Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore - Snapshots from Tour
Recently I accidentally reformatted my hard drive, vaporizing years of precious memories with one disastrous click of a button. As I hastily attempted to recover any photos and videos, I found myself taking an unexpected trip down memory lane. Flashbacks of previous tours came one after another: Taiwan, France, Australia, Taiwan, California, Korea, Taiwan...
Then I came across an aerial photo of a city in Europe. Where was this again? I gazed at the mosaic of red-roofed buildings and domes, and then I remembered: Florence! Although we only stayed there two days, I remember it as the quintessence of the classical European city.
Our first venture into the streets of Florence brought us to stone-paved roads, marble statues, and narrow alleys scurrying around magnificent Gothic architecture. The city was brimming with the sublime beauty of the Renaissance. It was all quite overwhelming, and I really had no idea how to appreciate the explosion of culture surrounding me.
We walked into a small piazza and suddenly a large, beautiful cathedral with a tower and a dome loomed in front of us. It was so big and tall that it refused to fit in my camera. Fellow dancer Sebastien Chun wasted no time entering the massive structure, so naturally I followed along. Little did I know that I had just walked into the main church of Florence—the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo.
The interior of the cathedral was filled with tall, empty spaces and not much else. The walls were lined with stained glass windows, and towering pillars stood at either end of the cathedral. The place looked like it was built for a giant.
At the end of the long hallway was the dome, its interior filled with a fantastic work of art. I could tell it was highly detailed, but unfortunately it was too far up to see clearly. It was amazing to think that an artist went all the way up there to create that painting. But then again, people say Renaissance artists brought art to new heights.
It seemed that was all there was to see, so I prepared to leave. On the way out, however, a queue at the far side of the wall caught my eye. Was there something else? As I walked closer, I saw Sebastien already inquiring among the tourists waiting in line. It turned out they were preparing to climb to the top of the dome where you could get awesome views of both the painting up above and of Florence’s cityscape. “Well, why not?” So we went outside and found the dome entrance, where the queue began.
There were 463 steps to the top of the dome with a couple of “rest stops” along the way. The steps were narrow and erratic, sometimes sloping steeply, sometimes spiraling upwards to no end. It felt like a secret passageway, or perhaps an escape route. The occasional window to the outside world gave a sense of just how far up we had climbed.
About three-quarters of the way there, we came to a narrow landing that took us to the interior of the cathedral. A tall glass panel prevented us from falling down while letting us admire the views, more interesting than before. The tourists far below looked like ants, and I took note of the mosaic patterns on the marble floor.
The painting on the dome turned out to be a collection of frescoes called “The Last Judgment,” designed by Giorgio Vasari and painted by a number of artists, resulting in differences in style and technique.
We conquered the remaining flights of steps and finally arrived at our reward: a breathtaking, panoramic view of Florence. Clusters of red-roofs dotted the landscape, mountain silhouettes lay beneath the horizon. It was an unforgettable spectacle.
We lingered for a long time, savoring the view and snapping photos while struggling against the strong winds. Eventually we had to leave, but not before posing for one last group photo with one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
June 14, 2013