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Monday, October 25, 2010

Florence: Little Details To Discover

Statue of Perseus, Piazza della Signoria, Flor...Image via WikipediaAuthor: Stefano Becheroni
Travelers visiting Florence for the first time are so overwhelmed by the beauties of this city that it is hard for them to deviate from the standard tourist routes. They must not miss the Duomo, S.Croce or Piazza Signoria, to name just a few. Therefore they may hardly find the time to discover all the little details and curiosities of a city so full of history and stories. This is why we have decided to reveal some of the best spots that curious tourists can enjoy without going too far from the main and most popular attractions of Florence.
Right next to the Loggia dei Lanzi, just off Palazzo Vecchio, there is a monument
known worldwide: Perseo. The marvelous bronze statue was made in 1545 by Benvenuto Cellini, an eccentric, talented Florentine goldsmith and sculptor who was best known for his fine sense of humor. Once in front of the statue, walk around it and look at the back of Perseo's head. Look closely in the backlight and you will see a gloomy, bearded face wearing a helmet; that's Benvenuto Cellini himself! A really weird place for a self-portrait!

Let's go closer to Palazzo Vecchio now. Walk to the right corner of the building, stop there and look closely: you will see a human profile engraved on the wall. A mysterious face that created one of the most popular Florentine legends. It is believed that this face was engraved by the 'father' of the David and of the Universal Judgment: Michelangelo Buonarroti. There are many versions of this anecdote. According to the most popular one, the artist was standing in Piazza Signoria one day when he suddenly saw an 'enemy', a man who owed him a lot of money and who had been condemned to death by hanging in the Loggia dei Lanzi. The unfortunate man was condemned to have his hands and head tied to a wood board and to hang- still alive- in front of an angry crowd for a certain amount of time before being executed.

Michelangelo, who apparently could not stand him, asked a guard how long the torture would last. The answer must have dissatisfied him, as he decided to engrave the face of the poor man on the wall ( leaning against the wall and engraving it without even looking at it) so that every Florentine would remember the hated man forever.

Another version of the same legend says that the man engraved on the wall was only someone who was boring Michelangelo with his never ending talks. Michelangelo, then, engraved his face on the wall (again, without even looking at what he was doing) while pretending to be listening to him. Whatever the correct version of this legend, Michelangelo could engrave a wall with no need to view his subject.

As we have seen, Florentines are formidable narrators of anecdotes that, being passed on over the centuries, contributed to the creation of a curious and fun collective memory. They often talk about the daily life of popular characters of that time, mostly artists and writers, people that are usually thought of as serious and constantly inspired. These tales make us think of them as humane and help us relate to them.

So now, after Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo, it is the turn of Dante Alighieri.

Between Piazza delle Pallottole and Via dello Studio, precisely at 54 Piazza del Duomo, you will find a half hidden marble plate, with a sentence engraved upon that reads 'Dante's stone'. According to the legend, there used to be a stone right in that spot where Dante used to sit to think, write and admire the early works of the Duomo. Once, a chatty merchant who was passing by asked Dante what his favorite food was. Dante was absorbed in his thoughts (which we imagine to be absolutely poetic, of course) and after a while, he replied: 'Boiled eggs', without adding any other words or looking at the man.

The merchant, who saw that Dante was too absorbed to chat with him, left him to his own reflections and walked away.

Some months later, he went back to Florence and was surprised to see Dante still sitting on the same stone. He got close to him and asked him 'What with?'. Dante, who was not a very talkative man but certainly a man with an astonishing memory, did not even turn around to look at him and harshly replied 'With salt'.
About the Author

We rent two apartments in the very center of Florence, (by two-minutes walk you are in the Duomo square) equipped with all the comforts : air conditionning, tv-sat and everything you need to cook your own meals. A nice cheap way to visit Florence! nFlorence Holiday Apartments

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