Thursday, June 27 we departed Venice for Florence to continue our singing tour of Italy. If you missed my first post, click here to get caught up.
Our itinerary called for a visit to Ravenna. Most of us were excited to get to Florence and wondered why we were stopping. It didn’t take long to understand.
Once a port city on the Adriatic Sea, Ravenna became the capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 A.D. We entered the city
Quickly our tour guide led us inside the darkened interior of the Mausoleum, which dates to the 5th Century.
Although not used as a mausoleum now, it is prized for its oldest and best preserved Byzantine mosaics.
Click here for more gorgeous images of these stunning antiquities.
Next we entered the Basilica, which dates to the 6th Century. It’s an octagonal shape supported by flying buttresses.
Inside we were treated to more mouth-gaping mosaics.
Before leaving we sang an unscheduled Sicut Cervus, filling me with awe and reverence for the Basilica, the music and our group. We completed our bus-boarding drill and hit the road to Florence.
Florence is known as the “Cradle of the Renaissance” due to the central role it played during that period, fostering creativity and the arts, and its vast treasure trove of art and architecture are on display in its countless churches and museums. I regret not having reserved tickets in advance (a MUST) to visit key museums: the Accademia Gallery, featuring the Statue of David, and the Uffizi Gallery, home to priceless works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli (Birth of Venus).
The highlight of our walking tour was the most famous site in Florence, the Piazza del Duomo, home of the Santa Maria del Fiore (the cathedral with the red dome, also called the Duomo), bell tower and the Baptistery. Above you will see the ornate marble facade above the entrance to the Duomo, an arrow pointing to the unfinished section of the dome (even the Florentines can run out of money for construction projects), and an aerial view of the piazza.
After our tour, at noon we gathered inside the Duomo, formed a large circle and performed Jubilate Deo. We felt the jubilation encircle us as we sang, logging yet another joyful Italian memory.
With only a few hours of free time before our mandatory “rest period” before our evening concert, we dispersed across Florence, enjoying leisurely lunches, prowling through the leather markets, climbing the red dome of the Duomo and visiting the Baptistery.
Several of us made the trek to Santa Maria Novella Farmaceutica. With humble beginnings dispensing herbal remedies created by Dominican Friars in Florence, this purveyor of heaven-scented soap, lotion and perfume opened to the public in 1612. We expected a spartan-like retail shop, but were greeted with
a multi-roomed sophisticated Florentine showcase. Pressed for time, I quickly selected a few bars of Jasmine scented soap
and snapped more photos of this intoxicating space. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, the fragrance items or the interior design!
That evening we performed at Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Ricci,
singing our entire repertoire to a full house. We were on our game at this point, feeling confident and enjoying the experience.
After a dinner of 1500 gram bisteca
which I shared with Margaret and Scott Corwin, we strolled back to our hotel via the Ponte Vecchio, from which I couldn’t resist preserving this image.
The next morning we bade farewell to Florence. Our motor coach departed the city taking us past a scenic overlook.
As I promised myself a return visit with my husband, I wondered what Rome would behold. Are we prepared to sing in St. Peter’s Basilica? Would Rome feel ancient or like a big city? Is the Coliseum as impressive as all the photos make it out to be? Look for my Roman reflections on Friday, June 12. Arrivederci!
July 10, 2011