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My Favorite: Florence

Updated on August 17, 2013
View of the Duomo of Florence, Italy from the cathedral's campanile
View of the Duomo of Florence, Italy from the cathedral's campanile | Source

Though the question I am answering with this hub concerned a ‘favorite place you have lived’, and I am therefore cheating a bit — having spent only a little over an accumulated week in Florence, Italy — I still have to say it is my favorite place on the planet (so far), and I’d go back there anytime, to visit or to live.

Pictured above is a view across the centuries-old city past the imposing red-tiled bulk of master architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s ingenious dome, as seen from one of the slot windows of the campanile, or bell tower, of the city’s central cathedral. That cathedral, most often referred to as simply The Duomo, is in fact the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (or the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower). The cathedral thus shares its naming origins with the city itself; Florence, Firenze in Italian, derives from the term for bloom or flower.

Night view of central Florence
Night view of central Florence | Source

The Duomo complex is actually a collaboration of a number of noted Medieval and Renaissance architects and sculptors. The basilica originated in Gothic styling by Arnolfo di Cambio (ca. 1240 - ca.1300) in the late 1200s, but is now faced in white, green, and pink polychrome marble work within the Gothic Revival façades of Emilio de Fabris (1808 - 1883) of the 19th Century. The church’s campanile, which is actually freestanding, was designed by Giotto di Bondone (ca. 1266 - 1337) in the 1330s, and bears matching polychrome marbles. The free-standing octagonal Baptistery at the cathedral’s flank predates the cathedral by a century and more, and bears the wondrous sculptural relief bronze doors of Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378 - 1455), called “the Gates of Paradise” by no less an artist than Michelangelo (1475 - 1564).

But it is Brunelleschi’s dome that dominates all. Using superb mathematical skills, patented innovative hoisting technology, and more than 4 million bricks, Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446) exhausted the final several decades of his life in the realization of this architectural wonder.

View of River Arno, Ponte Vecchio and old Florence beyond (with smiling tourists in foreground)
View of River Arno, Ponte Vecchio and old Florence beyond (with smiling tourists in foreground) | Source

The famed Ponte Vecchio Bridge spans the River Arno with a medieval structure bearing multiple levels of crowded shops, today purveying such wares as art, jewelry and souvenirs. The Uffizi Gallery — once the uffizi or offices of the Medici family — is one of the world’s oldest and most respected art museums. It houses works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, Giotto, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Dürer, among others. Rivaling the Uffizi is the Palatine Gallery of the Pitti Palace, which contains over 500 exquisite Renaissance paintings.

The Uffizi, Florence
The Uffizi, Florence | Source

A grand way to immerse yourself in the Florentine experience is to stay at one of the many hostels or residential inns peppered throughout the old city during the months of fall or spring. Stroll the stone paved streets, savor the hearty Italian cuisine, and sample the streetside markets. One of the most popular of these is the Mercato Nuovo, sometimes referred to as The Straw Market. Nestled beneath a high arching loggia, this sheltered market is rife with vendors of all sorts of leather goods, scarves, souvenirs and straw hats. Stop by its signature cast-bronze wild boar statue and rub its snout or feet, while tossing a coin in the nearby fountain; that will reportedly insure your return trip to Florence some day.

Florentine street scene
Florentine street scene | Source
Santa Croce (Holy Cross), burial site of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli
Santa Croce (Holy Cross), burial site of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli | Source
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    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Lovely! I wish so much to visit both Florence and Milan. A Swiss friend of mine said, "You must visit Milano for the art." It looks like Florence is a very close runner-up!

    • rickzimmerman profile image
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      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      P7: Actually, Florence has it all over Milan for art. Rather than Milan, you should aim for Venice, one of the most flamboyantly romantic cities in the world. Milan is rather business-like and industrial. And Paris is great for art, with both the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay, which houses fantastic Impressionists (my favorite).

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      I'd really like to visit them ALL! I envy you your world-travel experience.

    • rickzimmerman profile image
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      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Keep checking more of my future hubs, as I post about other European cities + Hong Kong + Macau.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      This is my favorite city also. Your photos are beautiful and really belong in a magazine. You and your wife are an adorable couple!

    • rickzimmerman profile image
      Author

      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks, Suzette! (Although we were a bit younger then . . .)

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