The Retirees return to Florence – Palazzo Pitti and the other side of the Arno

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We were exhausted again and retired after dinner. Not to be kept down we rose early to walk to the other side of the Arno to visit Palazzo Pitti. This is the giant home created by Cosimo I for his wife who wanted a garden and then he wanted safe passage to work at Palazzo Vecchio on the other side of the Arno. We weren’t that interested to see another palace but I was interested to see how the Duke’s walkway connected as it had to pass across the top of the Ponte Vecchio, over private homes and into Palazzo Pitti. A gateway at the side of the palace allowed us to see the passage into the palace.

From the Palace, we could see the steeple of the Basilica di Santo Spirito so we took to the lanes past a cobbler’s shop and a man walking his dog (if you can call something the size of a rat a dog) and voila we entered Piazza Santo Spirito. The Basilica di Santo Spirito (“Basilica of the Holy Spirit”) is usually referred to simply as Santo Spirito, it is located in the Oltrarno quarter, facing the square with the same name. The interior of the building is one of the preeminent examples of Renaissance architecture. In 1252, the Augustinians started the church and the convent incorporating an old church of San Romolo in the complex. The convent had two cloisters, called Cloister of the Dead and Grand Cloister. The first takes its name from the great number of tombstone decorating its walls, and was built around 1600. The latter was constructed in 1564-1569.

The former convent also contains the great refectory (Cenacolo di Santo Spirito) with a large fresco portraying the Crucifixion over a fragmentary Last Supper (1360–1365). It is one of the rare examples of Late Gothic Art which can still be seen in Florence. Michelangelo, when he was seventeen years old, was allowed to make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent’s hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy that can be reached from the convent.  The only remaining wooden sculpture by Michelangelo. No photography permitted.

VvThus, ended our stay in Florence. The next morning we caught a taxi to the train station and a wait for the “fast train” to Rome occupied most of our morning, then the train trip (the train achieved a mere 250 klm per hour compared to the 430 klm per hour in Shanghai) to Rome and a quick turn around through the tunnel (which I wish we had known about when going to Fumacino from Civitavecchia) to catch the much more sedate train to Terni and a warm welcome from Robert at the train station (I think not – MIA). So a taxi to Cesi and dragging the suitcases up the steepest of streets in the village to be welcomed by Robert from his kitchen landing. An offer to help with the suitcases to drag them up the stairs and at last we can stand still and rest.

The Retirees return to Florence – Santa Maria Novella (pictured below) & Santa Maria Assunta of Badia Florentina and others

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From the top of Palazzo Veechio we had the benefit of the view over the old town we were able to identify some sites of the old town that we had not located. One was the church of Santa Maria Assunta of Badia Florentina. The Badìa Fiorentina is an abbey and church now home to the Fraternity of Jerusalem situated on the Via del Proconsolo in the centre of Florence. Dante supposedly grew up across the street in what is now called the ‘Casa di Dante’, rebuilt in 1910 as a museum to Dante. They were celebrating Palm Sunday so we were unable to enter camera in hand. Below you can see the bell tower and the door below in the courtyard.

With not much action there, we then walked across to the other side of the old town to Santa Maria Novella (near the train station) to view the museum. The outside of the church had something different about it and today I worked out that there is a sundial on its facade. There are two entrances and we chose the courtyard entrance passing family niches and some headstones to the ticket office.

On entering through those huge doors we found ourselves in a cavernous nave of the church. The vast interior is based on a basilica plan, designed as a Latin cross, and is divided into a nave, two aisles with stained-glass windows and a short transept. The large nave is 100 metres long and gives an impression of austerity. The interior also contains Corinthian columns that were inspired by Greek and Roman classical models. The stained-glass windows date from the 14th and 15th century and some stained glass windows have been damaged in the course of centuries and have been replaced. The one on the façade, a depiction of the Coronation of Mary, dates from the 14th century.

The pulpit has a particular historical significance, since it was from this pulpit that the first verbal attack was made on Galileo Galilei, leading eventually to his indictment. On the whole, it was well and truly worth the €5 entrance fee.

The courtyard of the former abbey is full of tombs and frescos dating back centuries and the former refectory included a version of the Last Supper