Arnolfo di Cambio – that was the name of the architect, whose work, perhaps, to the greatest extent determined the character of Florence at the turn of the XIII-XIV centuries. He began the construction of the grandiose Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Translated from Italian, it means “Saint Mary with a flower.” The gigantic array of the cathedral and the baptistery next to it with a bell tower, built according to the project of the famous Italian artist Giotto (1334), occupies almost the entire area, which, despite its considerable length (258 meters), seems very cramped. This colossal structure, surrounded by dense buildings, cannot be seen with one glance.
According to Beautyphoon, Arnolfo di Cambio began building the cathedral in 1294, but never completed it. To crown the structure with a giant dome fell to the lot of another great Florentine, the architect Brunelleschi, one of the main figures of the Italian Renaissance. Brunelleschi worked already in the 15th century, almost a century and a half after di Cambio. He professed completely different architectural ideas than his distant predecessor. Light openwork arcades, impeccable proportions – all Brunelleschi’s buildings breathe bright joy and optimism. The powerful dome, soaring high above the horizontal array of the cathedral, is not only clearly visible from afar – it hovers over the entire building of Florence and is perceived as the main architectural dominant of the city. This dome became an engineering prototype for the Cathedral of St. Petra in Rome. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – the third largest in the world after the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rome and St. Paul in London.
The octagonal baptistery of San Giovanni, standing very close to the cathedral, received its current appearance in the 11th century. Particularly noteworthy are the bronze doors, and the eastern doors, named by Michelangelo “Gates of Paradise”, are of the greatest value. Lorenzo Ghiberti worked on reliefs from 1425 to 1452, depicting ten episodes from the Old Testament. The apse, dome and marble floor of the baptistery are decorated with magnificent mosaics.
Not far from Piazza Santa Maria del Fiore there is another, no less important in its significance – Piazza Signoria, the civil center of the Republic of Florence. It is relatively small and has an L-shape, flowing around the main building, personifying secular power – the Palazzo Signoria, or, as it is also called, the Palazzo Vecchio. This is also the creation of Arnolfo di Cambio.
The construction of a building for the city administration (signoria) began in 1293, and in the 16th century. Duke Casimo I decided to rebuild it into his residence. The court architect Vasari created a cycle of frescoes: in the spacious hall, where the Great People’s Council used to meet, the deeds of the duke began to be glorified. The rest of the halls housed sculptures by Michelangelo, Giambologna, Donatello and Verrocchio.
The architectural charm of Piazza della Signoria is associated not only with the unmistakable proportions of the building and open space, but also with the beautiful creations of Italian sculptors with which it is decorated. This is the famous “David” by Michelangelo (a copy, and the original is in the Academy Gallery), standing in front of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio; sculptural group “Hercules” and the monumental fountain of Neptune. “Judith” by the famous Donatello and other smaller-scale sculptural compositions are located in the elegant Loggia del Lanzi, which is located to the right of the main facade of the Palazzo Signoria. At the very end of the 16th century, the unsurpassed collection of monumental sculpture in Signori Square was replenished with an equestrian statue of Cosimo Medici.
Next to the palace is the Uffizi Gallery. It was originally an administrative building built for Cosimo I by the architect Vasari in 1559-1560. Today it houses one of the largest art galleries in the world. The collection is placed in chronological order and gives an idea of the work of the Tuscan masters of painting (Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo). Here are collected works of masters of various Italian schools (Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Caravaggio), Germans (Dürer, Cranach) and Dutch (Rubens, Rembrandt). Unfortunately, the museum was badly damaged by a bomb detonated by terrorists in 1993. Some of the masterpieces turned out to be irretrievably lost, the other part is still under restoration.
Not far from Piazza della Signoria, next to the Uffizi Gallery, stands a bronze figure of a boar. According to tradition, a coin must be lowered from his tongue until it falls into the slot at his feet. After that, you can make a wish.
Another art gallery is located in Palazzo Pitti, located on the opposite bank of the Arno River. You can get there by the “Golden Bridge” Ponte Vecchio, the oldest in the city (1345). There are many commercial premises on it, which from the 16th century. are occupied exclusively by jewelry workshops and shops. In 1549, Cosimo I purchased the building begun by Brunelleschi from the Pitti family and commissioned the completion and expansion of it to the architect Ammannati. Palazzo Pitti became the largest palace in Florence. Today it is one of the largest museum complexes in the city.