One of the most charming cities in Italy, Florence (or Firenze) is the proud home of 25 percent of the most important works of art in the world and 50 percent of the Italian ones. Indeed, few places in the world can be proud to have generated so many geniuses: Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Dante and Machiavelli have all called Florence “home”.
When booking a Europe cruise that features Florence on its itinerary, make sure you take the time to explore some of the magnificent architectural wonders that are the result of the Renaissance cultural movement in Italy. Many ships will make a stopover at the nearest port of Livorno (about an hour and a half car ride from Florence) so that passengers can disembark and experience the beauty, culture, architecture, art and cuisine that this city has to offer. Other day trips offered will most likely include Pisa and Lucca which you will pass on your drive to Florence.
With a frontage of over 200 square meters, the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) is one of the most impressive monuments of Florence. Its construction began in 1458, according to the plans of Brunelleschi and it was intended for the banker Pitti. The palace houses several galleries, including the famous Palatine Gallery that brings together all the works of art acquired by the Medici in their famous private collection.
As its name suggests, Ponte Vecchio is the most ancient bridge in Florence and it dates back to 1345. Its first tenants, butchers and tanners, left their seats to jewellers and goldsmiths somewhere in the 14th century. One could never get tired of the quaint charm of this bridge, particularly because it was the only bridge of Florence not to have been destroyed during World War II. The covered, inhabited bridge over the Arno was used by the Medici to navigate between their palace and Palazzo Pitti without being in contact with the crowd.
The Church of Santa Maria Novella
The old church of Santa Maria Novella or St. Mary of the Vines was initially built in the ninth century, but around 1090 it was in such a state of disrepair that rebuilding it became necessary. The current exterior is the work of Leon Battista Alberti and Fra Jacopo Talenti, while the interior is home to Giotto’s “Crucifix”, Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle in the Tornabuoni Chapel and Masaccio’s “Trinità”.
Loggia della Signoria
The Loggia della Signoria, also called Loggia dei Lanzi, is located in Piazza della Signoria. An emblem of the Democratic Republic of Florence, this gallery was built between 1376 and 1382 by Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti. Today, visitors can admire many copies of Renaissance sculpture such as “The Rape of the Sabine Women”, “Hercules in Struggle against the Centaur of Giambologna” or “Perseus” by Cellini. Protected by its marble lions, the gallery is free to visit and it is open until late at night.
Florence is intrinsically associated with Renaissance and there is actually no way to visit the city without stumbling upon the wonderful buildings erected in that period, so if this is the sort of history that interests you, make sure that you try and fit it into your holiday itinerary – the option of a cruise may be just the thing.