Piazza della Signoria

The Piazza della Signoria has been the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century with the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It was the scene of great triumphs, such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the Bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola, who was then himself burned at the stake here in 1498 after he was denounced by the Inquisition as a heretic. A marble circle inscription on the piazza shows the location where he was burned.

The sculptures in Piazza della Signoria bristle with political connotations, many of which are fiercely contradictory. The David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) by Michelangelo was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance of the tyrannical Medici.

Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus (1534) to the right of the David was appropriated by the Medici to show their physical power after their return from exile. The Nettuno (1575) by Ammannati celebrates the Medici’s maritime ambitions and Giambologna’s equestrian statue of Duke Cosimo I (1595) is an elegant portrait of the man who brought all of Tuscany under Medici military rule.

Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral is the heart of the city, both geographically and emotionally. It’s the pride of Florence, and one the most impressive churches in the world.  If you only have an hour to visit, spend it in Piazza Duomo and the surrounding streets. If you have more time, climb the dome for a breathtaking view of the city.

Florence Cathedral has been a symbol of grandeur since the time of its construction. Easily the largest church of its time, it was intended as a way to publicise the city’s wealth and power, and stand out from the cathedrals of rival cities Siena and Pisa.

This phenomenal church can seem almost too big. It towers above the narrow streets of the city centre, and is clearly visible from every direction, including the surrounding hills.

From up-close the cathedral of Florence is a feast for the eyes. It has three apses, crowned by miniature copies of the major dome and is flanked by the magnificent Gothic bell tower by Giotto. The marble facade is more recent. It was only finished in the 19th century, a stunning example of the Neo-Gothic style.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the piazza’s crowning glory. Although only a third as high as the Washington Monument, it was a miracle of medieval engineering, probably the tallest bell towers in Europe.

With 207 columns ranged around eight stories, Tower of Pisa looks like a massive wedding cake knocked precariously askew by a clumsy giant guest. The construction of Tower of Pisa began in August 1173 and continued for about 200 years due to the onset of a series of wars. Till today, the name of the architect is a mystery. Leaning Tower of Pisa and CathedralThe leaning Tower of Pisa was designed as a circular bell tower that would stand 185 feet high. It is constructed of white marble.

The tower has eight stories, including the chamber for the bells. The bottom story consists of 15 marble arches. Each of the next six stories contains 30 arches that surround the tower. The final story is the bell chamber itself, which has 16 arches. There is a 297 step spiral staircase inside the tower leading to the top. The top of the leaning tower of Pisa is about 17 feet off the vertical. The tower is also slightly curved from the attempts by various architects to keep it from leaning more or falling over.

Many ideas have been suggested to straighten the Tower of Pisa, including taking it apart stone by stone and rebuilding it at a different location. In the 1920s the foundations of the tower were injected with cement grouting that has stabilized the tower to some extent. Until recent years tourists were not allowed to climb the staircase inside the tower, due to consolidation work.

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