The original plan for today was for all fourteen of us to travel to an area in Italy known as Cinque Terre, which literally means five lands. Cinque Terre is actually a group of five villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso) located along the coast of Northwestern Italy in the Liguria Region west of La Spezia. The location of the towns along the coast provides for some of the most beautiful views in Italy. Unfortunately the weather gods did not cooperate with us because the forecast for today showed rain all day. So instead of getting soaked in Cinque Terre, we decided to explore more of Florence and see some of the sites we did not have a chance to see.
We started today at the oldest church in Florence, the Basilica di San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence Basilica). When we arrived we had a little bad luck (again) because Mass was in progress so we weren’t allowed to walk around or take pictures. However we were still able to enter, look around from the back of the church and learn a little about its history.
San Lorenzo was founded in 393 and was the cathedral of Florence for over 300 years. It was also the parish church of the Medici family and in the 15th century it was transformed from its 11th century Romanesque form into its present-day structure due to significant grants made by the family. The new Renaissance design of the church is credited to Filippo Brunellechi, even though it was completed after his death. There are members of the Medici family buried around various points inside the church, most notably Cosimo de’ Medici (the church’s main benefactor), and even the famous Donatello are buried here as well.
San Lorenzo Church
Next we walked over to the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St. John), also known as the Florence Baptistery, located in Piazza del Duomo. The Baptistery is an octagonal shaped building, which symbolizes the octava dies (also know as the ‘eighth day’), representing the time of the Risen Christ outside of the seven day Earth cycle we are familiar with. The shape is related to the sacrament of Baptism because it was believed by Christians that they pass into a new life once they are baptized, called the ‘eighth day’, which has no end.
Upon entering the building, we were immediately overwhelmed with a magnificent gold mosaic that decorated the ceiling. With the help of a pamphlet we found inside, we were able to decipher the mosaics. Along three adjacent portions of the ceiling was the Last Judgement, which depicted Christ summoning the living and the dead with Heaven on His right and Hell on His left. The remaining five sections of the ceiling are covered in stories from the Book of Genesis, Joseph, Mary and Christ, and St. John the Baptist.
The ceiling of the Baptistery
After we finished looking inside, we also took time to look at the three entrance doors of the Baptistery that are decorated with more images from the Christian faith. The North door is decorated with scenes from the New Testament while the South door is decorated with scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The third and most famous door of the Baptistery is the East door, which was given the nickname the ‘Gates of Paradise’ by Michelangelo. This door illustrates ten scenes from the Old Testament and is completely covered in gold. The current door on the Baptistery is a copy of the original (now located in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo). It was astounding to see all of the detail that went into constructing each individual scene on the doors.
The East Door of the Baptistery
Since this was our last full day in Florence, the group (including Professor Magee) went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants in the city called the Yellow Bar. Some of the meals we had included spaghetti carbonara, stracciatella, and my personal favorite the gnocchi rosé. The food was delicious and we all had a wonderful time spending our final meal in Florence together.
But wait just one minute, what would Florence be without pastries? Better yet what would Florence be without pastries late at night? In our travels around Florence we heard of a secret bakery that sells pastries to customers beginning around 2 a.m. for only one euro. As college students we felt the need to investigate this bakery and see for ourselves if it was true. After some research online we found the address and began to look for it. Sure enough we found the bakery and all of us got a chocolate or cream filled croissant. It was definitely one of the best pastries I had while I was here in Italy. So if you are ever hungry in Florence late at night keep your eyes open for a pastry place and if you need help finding it, just follow your nose!
A piú tardi!