We hope that you are enjoying our series of articles and guest articles on Italian tourist attractions, covering the entire country except for its major cities. In a sense we have left the best for last. We will describe what to see in Italy’s great cities neighborhood by neighborhood. You may not realize it, but Florence is divided into 9 districts. And each and every one of these districts boasts its own sightseeing attractions. If you have time, visit them all. In any case, read these articles to help plan your trip to Florence. You may be in for some real surprises.
The Palazzo Pitti district of southwestern Florence lies across the Arno River from the heart of the city. This district is named for a mid-Fifteenth Century palace that passed into the hands of the Medici family a century later. It now houses many museums and galleries including the Gallery of Modern Art, the Palatine Gallery, the Argenti Museum, the Costume Gallery, the Coach Museum, the Ceramics Museum, as well as the Royal Apartments and the Apartments of the Duchess of Aosta. Let’s focus on The Gallery of Modern Art, a mere 30 rooms on the second floor of the Palace. It provides an extensive overview of paintings from neo-classicism to the 20th century, and expresses the evolution of art in Tuscany. For a more classical experience visit the Palatine Gallery with its masterpieces from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries. The list of its masters is quite long. Note that each room in the gallery is furnished with marble layers or Florentine mosaics.
The Boboli Gardens were designed for the Medici family after their purchase of the Palazzo Pitti. They were opened to the public some two hundred years later. As you walk through the gardens note the beautiful Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century statues, interspersed with Roman antiquities. The gardens total expanse is some 45 thousand square meters or about 11 acres.
North of the palace is the Church of Santo Spirito, originally destroyed by fire in the Thirteenth Century and rebuilt much, much later. Other district churches of interest include the Gothic Church of Santa Felicita, built over an Christian cemetery and Santa Maria del Carmine, which hosts the beautiful Brancacci Chapel. I don’t know if you have heard of Masaccio and Masolino, two Italian painters whose work decorates this chapel. It seems that Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci later visited this chapel to study Masaccio’s new rules of perspective. So if you like art and art history you should cross the river and take more than a peek into this chapel. For a different type of museum visit La Specola (The Observatory) in the Eighteenth Century Palazzo Rottigiani next to the Pitti Palace, part of the natural science faculty of Florence University. Stop by the zoological section and the anatomical section with realistic XVIII century wax models that highlight grotesque aspects of human physiology and disease.
The southwestern corner of this district hosts the Fourteenth Century Porta Romana, Florence’s largest and best preserved gate. Note the original iron doors and the Medici Family coat of arms. The northwestern San Frediano in Cestello neighborhood is the artisan's quarter, brimming with the shops of antiques dealers and restorers. and it is often associated with leather and wool industries. It too boasts a classic church and an ancient gate, both giving you a look into Florence’s historic past.And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Tuscany or other Italian wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.
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