Today is the final installment of semi-educational tours based on the more educational tours I went to with my school. Unfortunately, I’m done with school for now (but have heard that once I get through with the immigration process I qualify for free Italian lessons – yay!). So, today we will visit the oldest church in town (San Miniato) as well as the palace where the less-famous Medicis lived (Palazzo Medici Riccardi). As an added bonus I have thrown in the Bardini Gardens, which Steve and I toured solo.
San Miniato (row 1) sits on a prime location – at the top of a huge hill overlooking all of Florence. Since you’ve probably seen one-too-many shots of the Duomo from this vantage point, I won’t add another one here (just look at the main photo of my blog, above). I learned that it is not only the oldest church in town, but the only one that has never been restored in any way. It was built back around 1000 a.d. over the shrine of a beheaded martyr from 250 b.c., San Miniato (duh), who managed to carry his head to this spot after his execution (allegedly). There were additions made up until the 15th century, but everything you see is original from between those dates. Notice how the colors on the ceiling are still so vivid – never retouched – pretty cool! Okay, I have to admit that at about this point in the tour I started to lose focus – the group was large and our teacher was whispering since we were in a church and my mind (and eyes) started to wander…to the weird little inlaid serpent and demon beasts (pictured)….
Palazzo Medici Riccardi (row 2) was the semi-lavish home of some of the lesser-known Medici (the more famous ones were living at Palazzo Vecchio and then Palazzo Pitti) and built in the 1400′s. After a couple a hundred years, the Medici sold it to the Riccardi family, who made some additions, ruining its former perfect cube shape (now it is a museum and government offices). One thing that struck me in this museum was the amazing fresco “Procession of the Magi” (by Benozzo Gozzoli). Apparently every January 6th there was a huge procession through town recreating the procession of the 3 Kings – since the Medici were all rich and powerful, they got to play the 3 Kings in the procession and they are the folks pictured in the fresco. From what my teacher explained, the procession tradition persists to this day, with present-day highfaluting people getting to ride in it. Somewhere on the top floor of this museum they had a temporary exhibit of 20th century Japanese masks, which I found fascinating (pictured). My teacher didn’t find them fascinating at all (his interest stops with the 16th century) and I was left behind, missing the rest of the tour (me and my disobedient drummer).
The Bardini Gardens (row 3) are the lesser-known neighbor of the Boboli Gardens. Like the Boboli Gardens, our Uffizi card gets us free entrance (yay!); unlike the Boboli Gardens, they were not packed with tourists (double yay!). These gardens were private since they were developed, beginning in the 16th century, all the way up until the last century. After the death of the last owner in 1965 (Bardini) they were neglected until recently restored and made public. In addition to being pretty and relatively quiet, they also have an amazing view of Florence….
Thanks for coming on the tour!