The 5 WOW! views of Florence
Hi there! Today I want to give you some tips about the 5 places where you can enjoy the best views of Florence.
BRUNELLESCHI’S DOME. 463 steps, tiny corridors, people sweating in summertime: this is the dome, “cupola” in Italian. A little precaution: if you don’t like claustrophobic places, don’t go up! Built by Filippo Brunelleschi between 1420 and 1436, payed by the Florentines with their taxes, it was the biggest dome ever built and it was the pride of the city (it still is!). It’s a self structure of two domes placed on each other, creating a double shell. The climbing is hard and steep, but at the end there is an amazing reward. Thanks to the fundamental relevance that Brunelleschi’s dome played on the development of modern architecture, this huge construction is the most important architectonical work built in Europe from the Roman antiquity. You have to walk through the two domes from the inside to get to the top. You go up a spiral staircase, seeing also the frescoes of the dome with its marvellous Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari (1572-79) from an unusual and very close point of view. There’s a breathtaking panorama waiting for you at the top, with all Florence around you. Isn’t it exciting? It’s like a carpet of colourful roofs at your feet. Ready to climb to the top?
RINASCENTE’S TERRACE. One of my favourite spots to meet my friends for a cup of tea or a cappuccino is the cafe on top of the department store called Rinascente, in Piazza della Repubblica. The first Rinascente department store was opened in Milan in 1865, shortly after the unification of Italy in 1861. Few years after it was inaugurated in Rome, Genoa, Venice, Turin, Naples, Palermo, Bologna and Florence. So this department store is one of the oldest ones in Florence. You can have a delicious and creamy cappuccino on this terrace while chatting with a friend enjoying a great view on the square: the triumphal arch, the column with the Statue of Abundance, the top of Orsanmichele Church, the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the peak of Giotto’s Bell Tower. It’s all around you! This will be definitely the best cappuccino of your life!
ARNOLFO’S TOWER. This is the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, the public palace built to house the government in 1299. Today Palazzo Vecchio is still the town hall of Florence. The tower is named after the architect Arnolfo di Cambio, who likely designed it. The palace was first the headquarters of the Republic and then the Medici family’s house, when they eventually took the power in the XVI century. The structure is strictly medieval, with its buttresses and crenellations. However, inside the palace was completely renovated by the Gran Duke Cosimo I, who transformed the sober and imposing Middle Ages architecture into a sumptuous and magnificent Renaissance residence: frescos, statues, geographical maps, all with the purpose to extoll the high lineage of the family. On top of the building there is the camminamento di ronda, the rampart used by the patrol sentinels to watch over the square. The overlook is really beautiful, you can dominate the entire Signoria Square. Can you imagine the soldiers throwing down pitch and boiling oil on the enemies’ heads? Just out of curiosity, facing the stairs, you will pass by a little cell called by the Florentines “alberghetto“, that means little hotel. You don’t have to think that it was a cozy little hotel room, but it was rather a prison cell whose “guests” were, among others, Cosimo the Elder de’Medici, accused in 1433 of plotting against the Republic, and the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, accused in 1498 of heresy and then burnt in the square… Cosimo had a better luck: he was only exiled for one year out of Florence.
PONTE SANTA TRINITA. One of the highlights of Florence is undoubtedly Ponte Vecchio, the former bridge of the butchers and fishermen, later replaced by Medici order with jewellers and goldsmiths. It’s the only one still original of the Middle Ages, because all the others were destroyed during the war by the German troops during their retreat. But where is the best place to take a picture of this famous bridge? In my opinion it’s Ponte Santa Trinita, the bridge next to Ponte Vecchio. It was built in 1252 in wood, financed by the Frescobaldi family, taking the name from the church near it. In 1259 it collapsed under the weight of the people who were there to see a show on the Arno river. It was later destroyed again by the flood of 1333 and rebuilt once more. But the bad luck wasn’t over: another flood in 1557 made it fall down. The bridge we see today dates back to that time when Cosimo I de’Medici appointed the Florentine architect Bartolomeo Ammannati to rebuild it, following a design by Michelangelo. In 1608 the statues of the four seasons were placed at the four sides to celebrate the wedding of Cosimo II with Maria Maddalena of Austria. This unlucky bridge was blown up by the Germans on August 4, 1944. The new bridge was eventually inaugurated in 1957. The statues came back to its original location much later, because one of them, the Primavera (Spring) had lost her head. An antique dealer of Florence even put a reward on her head: $ 5,000 to who could find it. It was found only in 1961 by some sand diggers in the Arno. The American film director Spike Lee took inspiration from this to make his movie Miracle of St. Anna (very beautiful, you should watch it). Today, hundereds of people take pictures from Ponte Santa Trinita. So at sunset, take your camera, your selfie stick (or better just ask someone else to take you a picture!) and go to this bridge to catch the best light!
PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO. This is definitely the place where you will enjoy the best view of Florence. It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter time, at dawn or dusk, the thing is that here the panorama is absolutely unique. Generations of Florentines have chosen this place for a first date, the romanticism is guaranteed! You can see from this overlooking terrace all the monuments of Florence: Santa Croce Church with the National Library, the Duomo with Brunelleschi’s imposing dome and the Bell Tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful green dome of the Synagogue. This breathtaking landscape is framed by the hill of Fiesole and the Apennines in the background. Why the name of this terrace? Because a replica in bronze of Michelangelo’s David is standing in the centre of the square watching us! The statue is a perfect mould of the original, which stood in Signoria Square until 1873 and then was moved inside the Accademia Gallery. At the feet of the copy of David, there are other four sculptures reproducing another Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the characters he created for the tombs in the Medici Chapels (the statues of Dawn, Dusk, Night and Day). This spectacular square was designed in 1869 by the architect Giuseppe Poggi on a hill on the south side of the river, completing the works of the so-called Risanamento (restoration) when Florence was proclaimed capital city of the Reign of Italy. The restoration plan included the creation of the lungarni (boulevards along the river), the destruction of the medieval city walls, the demolition of a big part of the historic centre and the making of a panoramic avenue called Viale Dei Colli (avenue of the hills) that brought to the new Michelangelo Square, possibly the most enigmatic result of Florence’s renovation. You can reach the square on foot in about 30 minutes starting from San Niccolò neighbourhood (across Ponte Vecchio) or taking the bus n. 12 or 13. The walk is very nice. You can also go to San Miniato, few meters from the square, a magnificent Romanesque style church, where you have another wonderful view of the city. You will see many people sitting down on the stairs, with a bottle of wine, two glasses, a camera, and maybe a guitar, waiting for an amazing show: one of the most spectacular sunsets of your life!