Florence: City of Art
In the birthplace of the Renaissance, we look into the eyes of Michelangelo's David and Botticelli's Venus, learn tricks for touring the Uffizi art gallery, and climb the dome that kicked off the Renaissance. Then we delve into the Florentine good life: visiting a fragrant 400-year-old perfumery, sipping Campari on a rooftop, chasing the sunset on a Vespa, and sleeping serenely in a converted monastery.
- Read the script from the show.
Santa Maria Novella and Perfumery
Church of Santa Maria Novella — This 13th-century Dominican church is rich in art. Along with crucifixes by Giotto and Brunelleschi, there's every textbook's example of the early Renaissance mastery of perspective: The Holy Trinity by Masaccio. The exquisite chapels trace art in Florence from medieval times to early Baroque. The outside of the church features a dash of Romanesque (horizontal stripes), Gothic (pointed arches), Renaissance (geometric shapes), and Baroque (scrolls). Step in and look down the 330-foot nave for a 14th-century optical illusion.
Nearby: A palatial perfumery is around the corner 100 yards down Via della Scala at #16 (free but shopping encouraged, tel. 055-216-276). Thick with the lingering aroma of centuries of spritzes, it started as the herb garden of the Santa Maria Novella monks. Well-known even today for its top-quality products, it is extremely Florentine. Pick up the history sheet at the desk and wander deep into the shop. From the back room, you can peek at Santa Maria Novella's cloister with its dreamy frescoes and imagine a time before Vespas and tourists.
Via dei Cimatori
Piazza S.S. Annuziata 3
One block north of the Accademia, this 15th-century monastery houses the greatest collection anywhere of frescoes and paintings by the early Renaissance master Fra Angelico. The ground floor features the monk's paintings, along with some works by Fra Bartolomeo. Upstairs are 43 cells decorated by Fra Angelico and his assistants. While the monk/painter was trained in the medieval religious style, he also learned and adopted Renaissance techniques and sensibilities, producing works that blended Christian symbols and Renaissance realism. Don't miss the cell of Savonarola, the charismatic monk who rode in from the Christian right, threw out the Medicis, turned Florence into a theocracy, sponsored "bonfires of the vanities" (burning books, paintings, and so on), and was finally burned himself when Florence decided to change channels (tel. 055-238-8608). While you can reserve an entrance time here, it's entirely unnecessary.
Cantinetta dei Verrazzano
Via dei Tavolini 18