Friday, June 29, 2012

Above Florence

My first trip to Florence was in 1988.  I was a mere 7 years old then and shooting pictures like crazy.  My favorite shots were of narrow street scenes with big payoffs in the distance, such as this. 

I took hundreds of these, and I mean that literally.  Above is the Campanile, or bell tower, which was designed by Giotto and stands next to the Duomo.  When you come from Chicago and its environs and you're used to streets on a grid pattern, Florence, which is laid out much like a plate of spaghetti, is endlessly fascinating.  (Greensboro's streets aren't on a grid either...not quite so fascinating, although there's that nice vista of the Battleground Ave. Biscuitville.)

In any case, my goal for this day was to climb to the top of the Campanile and reprise a picture I took in 1988, the last time I marched to the top.  (Remember, Alex?)  The stairway is narrow, includes 408 steps, and necessitates frequent pauses to allow those heading in the opposite direction to pass by.


As you can see a little better from the following,
the balcony, which if memory serves used to be wide open, is now enveloped in a protective cage.  I don't know how many Campanile leapers it took to convince the powers-that-be to resort to chain link, but for those of us wanting to take pictures, this was a potential problem.  Would I be able to recapture the magic of '88?  

Short answer: no.
In '88, I took this picture of San Lorenzo framed by the decoration in the Campanile's marble balcony.  Two problems this time around: 1) the lens I used in '88 allowed me to achieve similar framing, but zoom in closer on the dome, and 2) every single decoration in the balcony around the entire tower is partially obscured by two metal bars, which hold the protective cage in place.  There would be no digital picture to match my old-fashioned one from 20+ years ago.

But I still took some pretty nice shots.  And unlike '88, when I was aiming randomly at a city I hardly knew, three visits later, I actually understood where I was and what I was after.

Due west from the bell tower is Santa Maria Novella, which includes the Brunelleschi-designed pulpit from which Galileo was first denounced as a heretic.  This occurred in the early 17th century.  I must say that it's so comforting to know that we've progressed to the point where religion is no longer used by the weak, frightened, and addled as a ruse to deny universally held scientific consensuses...Whew!  Dodged that bullet.

This is a clear shot of San Lorenzo, which is west and just a tad north of the tower.  Among its many treasures is a Bronzino (The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo, no less) and two bronze "pulpits" by Donatello.

Santa Croce stands southeast of the tower.  The picture, unfortunately, is a little bleached out because of the morning sun. In any case, Santa Croce is known not only for its artwork, but its tombs. There's a funerary monument to Dante, and Galileo, Michelangelo, and Florence's foremost political scientist, Macchiavelli, are buried here. 

Due west from Santa Croce is the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's town hall, which is the tower on the right side of the picture.  The long, low building obscured by the crane and scaffolding further right is the Uffizi.  Barely visible on the left, up in the hills is San Miniato al Monte.

The Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens are south of the tower and on the oltrarno, or other, non-Duomo side of the Arno River. 

Moving west from the Pitti is Santo Spirito, yet another Brunelleschi design.  Our apartment on Via Maggio is basically equidistant from these two landmarks.  One of our favorite local restaurants, Borgo Antico, is in the piazza outside Santo Spirito.  Another interesting note about Piazza Santo Spirito is that it apparently hosts a public intoxication convention on most afternoons and evenings.

Finally, the rest of the cathedral complex, or at least, what I could shoot of it given my point of view...

Two shots of Brunelleschi's dome, one from the top of the Campanile and one from the highest of the bell tower's two landings.
The Baptistery of St. John (get it?), which predates the completion of the dome by about three centuries.  The Campanile is casting the shadow.
The side of the cathedral's façade, which stands right next to the bell tower.  The relief sculpture is of Joe DiMaggio in commemoration of his 56-game hit streak.  Zoom in and you can just barely make out the "NY" on his cap.

No comments:

Post a Comment