Liberal Arts Blog — Italy (Part VI): Florence: Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo

Liberal Arts Blog — Sunday is the Joy of Humor, Food, Travel, Practical Life Tips, and Miscellaneous Day

Today’s Topic: Italy (Part VI): Florence: Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo

Our tour of Tuscany began three weeks ago with quotes from Dante, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. Two weeks ago we covered Siena, home of the Piazza del Campo, the Palazzo Publico, and the Palio horse race and festival. Today, the Mecca of Tuscany, the capital of the Renaissance: Firenze (Florence). Today, the focus will be on an old bridge, an old government building, and a cathedral complex. Next time, specific works of art. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE PONTE VECCHIO — across the Arno, connecting the Uffizi Gallery to the Palazzo Pitti via the Vasari Corridor

1. The original bridge was built in 996 but was destroyed in a flood in 1117. The current bridge, constructed in 1345, was severely damaged in the great flood of 1966. Miraculously, it was the only bridge across the Arno that was spared by the retreating German army in 1944.

2. “A stone with an inscription from Dante .. records the spot at the entrance to the bridge where Buondelmonte de Bundelmonti was murdered by the Amidei clan in 1215, which began the urban fighting of the Guelfs and Ghibellines.”

3. “Butchers, tanners, and farmers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers.”

NB: In one of the most beloved soprano arias of all time “O Babbino Caro” the love-sick heroine threatens to throw herself off the Ponte Vecchio. (See fourth and fifth links below.)

THE PALAZZO VECCHIO — overlooking the Piazza della Signoria and the Loggia dei Lanzi

1. Original name: Palazzo della Signoria (the ruling body of the Republic of Florence). Other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, Palazzo Ducale. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke’s residence was moved across the Arno River to the Palazzo Pitti.”

2. Among those once imprisoned in the tower were Cosimo De Medici (1435) and the fanatical priest and (briefly) dictator of Florence, Girolama Savanarola (1498).

3. The centerpiece of the palace is the Salone Dei Cinquecento -first commissioned by Savanarola as a meeting place for the governing body of the city but then transformed into the court of Grand Duke Cosimo.

NB: The most famous story related to the Salone dei Cinquecento is this one: “Leonardo (Da Vinci) was commissioned in 1503 to paint one long wall with a battle scene celebrating a famous Florentine victory. He was always trying new methods and materials and decided to mix wax into his pigments. Da Vinci had finished painting part of the wall, but it was not drying fast enough, so he brought in braziers stoked with hot coals to try to hurry the process. As others watched in horror, the wax in the fresco melted under the intense heat and the colors ran down the walls to puddle on the floor. A legend exists that Giorgio Vasari, wanting to preserve Da Vinci’s work, had a false wall built over the top of The Battle of Anghiari before painting his fresco. Attempts made to find Da Vinci’s original work behind the Vasari fresco have so far been inconclusive.”

THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL — The Dome of Brunelleschi, the Bell Tower Of Giotto, the Baptistry with the Bronze Doors (Ghiberti and Pisano) dubbed by Michelangelo “The Gates of Paradise”

1. The octagonal Baptistry (below) is the oldest part of the Cathedral complex. It was constructed between 1059 and 1128. Don’t miss the mosaic-covered interior of the Baptistry’s dome.

2. The free-standing bell tower was built between 1334 and 1359. The 67 year old Giotto was the original architect but he had completed only one story when he died three years later. The next three levels were completed by Andrea Pisano with construction delayed by the Black Death. The fifth was completed in 1359 by Francesco Talenti.

3. Construction of the Cathedral itself was begun in 1296. The Dome was completed in 1436.

NB: “The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink, bordered by white, and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic façade by Emilio di Fabris.”

Ponte Vecchio — Wikipedi

Arno — Wikipedia

1966 flood of the Arno — Wikipedia

Puccini: “O mio babbino caro” / Fleming · Marin · Berliner Philharmoniker

Uffizi — Wikipedia

Florence Cathedral — Wikipedia

Giotto’s Campanile — Wikipedia


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20


Anything miscellaneous to share? Best trip you ever took in your life? Practical life tips? Random facts? Jokes? Or, what is the best cartoon you have seen lately? or in the last 10 years? or the last 50? Or what is your favorite holiday food? Main course? Dessert? Fondest food memories? Favorite foods to eat or prepare?

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind a memory that might otherwise disappear. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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