Piazzale Michelangelo ~ Florence’s Renaissance Cityscape from Above

Fiery Firenze Sunset
Fiery Firenze Sunset

“Tonight the sun has died like an Emperor…great scarlet arcs of silk…saffron…green…crimson…and the blaze of Venus to remind one of the absolute and the infinite…and along the lower rim of beauty lay the hard harsh line of the hills.”  John Coldstream

I couldn’t wait to watch the sun set over Florence. After a delicious dinner in the Piazza Vecchio, I crossed the Arno River and its shops of precious jewels on to the left bank and followed the road upwards. After about 20 minutes on the Viale dei Colli, which runs through the hills that surround the central area of Oltrarno, I arrived at Piazzale Michelangelo. Extremely popular with tourists and locals alike, it has the best panoramic views of the heart of historic Florence.

Arno River with Three Bridges

The terrace lookout gives an open cityscape that is a beloved postcard photo of the city. The Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo, Baptistry and Bell Tower loom in the background.

In 1869, designer and architect Giuseppe Poggi built the Piazzale Michelangelo while Florence was the capital of Italy. As a result, it was decided the entire city needed a risanamento, a rebirth, which involved heady urban renewal of elegant proportions. Poggi’s most outstanding accomplishment, however, was the Viale dei Colli on the left bank. At eight kilometers long, the tree-lined street winds up the hill of San Miniato, ending at the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Michelangelo-Bronze Copy of the Original at his Piazzale Michelangelo

A bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David stands in the round-about, accompanied by the Four Allegories of the Medici Chapels of S. Lorenzo. The originals are in white marble. It took 9 pairs of oxen to transport the monument up from the city in June of 1873.

Old City Wall as seen from Piazzale Michelangelo

Remains of ancient city walls still surround parts of Florence in a protective embrace. From the Piazzale Michelangelo, this wall with towers runs up the side of a long hill. Begun in 1284 and completed in 1333, it is believed that it was built under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio. The gates, no longer in existence, were embellished with religious scenes of the Madonna and Saints, standing 35 meters tall.

Most all of Florence’s history is laid out before us on the skyline. As twilight descends on this vibrant renaissance town, golden lights illuminate the stone facades of foremost landmarks. People begin to gather with iPhones and cameras ready to capture the beauty of shifting colors that begin to streak across the evening sky. All grows a bit quiet as the sun, like a golden orb, sinks slowly into the west.

Santa Croce-Gothic Style Franciscan Church with 14th C. Frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavellli
Santa Croce-Gothic Style Franciscan Church with 14th C. Frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavellli
Palazzo Vecchio-Heart of Florence's Social and Political Life for Centuries. It was here that girolami Savanarola was Burned at the Stake as a Heretic.
Palazzo Vecchio-heart of Florence’s social and political life for centuries.

My day in Florence drew to a close in the most dreamlike manner. Despite lengthy strolls through museums and dinner on the Piazza Vecchio with delicious wine, my most vivid memory is of Firenze’s dazzling rays of amber sunlight stretched out over the city in waves of crystal beauty. Breathtaking beauty….the kind that travels straight to the heart and soul, and leaves you longing for more.

Hilltop Villa

The Twilight Shift

Good Night , Florence....Buona Notte Firenze!
Good Night , Florence….Buonanotte Firenze!

Pompeii is Losing its Pomp

Pompeii

Never have any historical sites blown my mind quite like Pompeii and its smaller neighbor Heculaneum. The vast array of ruins spread out before me from a civilization that suddenly ceased to exist is simply unbelievable. Buried under 30 feet of hot ash from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, they have laid perfectly preserved until excavations began in the 18th century. Much is left to see and investigate, including some still partially imbedded lead pipes once used for the water supply. Elegant tile mosaics, colorful frescoes’ and brick walls bring dimension to these ghost cities.

Pompeii street

It’s obvious that Pompeii was a thriving harbor town in its time. It’s obvious that Pompeii was a thriving harbor town in its time. In recent years, walls have crumbled and collapses continue to occur. Because the ancient Roman city is seriously exposed to the elements, it is constantly in a state of emergency. This UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the biggest and most important sites in the world, happens to be located in an area with one of the highest concentrations of organized crime in all of Europe, according to Fabrizio Barca, minister of territorial cohesion for Prime Minister Mario Monte.

Pompeii House with Frescoes

The Great Pompeii Project, which began a $137 million effort by the European Union, has been an effort to preserve Pompeii and also make it accessible to the public. It strives to support a culture-driven society against perilous odds. Bureaucracy has been a constant challenge. The result is a lack of strategic planning and the limited personnel of the site’s troubled management.

Pompeii Frescoes

Conservators who attempt to impart a plan of systematic maintenance of the 163 acre site are thwarted by emergent temporary repairs of crumbling walls and water-damaged frescoes.

Pillars of another time
Pillars of another time…remains of a prestigious Villa

Fortunately, many of the artifacts found in Pompeii are safely tucked away in Naples Archaeological Museum to be seen and enjoyed by the public. However, Pompeii offers the best look anywhere at what life in Rome must have been like around 2,000 years ago, providing archaeologists volumes about daily Roman life.

Lemon Orchards in the midst of  ruins
Lemon Orchards in the midst of ruins

Walking through Pompeii is like taking a stroll through the ancient past. It’s easy to imagine the hustle and bustle, chariots clattering down the stone streets, people grouped together in conversation, shopkeepers, foreigners, sailors and city administrators, all mingling to create a famous commercial port town…..the crossroads of many civilizations.