and perfumes still produced following the old procedures of the Dominican friars. The space itself is lovely and the small museum is very interesting.
Time to head to the Uffizzi.
The Galleria degli Uffizzi was built for Cosimo I by his preferred architect, Vasari, and originally served as the uffici (offices) of the Grand Duchy. Later, Cosimo’s son Francesco transformed the top floor into a gallery for some of his own art collection, giving birth to the first museum in the world! Today, the Uffizzi houses one of the most beautiful art collections in the world. I will not attempt to walk you through the museum’s halls. Walk at your own pace, pause before the Madonnas by Botticelli and Lippi, or the Birth of Venus and the Primavera (Botticelli), but don’t dismiss works like the Annunciation by Simone Martini, which is not less fascinating. The Uffizzi also houses the only known painting on canvas by Michelangelo: The Holy Family, also known as Tondo Doni, named for its round shape and the Doni family that commissioned it.
In 1565, Cosimo I asked architect Vasari to build a corridor to connect Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, crossing the Uffizzi. This was to be the wedding gift for his son Francesco. The corridor, known as Corridoio Vasariano, is one kilometer long and it crosses right over Ponte Vecchio, where it sits on top of the goldsmiths’ shops.
Along the corridor is a collection of self-portraits with more than seven hundred paintings. You will also enjoy the most unusual views of the city and the Arno river from the tiny windows dotting the exterior wall. The corridor’s walk ends just outside the Giardini di Boboli.
The Boboli Gardens are usually open until 7:30 PM, it’s up to you to take a walk through the gardens or just head to your last dinner in Florence until your next time!
NOTE: You can only visit the Vasari Corridor booking (well in advance) a guided visit directly through Polo Museale Fiorentino or a touring company of your choice (I have my preferences and I will share with you by request).
Of course, My three days in Florence don’t give justice to all there is to see in this beautiful city. It is, however, a snapshot of some of my personal favorites. My tours can be customized based on your interests and likes and I would love to share with you more of my faves!
MY FAVORITE STOPS TO TICKLE YOUR TASTE BUDS:
These are within today itinerary
Grom, Via delle Oche, 24r
Gelateria dei Neri, Via dei Neri, 20
Mario, Via Rosina, 2
Focaccine, Via dell’Ariento, 85r
Nerbone, inside the Mercato Centrale
Il Latini, Via dei Palchetti, 6r
Cambi, Via San Onofrio, 1r
Golden View Open Bar, Via dei Bardi 58r (ask for a table by the window or on the tiny balcony, the view is spectacular). Good seafood.