Florence – The Birthplace of the Renaissance – Day 2 – Part 2

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The Chiesa di Santo Spirito is located at the end of the piazza of the same name.  The piazza is the scene of a daily market, as well as home to a number of cafés and restaurants.

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The church dates from 1444, and was built on the site of an earlier church.  Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, it has 38 side altars, each containing pieces of art that make this church a MUST-SEE, when in Florence.  Brunelleschi died before the church was completed, thus the facade was never decorated as he had intended it to be.  Instead, today, we see a plain facade, masking the beauty that will confront you, once you enter the doors of the church.  Be certain to visit the sacristy for a glimpse of one of the great Michelangelo’s earlier works — A wooden crucifix that he carved at the age of seventeen.  Also, take the time to visit the lovely cloister.  Walk along the walled garden, and you will feel time slip away — transporting you to another age, far from the reality that confronts you, when you exit the building.

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We made our way across the Arno, to the other side of the city.

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As we walked, we came upon the Monument to Carlo Goldoni, a playwright and librettist.  The statue dates from 1873, and is the work of the sculptor, Ulisse Cambi.  The statue was damaged during bombing in World War II, but has since been repaired, with the exception of the thumb on the hand holding the book, which, unfortunately, has been lost.

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We soon found ourselves in Piazza di Santa Maria Novella.  This lovely square has been a hub of Florentine life for centuries.  We will write about the beautiful church, at a later time.  The piazza itself was used by Cosimo I, for the yearly Palio dei Cocchi, a chariot race that was run from 1563 to the end of the 19th century.  The two obelisks that you see, at either end of the piazza, mark the starting and finishing places of the race.

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Our next stop was to be one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.  As with Santo Spirito, when in Florence, this place is a MUST-SEE.  You will find the pharmacy on Via della Scala, Number 16.  Don’t look for a sign of any sort, or a display window, for you won’t find either.  Instead, walk down the hallway, and through the door at the end.

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The pharmacy was founded by Dominican Friars in 1221, and many of the remedies and scents, which were made then, are available today for purchase.  But, keep in mind, this is more than a drugstore.  This is a living museum.  The rooms are filled with art, as well as the scent of the famous perfumes that they sell.  Take your time, and explore this wonderful place!  Then, buy a little something to take home, as a keepsake of your time in Florence.  You can buy everything, from natural teas to sweets, liqueurs, dietary supplements, shampoos, and soaps.  The place is a marvel!

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When I first began to visit Florence, the Mercato Centrale was simply a vast, covered, fresh food market.  Since then, it has been renovated, and now, while food stalls are still to be found on the ground floor, the upper floor is one big food court, which I found to be overly crowded and frustrating, more than anything else.  The streets in the San Lorenzo area, approaching the Mercato Centrale, are lined with stalls selling all sorts of leather goods, and other such items.

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Next up: More of Florence, including Michelangelo’s great statue of David!

Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations which may appear.  If  you have enjoyed this post, please, check out our archives for more posts from Florence, as well as additional Italian destinations.  Grazie!

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