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Florence Architecture Walk with 4 Historic Sites
Jan 11 , 2011
Interested in seeing amazing Florence architecture while getting a good feel for the city? Enjoy this historic Florence architecture walk with plenty of views, restaurants, and shops along the way.
Florence is known for its breath-taking sights and beautiful architecture. Like in many Renaissance cities, Florence architecture evolved over time and infused Roman, medieval, and Renaissance styles. The Roman-planned grid layout of Florence makes it particularly friendly to pedestrians meandering its streets.
Experience Florence architecture first-hand on this 1.3-mile walk through this historic and celebrated city. Sites include the Medici Palace, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and the Pitti Palace.
1. Palazzo Medici Riccardi, The Medici Palace
It is impossible to tour Florence Architecture without seeing the mark of the most famous Florentine family, the Medici. Touring the Medici Palace will give you a good feel of the rich history of Florentine politics and art in the setting of the most famous Florentine family’s home.
During their time, the Medici was one of the richest families in the world, making their money from trade and banking. Cosimo il Vecchio, or Cosimo the Elder, launched construction on the Medici Palace in 1445, and ten years later, the architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo finally completed this marvel of Florence Architecture, combining traditional architecture with modern Renaissance designs. After Cosimo’s death in 1464, his family members continued to add to the architecture and art of the palace.
In the next several hundred years, the palace would switch owners, and the palace’s history is full of tales.
Today, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi is a symbol of the rich history of Florence architecture, art, and politics. In addition to the famous courtyard, frescoes, sculptures and furniture, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi Museum also houses exhibits.
2. Il Duomo, The Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, Piazza del Duomo
The dome, the cathedral’s most prominent feature, is a sign of great pride and accomplishment in Florence architecture. At the Il Duomo, you’ll be able to see breathtaking architecture and climb to the top of the building for a panoramic view of the entire city.
In the 13th Century, architect Arnolfo di Cambio began building the cathedral in a Gothic style. It wasn’t until the 15th Century, though, that the cathedral was completed with the egg-shaped dome, in a Renaissance style.
A famous engineer and pioneer of Renaissance architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi, won the competition to build the dome in 1418. He bewildered the Florence Architecture community by building a dome larger than any in the world at that time and did it without using scaffolding. Brunellseschi became a pioneer of Florence Architecture.
Today, the dome is yet another symbol of Florence’s rich history and a must-see attraction for tourists. Admission into the cathedral is free, but you must pay to ascent the 463 steps in the dome. As you climb, you’ll admire the frescoes of the Last Judgment, designed by Giorgio Vasari, a famous Italian painter and art history biographer. After you have made the climb, take a breather and enjoy a magnificent view of the entire city from the “lantern,” the uppermost part of the building on top of the dome. You’ll see first-hand why the Duomo changed Florence Architecture forever.
3. Ponte Vecchio, The Old Bridge
Continue on to Ponte Vecchio, the “old bridge,” which crosses over the Arno River and is the oldest of the 6 bridges in Florence and one of the most quintessential images of Florence architecture. You’ll be able to enjoy the many shops and great view of the Arno.
The Romans most likely built the original bridge here out of stone pillars and wooden planks. Unfortunately, in 1333 after it had been replaced by a stone bridge, a flood came through and wiped the entire Ponte Vecchio away. Twelve years later, in 1345, the Florentines rebuild the bridge and it still stands today.
Over the years, Ponte Vecchio has housed a variety of shops. In the 15th Century, butchers, grocers, and fishmongers had their shops on the bridge but Ferdinando I, who disliked the smell, replaced them with Goldsmiths (because of this, sometimes Ponte Vecchio is known as the “gold” bridge in Florence Architecture). Today, there are mostly jewelry shops. Even if you don’t intend to buy, it’s still fun to browse the windows and look at down to the Arno River. And if you are in the mood to buy something, make sure you’re fully aware of the quality of the product; all that glitters is not gold on this old bridge!
4. Palazzo Pitti, Pitti Palace
The Pitti Palace is the most elaborate palace in Florence. There are a myriad of museums and endless amount of spots to enjoy in the palace and throughout its gardens.
The Pitti Palace was left unfinished when its namesake, the Florentine merchant/banker, Luca Pitti, died in the mid-15th century. Cosimi I (a Medici) and his wife, the duchess Eleonora di Toledo, then acquired the property and transformed it into an official building for the King and special events. He hired architect Bartolomeo Ammannati to not only complete the Pitti Palace but also enlarge it. Under its renovation, the palace doubled in size and turned it into the most monumental building of Florence architecture.
After the death Gian Gastone de Medici in 1737, the art collection and property were bequeathed to the city of Florence. Today, the Pitti Palace is the largest museum in Florence and houses the original collections of the Medici, a modern art museum, a silver museum, a porcelain museum, and a costume gallery. Spend the day browsing the famous Florence architecture and art of the Pitti Palace; when you are done, head the Boboli Gardens behind the palace for a well-deserved rest.