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Florence: Palaces and Churches

Day 49: Palazzo Pitti, Brancacci Chapel, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio

semi-overcast 75 °F

We had another great, home-cooked breakfast in the apartment and hit the streets around 9:30. After our 5 museum entrances yesterday, we had already reached out "break even" on the Firenze Card! So we liked to think that today our museum entrances were free :) Our first stop was the Pitti Palace.

The Palazzo Pitti

The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It grew as a great treasure house as later generations amassed paintings, plates, jewelry and luxurious possessions.
We walked through the costume gallery, which contains a collection of theatrical costumes dating from the 16th century until the present. I'd hoped to see more pieces from the Medici era, but the collection was more focused on styles from the 1900s. The noteworthy pieces from the Medici time, however, are the burial garments worn by Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, and his wife Eleonora of Toledo.
Stephen and I took a quick stroll through the Boboli Gardens, which include a private amphitheater for plays to perform at the palace with an obelisk from Ramses II of Egypt.

The Brancacci Chapel

The chapel is sometimes called the "Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance" for its painting cycle, among the most famous and influential of the period. Masaccio's masterpiece is the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, for its vivid energy and unprecedented emotional realism.

Church of Santa Maria Novella

My mom advocated strongly to get the group to Santa Maria Novella, her favorite church from her time in Florence. We arrived to the plaza in front of the church, and discovered a bustling French food scene. Different stalls were dishing up boeuf bourguignon, alsatian potatoes, and mustard chicken - it was a great lunch stop!
After lunch, we continue through the plaza to Santa Maria Novella. The church, the adjoining cloister, and chapterhouse contain a store of art treasures and funerary monuments. Especially famous are frescoes by masters of Gothic and early Renaissance. They were financed through the generosity of the most important Florentine families, who ensured themselves of funerary chapels on consecrated ground.

Palazzo Vecchio

In 1299 the commune and people of Florence decided to build a palace that would be worthy of the city's importance, and that would be more secure and defensible in times of turbulence for the magistrates of the commune. Some years later, Duke Cosimo I de' Medici (later to become grand duke) moved his official seat from the Medici palazzo to the Palazzo della Signoria in 1540, signalling the security of Medici power in Florence. When Cosimo later moved to Palazzo Pitti, he officially renamed his former palace to the Palazzo Vecchio, the "Old Palace".
The palace gained new importance as the seat of united Italy's provisional government from 1865–71, at a moment when Florence had become the temporary capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Although most of the Palazzo Vecchio is now a museum, it is viewed as the symbol and center of local government; since 1872 it has housed the office of the mayor of Florence, and it is the seat of the City Council.

Stephen and I also climbed the 263 stairs up to the top of the tower, and were rewared with great views of the Duomo and Arno river. We hadn't planned on summiting, since we'd already taken a LOT of steps that day! However, as we wrapped up our tour of the main museum gallery we passed the tower entrance and there was no line. We talked ourselves into going up, and we're glad we did.


After putting our feet up at the apartment for a while, we ventured out for dinner. We had reservations for the 7:30 sitting at a restaurant some friends of my folks' recommended. They do 2 dinner seatings each night, one at 7:30 and one at 9:00, and rather than having your own table you sit at a group table. They serve a limited menu, and a bustling atmosphere. We shared our table with a family from St. Louis, also a mom & dad traveling with their daughter & spouse! We shared conversation across the table, as well as within our own family groups. For the first course we got tortellini in a meat sauce or chicken broth, and the mains were butter chicken and artichoke pie (like an omelette, kind of). It was really delicious, and a fun evening!
We talked back through the Piazza della Signoria on our way home, and all went to bed feeling great about our visit to Florence!

Posted by GenovevaLewis 02:51 Archived in Italy Tagged florence firenze palazzopitti brancacci santamarianovella palazzovecchio

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