If you’re like me or millions of other tourists each year, you’re going to see a lot of statues in Italy. Not only statues, but buildings and things with paint on them as well. And sure, they’re pretty neat, but there comes a time when it would be nice to actually know something about all those great human achievements and appreciate them to some degree. With this goal, I ventured out on my second free tour with Walks of Italy in the many-bridged city of Florence with my energetic guide, Paul.
My excellent guide, Paul.
We started our day with David. Did you know that if you look really closely, you can actually see the individual drill holes that were used to create David’s irises and curls of hair? Or that everything from his beautiful butt to his humongous right hand were crafted to maintain a balanced sculpture and prevent tipping or breakage?
The Accademia does not allow pictures so this is an exact replica in the Piazza Della Signoria
My favorite fact of the day was actually about Columbus. Whenever someone talks about Columbus, I immediately get suspicious. He has to be one of the historical figures most surrounded by myths and half-truths. This one though, seems to be true. Christopher Columbus’s crew brought syphilis from the Americas back to Europe. Over the next several hundred years it would kill millions in Europe, taking a notably heavy toll on the nobility.
I’m not clear on the details. Could be syphilis victims.
I was also happy to learn about the Medici crest which, if you know to look for it, can be found all over the streets of Florence and even in the Vatican Museum.
Medici door motif (The dots in the middle) in the Vatican.
We ventured into the famous Duomo which readers of the new Dan Brown book will know is named after its impressive dome. Critics of Dan Brown will know that this is wrong and ‘duomo’ just means cathedral.
The front of the cathedral
Inside we saw boring white walls which first arose during the protestant reformation when decadent decorations were going out of style. Unlike many churches which were whitewashed and could later be restored, the frescoes in the Duomo were actually chiseled off the walls. In the basement I saw the remnants of the hundreds of years of churches that were were built on the site before construction on the Duomo was started in 1296. There were even floor levels from Roman times.
A color coded model of 10 different construction periods
We wandered over to the Piazza della Signoria which housed the David for hundreds of years and now has a near perfect reproduction. It was also covered in swastikas in 1941 for a visit from Hitler and it was a prime filming location for the film Hannibal. A lot of important events in Florentine history have taken place in this square.
The Palazzo Vecchio, Hannibal’s preferred location for hanging
Our tour ended on Florence’s most famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, which was the only one of the city’s bridges not destroyed in World War II. It supports the Vasari Corridor which is a kilometer-long hallway that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. It was supposedly built so that Cosimo I de’ Medici wouldn’t have to share a road with commoners when he wanted to go see his wife. It houses the world’s largest collection of self portraits, but only 30 visitors are allowed in per day.
Part of the Vasari Corridor
If you’re interested in this experience with Walks of Italy, check it out here. It’s €54 per person, and lasts 3 hours.
Disclaimer: Walks of Italy sponsored our tour. However, all opinions remain our own.