My walk in Florence starts by passing through Porta Romana, the city’s finest and most triumphal gate for those who came (and come) from Rome. I pause to look at the texture of the ancient wood of the huge, newly-restored door. I think of all the stories that have passed through this door, hoping to find shelter, money, luck, within these doors… inside, under the arch, can just be glimpsed a fresco that is said to have been painted by Franciabigio in the sixteenth century. A sort of shrine, to protect the door.
Here I am in Piazza Pitti: it is a fine day and I don’t feel like shutting myself up in the Galleria Palatina, the Silverware Museum or the Gallery of Modern Art. I just want to take a stroll in the Boboli Garden. After a thousand hedges, little footpaths and unexpected views of the city, just before I emerge and find myself once again in Piazza Pitti, I bump into the Grotto, built by Buontalenti in the late sixteenth century. It is an artificial grotto. In fact it is three covered rooms of stalagmites and stalactites, sheltering figures of shepherds and animals, also made of shells, pebbles and fake boulders. The one I focus my Zoomart on is an old man who is peeping at me but who will soon turn to stone again.
I get out into the square, convinced that I have been seeing things. I make for Ponte Vecchio through crowded streets to get to Piazza Duomo. I walk fast, without stopping to look at the statues-churches-palaces that I pass by, swallowed up as they are by the crowds of tourist shops.
From Via Calzaiuoli, I reach Piazza Duomo and decide to take just a quick tour of the square: I want to “circumnavigate” the Cathedral hunting for something that will catch my attention. I start with Giotto’s bell-tower. As I walk slowly, without stopping, I scan my Zoomart over the hexagonal tiles that tell the stories of the Bible, of our ancestors’ work in the field… They were conceived and partly sculpted by Giotto in the early fourteenth century…
My tour of the cathedral is at an end and I am in front of the Baptistery. The famous Porta del Paradiso, the Door of Paradise, is before my eyes, chiselled by Ghiberti in 1425-50 with Biblical stories. But I can’t see it, because of the groups of Japanese. I move to one side and with my Zoomart peep at the beautiful details of the festoons of fruit-flowers-birds-insects and the stories of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. The soft figures seem really to be able to move from one arched loggia to the next, seen in perspective one after the other.
Next to the Baptistery is a pillar with a cross on top, which was erected in the fourteenth century. They told me it is the sign of an ancient miracle: in the fifth century, while the body of Saint Zanobi was being carried to its burial, the sarcophagus touched a dried-up elm tree, which suddenly burst into bud and blossomed. In fact, with my Zoomart I can see that the iron ring at the top represents schematically the foliage of a tree, its young leaves suddenly budding.
I saunter through the streets of the old town, meaning to head for Santa Croce. I turn into Borgo degli Albizi, a long street enclosed between tall Medieval towers and fine Renaissance palaces. On the left, I pass by a strange palace: it is the so-called Palazzo dei Visacci, built in the fifteenth century for the Albizi family, then converted over the centuries. In the mid-XVII century, it belonged to Baccio Valori, a scholar, who decided to have the façade decorated with the busts of illustrious Florentine people.
This slightly sulky man, his hair cut in a fringe, is Donato Acciaiuoli, a fifteenth-century politician, a scholar and a humanist.
(Author: Anna Tonini)
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