The trip that I took this past weekend was one that I had been anticipating all semester. I was finally able to travel to Florence with my High Renaissance class, and it was everything I was expecting and more! It was only an hour and a half on a train, so it is very close and easy to get to from Rome.
Florence is the perfect city to go to if you are studying the Renaissance, simply because it is where the Renaissance began. Compared to Rome, Florence is a very young city with not as much history. None of its buildings date to anytime before the Middle Ages; there are no ruins whatsoever. Rome is a great place to be to study almost every period of history- from Ancient Rome to the Modern Era. I feel that if you want a more rounded perspective of history, one should study in Rome. However, if you want a stronger focus on the Renaissance, Florence is an amazing city to be in.
One of the best and most incredible examples of Renaissance architecture is the Duomo. Built by Filipo Brunelleschi in the mid 15th century, the Duomo is the most iconic building in all of Florence. It is famous for being the first ever free-standing dome that was not made from poured concrete. With my class, I also visited the Uffizi Gallery, which is the second oldest museum in the world, while the first oldest is the Capitoline Museum in Rome. The Uffizi Gallery is the most important museum in the world for Renaissance painting, as it houses the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, the Venus of Urbino by Titian, and the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci. We also visited the Museo del Bargello, the most important museum in the world for Renaissance sculpture, which was home to sculptures by Donatello and Michelangelo. But the most popular and well-known sculpture by Michelangelo is housed in the Academia, which is the David. When I first saw it, I didn’t realize how huge it was! It stands at 17 feet tall and is carved out of pure white marble. It was meant to go on the top of the Duomo, however it was so beautiful everyone wanted to keep it on ground level so it could be admired up close.
Florence is well-known for its leather district, where there are tons of little shops and stands that sell everything you could possibly imagine that is made from leather: bags, gloves, book covers, belts, jackets, wallets… and the list goes on and on. As a result, I ended up burning a slight hole in my wallet- it was so hard to resist all the beautiful leather!
I spent more money than I had intended not only because I couldn’t resist the leather, but because Florence is an expensive city in general. I was shocked when I had a sandwich and soda for lunch and it cost ten euros! In Rome, I could get the same lunch for 5 euro. Another surprise was how it cost money to go into all of the churches, whereas in Rome it doesn’t cost anything to simply go in and admire the church’s interior.
Another strong comparison that I made between Florence and Rome is that Florence is a lot smaller than Rome. Florence does not have a metro system, and basically every place is within walking distance. After being there for one full day, I already had a good sense of direction and could easily navigate around the city, whereas it took me a few weeks to become familiar with the streets of Rome. Florence is a beautiful city and I’m so happy I was able to visit there. With Rome now being my second home, I guess its natural for me to be making comparisons!