Florence: Beyond the Duomo & David

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Florence: Beyond the Duomo & David
The 13th-century Santa Maria del Fiore (Our Lady of the Flower).
Photo by Joanne Rae Ramirez

Florence is the many-splendored city between Venice and Rome, the enduring crown of the Renaissance period; a garden of art, antiquities, edifices — and the best leather goods in the world.

Florence rose to economic and cultural pre-eminence under the Medicis in the 15th and 16th centuries. The jewels of Florence’s crown include the work of great masters such as Giotto, Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Michelangelo.

For carnivores, it is also home to the inimitable bistecca alla Fiorentina, the real thing in steaks.

If only to set eyes on the 13th-century Duomo, a trip to Florence is an absolute must in an Italian sojourn. The Duomo or the Santa Maria del Fiore is one of the largest churches in the world. Its facade is one of most jaw-dropping — though its interior is not as grand.

The 15th-century Palazzo Pitti. The palazzo is now the largest museum complex in Florence.

The name “Santa Maria del Fiore” (Our Lady of the Flower) is informed by the name of the city, “Florentia,” or “city of flowers,” “destined to bloom,” and to its emblem, the Florentine lily.

The facade and external walls are covered in white, red and green marble with geometric figures and stylized flowers, which from afar, look like giant mahjong tiles assembled like Lego blocks to build a church. But the Duomo is graceful and not angular, boasting all shapes and sizes in its features.

We hit the jackpot with our choice of Airbnb, Asso’s Place, which had a magnificent view of the Duomo.

My family and I would sip wine while drinking in all its grandeur.


The Palatine Gallery, the main gallery of Palazzo Pitti, contains over 500 Renaissance paintings.

The first two times I visited Florence, I beheld the iconic David — a copy — at the Plaza Della Signoria, another open-air museum in Florence. This time I was determined to see the “real” David inside the Accademia Gallery.

At the Accademia Gallery, you can admire from a short distance the perfection of the most famous statue in Florence and, perhaps, in all the world: Michelangelo’s David.

This 14-ft. “astonishing” Renaissance sculpture, depicting the Biblical hero David was created between 1501 and 1504. Originally commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence, David was sculpted with his slingshot, which is hardly visible. It is said Michelangelo wanted to focus more on David’s wisdom rather than his might.

One can admire the David under a skylight, which shows Michelangelo’s knowledge of the human anatomy — the veins, the muscles, the sinews, the “knobs” on the knees even. The curve of the taut torso, the flexing of the thigh muscle is motion in stone.

The David isn’t the only masterpiece of Michelangelo in the Accademia— there is also the Palestrina Pietà. This “other” Pieta has Michelangelo’s name inscribed on its base and the attribution to Michelangelo is accepted by most scholars. This sculpture group portrays the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist holding up the lifeless body of Christ.

After immersing in all the art at the museum, head to the nearby All’antico Vinaio for its renowned panini. Be prepared for another queue, though not as long as that for the Accademia.

Beyond Florence

The Palestrina Pieta by Michelangelo.

Florence is about two hours away by car from Pisa for the still wondrous Leaning Tower, and Siena. Just on the outskirts of Florence are various tony outlets — Gucci, Prada, Valentino among many high-end brands. (We hired a Filipino driver Joey Senicolas for this side trip to Pisa, Siena and the outlets. You may reach him at +39 327 5976717.)

From the Duomo to the David, Prada to panini, Florence is a garden of sights and shopping.



You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.

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