The Retirees return to Florence – a Walking tour

We had a disappointing lunch (some Italian bread is made stale) a short rest and then back on the road again walking back to Piazza Santa Maria Novella arriving far too early for our tour – a miscalculation of the time needed to walk and our new knowledge on traversing Florence. What to do? A sign caught my eye. At one end of the Piazza was an old building we were to learn was originally a hospital and now an art gallery. It had a display on northern art – Estonia and the collection of Enn Kunila’s Collection including early 20th century Estonian artists (Ants Laikmaa, Elmar Kits, Villem Ormisson, Endel Koks, Nikolai Triik, and Herber Lukk) progressing to impressionism. The collection included a special section on Konrad Magi. I have included some photos of some of the pieces of Konrad Magi and in particular showing an image of the previous occupants of the building.

From here we walked across to the pavilion and met our guide. Our tour started at San Maria Novella and the Piazza. This church was called Novella (New) because it was built on the site of the 9th-century oratory of Santa Maria delle Vigne. When the site was assigned to Dominican Order in 1221, they decided to build a new church and adjoining cloister. Hence the name. The exterior of the church had a curious sundial on the front of the church. The church, the adjoining cloister, and chapter house contain a multiplicity of art treasures and funerary monuments. This had been home to a Dominican order of priests and friars which the guide described as the knights of San Maria who fought heretics for control of Florence. The Piazza which was the scene of many orations by the Dominicans over the centuries but know it is an open piazza with two obelisks supported by the Medici turtles.

We moved on to Via delle Belle Donne, the street of prostitutes where the heretics and Dominicans fought their battle and the column remembering their victory. We then walked to the Palsso belonging to one of Florence’s richest families the Strozzi. The construction of the palace was begun in 1489 by Benedetto da Maiano, for Filippo Strozzi the Elder, a rival of the Medici who had returned to the city in November 1466 and desired the most magnificent palace to assert his family’s continued prominence and, perhaps more important, a political statement of his own status. A great number of other buildings were acquired during the 1470s and demolished to provide enough space for the new construction. Filippo Strozzi died in 1491, long before the construction’s completion in 1538. Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici confiscated it in the same year, not returning it to the Strozzi family until thirty years later. The palace faces the historical Via de’ Tornabuoni the street with all the expensive brands in Florence. My photos include the sculpture by Henry Moore “Warrior with Shield” which had been intend for the Terrace of Saturn in Palazzo Vecchio moved to the Basilica of Santa Croce until 2015 when the Strozzi Foundation obtained it for Palazzo Strozzi

Our tour continued along to Piazza di Santa Trinita (one block away from Ponte Santa Trinita) where there is a church of the same name and a street ensemble entertaining us with rag time music. Our guide stated this was the only church in town that did not charge tourists an entrance fee. Beyond the piazza, we passed this extraordinary shop – the original supermarket. Unfortunately, my photo also captures one of our fellow tourists scratching her arse. Nearby is a church in a small piazza which claims to hold a relic – a piece of the cross. It was closed but I took the photo. Every tour has to include the Ponte Vecchio which is the oldest bridge standing in Florence (even the invading German Army did not damage the bridge). Formerly the home of butchers and bakers (who discarded their waste into the river), one of the Medicis (Cosimo Ist, I believe) drove them off the bridge and replaced them with the goldsmiths we see today. The Duke built a passage from Palazzo Pitti to Palazzo Vecchio (the seat of government) over the bridge to avoid assignation and did not like the smell. Thank you, Cosimo. My photos shows, the oldest building on the bridge and the sundial on top, the bank below with the rowing club entrance and the Duke’s passage running into Ufizzi.

We then ventured into Uffizi with Palazzo Vecchio in the background and onto the Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower and Baptistry. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore; in English “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower”, is the main church of Florence. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome. 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 Revival façade.

The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. The day finished in Piazza Republica where we had aperitifs and a chance to chat with our fellow travellers; two from UAE from the tour industry, a couple from Barcelona (Catalan separatists), and a young woman from Bristol. It turned out the Catalans and the UK girl had both been at a conference of illustrators in Bolonga and we encouraged some drawings from each.


That was enough walking for the day so we went to our chosen bar the Beer Hall club for dinner and made it into bed around 10.00 pm.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.