Firenze Day 2: from Michelangelo’s Cappelle Medicee to the top of the Florence Cathedral Dome

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The highlight of my second day in Firenze was surely the climbing of Florence Cathedral Dome. But first things first. The day started in sweetness. Literally.

Breakfast among flowers

I went for breakfast at a concept-café/restaurant called La Menagère. Industrial materials, vintage objects and design pieces combine to obtain a unique atmosphere. Once you enter, you can see crispy croissants, inviting slices of cheescake and tempting muffins awaiting for you. Yummy. I suggest you to take a seat not in this first room though. Simply cross the threshold of the adjacent room and you’ll be in a place with a wonderful décor, full of charme. Partly restaurant, partly kitchen supplies shop, partly flower shop. So, while the florist in front of me was preparing a beautiful bouquet, I had my croissant (delicious), fantasizing about the bouquet’s future story (a birthday present, a proposal, an anniversary… who knows). Kind service, not quick but I had time. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth for the beauty of the ambience. You can come just for a coffee anyway.

La Menagère
La Menagère

Michelangelo’s Chapel

After breakfast I headed to the Cappelle Medicee, on the rear of the San Lorenzo Church. To me this is a little gem not to be missed, one of the true treasures of Firenze. It consists of three parts:

  1. Crypt (at the entrance, with tombs, shrines and relics)
  2. the lavish Princes Chapel (1600s), covered in dark marbles and preserving the tombs of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany
  3. Sagrestia Nuova, built by Michelangelo (1520s)

Sagrestia Nuova

On a side you can see the statue of the Virgin with child, plus Saints Cosma and Damiano (by Michelangelo’s disciples). On the right and left sides, Michelangelo built two monumental tombs, dedicated to:

  • Giuliano de’ Medici: the statue of Giuliano, duke of Nemours, in proud posture, is accompanied by the statues of Night and Day (Notte e Giorno)
    Giuliano de' Medici, Night and Day
    Giuliano de’ Medici, Night and Day
  • Lorenzo de’ Medici, duke of Urbino, in a mournful pose, has Twilight and Dawn as companions (Crepuscolo e Aurora).
    Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino, Twilight and Dawn
    Lorenzo de’ Medici, duke of Urbino, Twilight and Dawn

Under the altar are also buried Lorenzo il Magnifico and his brother Giuliano. Michelangelo never finished the work, but left Florence for good and went to Rome.

Nerbone’s Lampredotto at San Lorenzo Market

After this visit I went to Nerbone at San Lorenzo Market to try his famous Lampredotto panino. I had already tasted it the day before, but I gave it another try. I hope no Florentine will take offense. I can’t say I disliked Lampredotto, but I can’t say I liked it either. 😀 Too strange a taste for me. I prefer Tuscan chicken liver paté.

Lampredotto preparation video:

Anyway, I liked my experience at Nerbone. Obviously, there was a little queue there too. I dare say that, for a lampredotto neophyte like me, any kiosk would do. So probably it would be better do not bother waiting in line at a particular stand.

Nerbone
Nerbone

Il grande Museo del Duomo

Next step, Il grande museo del Duomo. Huge complex, cause it includes: Cathedral, Baptistery, Cathedral Dome (only by reservation), Museum and Bell Tower. All info at museumflorence.com

Duomo Museum, Florence
Duomo Museum, Florence

Florence Cathedral Dome experience

I started big, with the Dome, as you may have seen on my Facebook Page. It was quite difficult: over 400 steps, walkway on the interior side of the dome both on the way back and forth. So a resistance test for couch potatoes (me) and for vertigo sufferers (also me). While I was half way, walking fast on the walkway at 91 meters I was like: Oh my god, I remember studying Burnelleschi… this is self supporting. Will it hold? Panic.

If you want to laugh you can see me in distress climbing Florence Cathedral Dome in this short video 😀

That’s why I was so proud of myself when I reached the top. Even if shaking, I utterly enjoyed the view. And it is one of my favourite and cherished memories of the days in Firenze. Mi raccomando, you have to book the Cupola ascent in advance! It’s really hard to find a ticket on the very day of your arrival.

Museum

The Museum preserves some true masterpieces:

  • two original doors of the Baptistery (amazing, enormous, shiny): Northern Door and Paradise Door
    Paradise Door
    Paradise Door
  • some statues by Donatello (San Giovanni, Abacuc and the astonishing Maddalena)
  • the two famous Cantorie (one by Luca della Robbia and one by Donatello)
  • the terrace with a surprising view on the dome. It was there that I realized where I was only a short time before. Yes. That high! Wow!
    Florence Cathedral Dome
    Florence Cathedral Dome
  • Pietà Bandini by Michelangelo. The sculpture depicts Jesus supported by Madonna and by the disciple Nicodemus, in a dramatic and spiritual composition. The face of Nicodemus is a self-portrait of Michelangelo, who was almost 80 at the time. As other artworks of that period, this presents unfinished parts (which I find particularly fascinating, nearly contemporary style). Moreover, Michelangelo himself caused a damage to this very statue. Dissatisfied by the marble piece, in a rage burst, he hit Christ’s left leg with the chisel.
Pietà Bandini by Michelangelo
Pietà Bandini by Michelangelo

Cathedral

Quick facts

  • When it was finished in 1400s, it was the biggest church in the world.
  • It is now the third, after San Pietro (Rome) and Saint Paul (London).
  • It is named after the Madonna del fiore, flower, (meaning Florence, at the time spelled Fiorenza).
  • The facade was built as it is now only in 1800s.
  • The interior is simple and austere. You can see many decorations at the Museum, though.
  • Along the naves I spotted a famous painting portraying Dante with the Divine Comedy and also two Equestrian Monuments I remember I studied at high school.
  • The dome interior is decorated with the Last Judgement by Vasari and (after his death) by Zuccari and collaborators.
Florence Cathedral Dome Frescoes
Florence Cathedral Dome Frescoes

Baptistery of San Giovanni Battista

Built starting from the IV century, consecrated in the XI century. After becoming the official Florence’s baptistery in 1128, the works for its decorations began. They consisted of the marbles of the facade, the three amazing doors (a huge illustrated bible) and lastly the mosaics of the interior depicting the Last Judgement.

Bell Tower

It is considered the most beautiful campanile in Italy. But… I only admired from the outside, cause I wouldn’t have been able to climb another 414 steps. We all call it Giotto’s campanile. But actually Giotto only started the works. After his death other two artists continued the work, Pisano and then Talenti. The campanile is richly decorated by bas-reliefs and sculptures (you can see the originals in the Museum, and they’re wonderful).

Duomo Museum, Florence
Duomo Museum, Florence

Did you know that… During the initial phase of the works, a man from Verona said that Florence could not afford such an expensive decoration. The Signoria was so offended that imprisoned the man for two months. After the release, the Veronese was led to see the opulence of the city treasury. The Florentines showed him that they could afford not only the campanile’s decorations, but that of the entire city.

Viva Vivoli gelato!

After all these visits I recovered a bit by eating a gelato at Vivoli. Oh my! It was as good as I remembered. Supreme chocolate. A relaxing pause at the hotel and then out again.

You have to know that a friend of mine (whom I see in Padova only once in a while), noticing my photos from Firenze on Instagram, texted me to ask me: Are you really in Firenze? So am I. He also told me that he went at Vivoli, too, after seeing my pic. Luckily he was satisfied by the gelato.

Even if I enjoy alone time, I was happy to meet a friend away from Padova. It’s a small world, eh? The next two days the Artigianato e Palazzo exhibitions awaited me. But have still a couple of things I would like to see in Firenze. So, I know I will go back one day.

View from Florence Cathedral Dome
View from Florence Cathedral Dome

A presto, Firenze!

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