My Trip To Europe. Day 16. Sunday, October 19. Florence

Today I spent the first full day in Florence, and got educated on Renaissance architecture and the Medicis and (oh yeah, almost forgot) got to see Michaelangelo’s David.

The Coins of the Day are issues of Marcus Aurelius.

Coins of the Day: Marcus Aurelius  161 – 180 CE

Marcus Aurelius was the last of the “Five Good Emperors” or Adoptives.  He reigned from 161 to 180 CE.  His best known pop culture appearance is at the beginning of the movie Gladiator; he’s the kindly old emperor at the beginning, who decides not to leave the throne to his natural son Commodus.  Actually to the best of my knowledge that didn’t actually happen.  It is true that making sure Commodus didn’t accede would have been a very good thing.  Commodus (180-192) was a disaster, and many point to 180 CE as the absolute high point of the Roman Empire.

Is it a coincidence that Commodus was the first emperor in quite some time that had not been adopted?  Perhaps, if one undertakes to set up an absolute monarchy, succession should never pass to natural offspring.

19-001 19-002Denarius of Marcus Aurelius, reverse a personification of Pax (Peace).  From the inscription (TRPXX, his 20th term as tribune), it appears this coin was minted in 166 CE.

19-003 19-004

Sestertius (1/4 Denarius) of Marcus Aurelius, reverse a personification of Victory.  The inscription reads TRPXXI, his 21st term as tribune, which narrows the date down to 167 CE.

 19-005 19-006

Denarius of Faustina the Younger, Wife of Marcus Aurelius, who died in 175 CE.  Yes, Rome would put family members of the emperor on their coins as well.  She is called Faustina the younger because she was the daughter of Faustina the Elder, wife of Antoninus Pius.  (Romans often named daughters after mothers, much as we often do with sons.)


We met our guide, Paola, at the Piazza della Repubblica, reasonably centrally located (and a ten-fifteen minute walk on level terrain from my sauna-hotel).

We were outfitted with radios, so hearing Paola wasn’t an issue, though her mic was very good at picking up street cleaning machinery if it was anywhere nearby.  But the real advantage is you can, if you see something interesting a few feet away, walk over and look at it and not lose the thread of what she’s talking about.

The prominent architectural feature here, at least to the uneducated eye, is this edifice…   19-007

Which was built in 1895.  Way outside of the Renaissance timeframe.  But we did make use of this map, and it shows how compact Florence is.  My hotel is just off the bottom edge.  Santa Maria Novella from yesterday is also pointed out.



We then walked back the way I came.  This, if memory serves, is a prototypical bit of Renaissance architecture, three floors, clean lines.


The interior is actually an atrium.19-010


19-010aNext stop was the Chiesa di Santa Trinita (arrow on the right), which is loaded with frescoes from the 14th and 15th centuries.

19-011 19-012 19-013 19-014 19-01519-016

Then on to Palazo Davanzati for a house in a somewhat more medieval mode, built in the late 1300s.  This is characterized by steep staircases, high ceilings, and a narrow footprint.  The owner lived on the second floor (er, what Europeans call the first floor), others lived higher up and had to climb more stairs.  (Apparently only with the invention of the elevator did “higher up” begin to equate to higher status.)

19-016a 19-017 19-018

Dining hall:19-019 19-020 19-021


The floor was tiled with plain ol’ terracotta, but they managed to make some intricate designs with it.  If this had been available when I built my place I might have been tempted.  It’s just as well, as the porcelain tile I did end up using is a lot more durable.19-022

More vertigo19-023


The upper walls are decorated with a mural depicting a 13th century French story, “Chatelaine de Vergy.”19-025


Then over to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge across the Arno River.  However, the bridge itself is built up on both sides and it doesn’t seem like a bridge.  It looks like any other street in Florence, complete with people selling prints of art laid out on the pavement (apparently illegal to both sell and buy, 1000 euro fine).  If a cop ever shows, these pavement merchants can scoop up their wares in about two seconds flat, and, apparently it isn’t a crime for them to possess the items (a tourist on the other hand, would get hit with that fine).  A law better designed to be evaded by people who know about it can’t be imagined (which in this case is a mitigating factor); unfortunately tourists don’t know about the law and remain at hazard from it.



There’s one break in the buildings halfway across the bridge and I got this picture down the River Arno.19-026

Crossing the river we came to the Palazzo Pitti.  This was originally built by Luca Pitti, a banker, in the 1400s but later became the residence of the Medicis, i.e., the Dukes of Tuscany.

This is one of those times a panoramic setup would be handy; this is less than half of it.  But note the same Renaissance architecture I pointed out much earlier.19-027

At which point our morning tour ended.

The afternoon tour started with the Galleria dell’Accademia, which contains a bunch of interesting paintings that surely any art museum would be overjoyed to show:

19-028 Madonna and Child, the Young St. John and an Angel, c1543-48 by Francesco de’ Rossi

19-029The Trinity and Sts. James the Great, Augustine, Phillip and Crispinus

19-030Allegorical Figure

19-031St. Zenobius raises a boy from the dead.

And sculpture:19-032

And NOBODY CARES about any of it.

Because it also has this.

19-033 19-034 19-03519-036

Books have been written on this piece by Michelangelo, and certainly my pictures don’t do it justice.


Our last stop was the Compless Mediceo Lorenziano, this utterly plain looking facade.19-037


Which is incredibly well decorated inside; the Medicis could command the services of some serious artistic talent, and poured their money into this church.

19-038Even the stonework verges on gaudy, once you tear your eyes away from the paintings and look at it.


At some point we entered the Medici Chapel, and that too is lavishly decorated, stonework and sculpture.

19-039 19-040 19-041 19-042

And that ended the afternoon tour.

Tomorrow is a day with limited options, since all state-run museums in Italy are closed on Mondays.  But not every museum is state-run.

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