Florence, Italy
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Florence is known for their red roof tops.  This picture was taken at the top of the Duomo.  The domed church was built in 1436.  Italy was quite warm this time of year.  We did most of our site seeing early in the morning, or late in the afternoon when it was cooler.  We planned our train rides in the afternoon so we could get a respite from the heat.
The journey to the top of the dome starts with spiral stair cases.  Inside the church it is nice and cool, so the climb to the top is not as bad as you would think.  It is about 480 steps to the top!
Half way up you get a great view of the mosaic floor, and a close up view of the painted ceiling.  Can you see the little windows in the ceiling?
Once you get to the domed section, you actually walk between the ceiling and the roof.  You can see the curvature of the dome as the staircase wraps around it.
The view from the top is amazing!
The back side of the Duomo.
The front side of the Duomo, and the front door is shown below for perspective.
I hiked up the neighboring tower to get some shots of the Duomo, another 430 steps!  
Our plan was to stay in Florence for one day, just passing through on our way to Cinque Terre. The next morning we were on our way to catch our train, and the hostels free walking tour was gathered out front.  We decided to check it out.  It was an amazing tour, we learned so many cool things, I wish we could have stayed for the second tour.
The patio at our hostel.  We had a nice breakfast with bacon and eggs, one of the best free breakfasts around.  The hostel had cheap food, pizzas and plates of spaghetti for $2.50 euros.
This was the first stop on the walking tour.  Our guide talked about the styles of architecture a bit.  This style is considered Renaissance because of its focus on repeating patterns.  The church has many “scientific instruments” in and around it, things like sundials.  At the time, church and science were best friends, it wasn’t till Galileo came along that the two divorced.
One of the oldest wine bars in Florence.  In the middle ages, people wanted very little human contact, in part due to the fear of catching disease.  The patron would stick his hand with money in it though the door, the server would then hand you a glass of wine.
Florence was originally a walled city, so there are no sprawling parks.  Houses were built with courtyards so light could be brought into the inner areas, and water could be collected.  Buildings were built to look grand, often times a building from the front looks to be 3 large floors, but once you look in the alley ways, you see there are really 6 small floors like an office building.
This paint job was done in 1570, it’s done by covering black plaster with white plaster, and scraping the white layer off.  This building has never been restored.  This home was built for the mistress of King Medici.
This is Ponte Vecchio bridge, the only bridge in Florence which wasn’t bombed in WWII.  Along the top of the bridge is a private corridor built for the ruling family, the Medici’s.  The bridge crosses at the rivers thinnest point, this make the bridge easier to build since it does not need to be as long.
Our tour guide is explaining how Cosimo De Medici ordered this walk way built to connect his palace to his other palace.  It cuts across the bridge (shown in the previous picture above), drills diagonally through peoples homes, cuts through a church and finally to his other palace.  The point in all this was so he didn’t have to walk with the commoners.
The streets at the time were filled with butchers and leather shops.  The stench was terrible, so the Medici’s ordered only jewelry shops were allowed to do business under his walk way.   To view the inside of the walk way you need to make reservations 1 year in advance.
There was a romantic Italian movie where the two lovers wrote their names on a lock, locked it to a gate and threw the key in the river.  It’s now a 160 euro fine if you get caught doing this.  Apparently the weight of the locks began toppling monuments.