Thursday, January 8, 2009

Visiting the Centre of Florence

At one end of this part of Florence is the main railway station-a rare example of modern architecture in the city centre. At the other end, a magnet for visitors and Florentines alike, is the Ponte Vecchio, the city's oldest bridge. It is lined with jewellery's shop, here since 1593, and presents a scene little changed since. Between these two focal points there is something to interest most people, from the frescoes of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Trinità to the awesome Palazzo Strozzi. Nearby is Piazza della Repubblica, originally laid out as part of the grandiose plans to remodel Florence when it was briefly the nation's capital. Most locals may consider it an eyesore, but the cafès here have always been very popular. This is also the part of Florence in which to shop, from the leather goods, silks and woolens of the Mercato Nuovo to elegant showrooms of the top couturiers in Via della Vigna Nuova and Via de' Tornabuoni. In the smaller streets off these, local artisans still continue Florence's proud tradition of craftsmanship, from stone cutting to restoration work.
Around Piazza della Repubblica.
Underlying the street plan of modern Florence is the far older pattern of the ancient Roman city founded on the banks of the Arno. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rectilinear grid of narrow streets lead north from the river Arno to the Piazza della Repubblica, once the site of the forum, the main square of the ancient Roman city. It later became the city authorities decided to tidy it up in the 1860s, building the triumphal arch that now stands in today's cafè- filled square. The most elegant Florence apartments are located here.
Ponte Vecchio.
The Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge-indeed, the oldest bridge in Florence was built in 1345. it was the only bridge in the city to escape being blown up during World War II. There have always been workshop on the bridge, but the butchers, tanners and blacksmiths who were here originally (and who used the river as a convenient rubbish tip) were evicted by Duke Ferdinando I in 1593 because of the noise and stench they created. The workshop were rebuilt and let to the more decorous goldsmiths, and the shops lining and over hanging the bridge continue to specialize in new and antique jewellery to this day.
Santa Maria Novella
The Gothic church of Santa Maria Novella contains some of the most important works of art in Florence. The church was built by the Dominicans from 1279 to 1357. Beside the church is a cemetery walled in with avelli (grave niches), which continue along the facade and the wall beyond. The cloisters form a museum. Here , the frescoes in the Spanish Chapel show the Dominicans as whippets – dominicanes or hounds of God-rounding up the “stray sheep”. The most important Florence hotels are located here.

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