Florence The Cradle of Renaissance

Text & Photos by Farah S. Kamal

Viewing the enthralling Tuscany landscapes from the bus had me absorbed on the Sun Highway. I always longed to go to Italy, and on this trip I was about to savour Florence, the capital of Tuscany and the birthplace of Renaissance. The stopover was a day-and-a-half long as part of an extensive tour around Europe.

One of the biggest highlights of travelling in Europe is to become part of the rich history, especially if it’s a place like the Historical City Centre of Firenze.

Almost all of us know, and have read about the movement of 1300-1700 AD – the Renaissance – but standing at the centre of the most famous and treasured pieces of art and architecture of the world is an enlightening experience. The feeling of exploring the cultural rebirth that started here, and later influenced all of Europe is a memorable experience.

I walked along the Arno River that runs through the Ponte Vecchio, the most ancient bridge through which I entered the Piazza Santa Croce, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The amazing monuments, religious buildings, architectural works and gardens at this famous square made all my history lessons come to life, as I recalled ‘experience is the teacher of all things’, the famous quote of Julius Caesar.

‘Piazza’ is an Italian term for an open public place or square. Travelling around Italy I got to explore different famous and historical piazzas. These are the places where I scanned native arts and crafts in the markets, chatted with and interviewed people, explored monuments, became a part of the local culture as I tasted the cuisine, and listened and danced to the cultural music.

The sight of little bars, cafes, bakeries, and gelateria everywhere hypnotised me. I took a quiet seat at a sidewalk gelateria and ordered a mango gelato – it was the best Italian ice-cream I ever had.

Soaking in the history of this square, I was wondering that this piazza used to be the meeting point of theologians, writers, thinkers and politicians like Michelangelo Buonarroti, Niccolò Machiavelli, Enrico Fermi, Galileo Galilei and so many others.

All refreshed and geared up with my camera, I started exploring and photographing. Overlooking the square is the Basilica of Santa Croce, the biggest Franciscan church in the world before the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican. It holds a valuable collection of art, history, frescoes and sculptures. Walking through the narrow lanes I came to the stunning piece of Gothic architecture, the Duomo, a cathedral complex situated at the heart of the city covered with decorative patterns of pink, white and green marble. It took 465 tiny, steep, winding stairs to the top of the Duomo and the entire Firenze was in front like a movie screen.

As I kept walking, to my right passed the splendid Giotto’s Bell Tower. I stopped at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo that holds many original artefacts and artworks.

The eastern door is the original golden door of the Baptistry designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1403-1424) depicting the life of Christ, and is called the Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo who is believed to have exclaimed: "they are so beautiful that they would be perfect for the gates of paradise".

At every turn of the city there are enthralling designs by ingenious artists. Each of these pieces of art and architecture reflects the persona of the people who designed them.

I was capturing all that I could as the tour guide shed light on the city’s past. A few blocks away is the Piazza della Signoria, another unusual L shaped square.

The statue of David (the original is in the Galleria dell'Accademia) by Michelangelo is right in front. Overlooking the square is the majestic museum building a Roman-style Palazzo Vecchio, on its right is the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open air sculpture gallery, its curved arches gracefully presents Renaissance classicism and depicts the political and civic life of historical Florence.

After taking a short break, I went on to explore artisan boutiques and quirky streets soon wandering around Via dei Calzaiuoli which was surrounded by locals who were busy performing their mundane duties on their bikes. I got attracted to an overwhelming array of high-end boutiques carrying both local and national brands.

I got myself a handmade traditional pair of Roman gladiator sandals, an almost replica of what I saw in museums of Rome. That was a good buy to round off a long adventurous day.

The day ended for me with a Florentine dinner in the spa town of Montecatini. The next morning I was off to Switzerland.

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COMMENTS

    Sumbul commented 4 weeks ago

    This write-up make me feel like visiting the place... Worth reading!! Wonderful <3 :)

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    Hassan Saeed commented 4 weeks ago

    A fantastic overall description of a beautiful place - totally long to go there now. Would love to try some Italian cuisines. But thanks for this fantastic post.

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    Noorjehan Javed commented 4 weeks ago

    Thank you for consistently sharing your beautiful work and amazing photos from your travels. Great work Farah Kamal

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