sabato 20 giugno 2009

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Secrets of Firenze

Tour Itinerary

Sean David Burke 2009


Thank you for your interest in the "Secrets of Firenze" Tour. 

The Tour is my personal reflection on the city as a place both of historical significance and of vibrant contemporary energy and artistry.  The choices of places to visit are personal choices.  While we will pass by and comment on some of the 'major attractions' of Florence, such as the Duomo and the Bargello, the value of this tour is in allowing greater appreciation of aspects that might easily be missed by tourists on a tight schedule.  It is a tour that delights in the small, the quirky, the exquisite and the fascinating things that exist 'just around the corner from' the monuments that everyone always sees. 

The tour is a self-guided walking tour with two options.  The first takes about 45 mins and the second (an extension of the first) takes about 1 hr 15 mins, travelling at a leisurely pace.  It is aimed at adults, and interested young adults, from about 14 years up.  Children may find it a little difficult.  Please consider wearing a hat if it is sunny and take some water to drink along the way.

Print this itinerary, or transfer it to your mobile electronic device, and wander down to the Duomo when you are ready.

We begin at the base of the steps with our backs to the central doors of the Duomo, facing the golden doors of the Baptistry;




Stand between the Duomo and the Baptistery, facing the golden doors of the Baptistry


The 'Gates of Paradise'

The Baptistry dates to the 4th century and is one of the oldest standing buildings in Florence.  The Cathedral was placed to face it in the 13th century.


Let your eyes follow the line from the top of the Baptistry to the base of the doors and then turn and follow the line up the centre of the Duomo, and return.


Ghiberti 'won' a completion to design the doors, which was also entered by Donatello and Brunelleshi and others.

..Actually, if you (later) go to the Bargello and find the competition panels (on the first floor, above the entry), you might agree with my judgement and that of my daughter, Bonnie, then 8 years, that the panel by Brunelleshi is superior.  Perhaps the course of history would have been different if Ghiberti had not prevailed.  It took him 28 years to complete.


The doors constitute an iconic centre to the city.


Turn left and walk all around the Baptistry and to the traffic signal at the north-west corner of Piazza San Giovanni. 


On the way, stop at the southern side of the baptistery and see the doors by Pisano, which originally had the prestige position on the east side, facing the Duomo.


You may also like to see the doors on the north side, also by Ghiberti, his 'warm-up' for the golden doors. They took 21 years. There he has followed the layout of Pisano.


Careful crossing this road, the busiest one on the tour.

We cross Via Dei Cerretani on the green signal and walk north up Borgo San Lorenzo


You will come to the Piazza and Cathedral of San Lorenzo.  This is a beautiful church worth visiting (later) to see the frescoes on the concave of the dome, especially the one in the northern corner, which is superbly three-dimensional.

Continue up Via Dei Ginori, then left on Via Taddea


Via Taddea is a good place to stop and ponder why the local authorities have not managed to deal with the graffiti problem.  Some graffiti, of course, is art.

There is a toilet on the left.

Turn left at Hotel Botticelli and proceed down Via Rosina.


Pause at the end of Via Rosina.  The  dome you can see from here is the dome of San Lorenzo, not the Duomo.  Before you is the piazza of the Mercato Centrale, also known as Mercato San Lorenzo.  At night it is a popular al fresco eating spot.

Turn right and proceed with the market building on your left.


During this tour we avoid the street market that takes up most of San Lorenzo.

On your right you will notice many kebab shops and African and Asian grocery stores.  Firenze is an international city.

Continue toward the Oviesse sign, by crossing Via Panicale and going down Via Chiara. Turn left at Via Nazionale.



Via Nazionale will take you to the train station.  Not now.

Walk two blocks and turn left on Via Faenza


Via Faenza is my favourite street in Florence.  Behind us, across Via Nazionale and halfway down is Ostello Archi Rossi, the best youth hostel around, and at the very end, a great Indian Kebab shop.  In front of us...


Alice's Masks

A little way ahead on the left you will see a shop with some nice greenery growing around the door.  This is Alice's Masks, the business of Agostino and Alice Dessi.

This shop is a living museum of art and beauty.  Inside you will be able to see the various designs that have been originated by these artists over the decades as well as to see them in the process of creation.

If you wish to buy a mask, I suggest you come back later to look as it will otherwise make the tour much longer.  It took me weeks to choose a mask!  Do mention me to Mr Dessi and show him this itinerary.






Continue down Via Faenza


On the right, the Church of San Jacopo 1206, originally a templar church. Then, by contrast, Toscanet, the cleanest and maybe the fastest internet cafe in Florence.  A little further, the new Asian masala mini mart.  It's nice to find Indian sweets and spices sometimes, even in Florence.

Come to the Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini


On the left, you will see that the city also has problems dealing with the amount of rubbish created here every day.

Continue across and down Via Dei Conti.  Take the right fork at the three wooden doors.


On the left on Via Dei Conti, notice Ceramica Ricceri at number 14.  There are many ceramic shops in Florence and this is one that takes care to honour traditions.



After the fork, on the right, when you get to the little Via Dall'all Oro, find the stencil graffiti on the right wall that says Big Luciano Santo Subito, and wonder why anyone would make a stencil and call for sainthood for Luciano Pavarotti.

Back at Via Dei Cerratani, turn left.  The Duomo is ahead of you, the train station behind. Walk about 20m to the crosswalk, cross carefully and turn left.



Turn right at Piazza Dell' Olio, which is really a street not a piazza, right at Via Dei Pecori and then across the crosswalk to go under the colonnade of Via Brunelleschi. Cross Via Tosinghi and continue.


The colonnade, and much of Florence, is inhabited by buskers and beggars.

The buskers are sometimes very good.  I like to encourage the good ones and discourage the ones that I wouldn't like to see again.  It would be good if the city prohibited the use of electronic amplifiers.

The beggars are mostly Romany, and apparently often related to each other.   They add to the colour of the city and fulfil an ancient archetype absent in many cities in the new world.  Whether you give them anything or not, please do not be dismissive or disrespectful of them.  Be friendly.

Pause at the Arch of Piazza Republicca


Look at the buildings that can be seen as you stand under the arch.  They are mostly of a certain age and style (19th century).  We will have a comparison in a few moments.

Turn right and proceed down Via Degli Strozzi


At the first intersection, look to your left down Via Dei Sassetti.  At the end is the Palazzo Davanzati.  We will be there in a minute.

Cross Via Dei Sassetti and go up to Piazza Degli Strozzi and enter the piazza.


The Palazzo Strozzi has many exhibitions, often with free entry.

Walk to the south with Palazzo Strozzi on your right.


On the left is the Odeon Theatre, a beautiful theatre in an old palazzo which shows many English language movies.

Continue down the narrow Via Monalda to Via Porta Rossa and turn left.


Porta Rossa means red door, and there is one in front of you.  If you turned right here instead of left it would take you to the major fashion houses on Via Dei Tornabuoni.  Resist the urge.



Stop at the Palazzo Davanzati.