Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Della Robbia Detail
Detail Cantorie, Luca Della Robbia 1439
Della Robbia Detail
Another detail of the Della Robbia Cantorie
Donatello Magdelena
Magdelena - Donatello 1455

The above three are among the most remarkable of the works in this wonderful museum in a space built at the same time as the Duomo for administrative offices. As works were changed in and on the Duomo, they were stored here, and it has been open to the public since 1891. The interior is now a mind-popping, beautifully modern space housing some of the most important works from the Renaissance. 

Certainly for me the most memorable are the cantorie panels - panels from a suspended choir loft. Two matching lofts were originally installed in the Duomo, one by Donatello and one by Luca Della Robbia.  They were removed in 1688 in order to update things for the wedding of Grand Prince Ferdinando.  We are so lucky that the Duomo conservators had the foresight to save all removed art here. Of the two sets, it is the Della Robbia that thrilled and delighted us.  The exuberance of the youthful musicians is a joy to behold, with details carved in the relief that are amazing, particularly the young bodies under the flowing robes. 

The two details above are among our favorites. The youthful boy and girl on the left completely capture first love and the transition from child to young man.

It is always a delight when you find something like these cantorie when they are totally unexpected. In the city with David and countless other famous works from the Renaissance that we so eagerly anticipated, it was these Della Robbia carvings that set our hearts to sing.  Previously I had only know Della Robbia for the polychromatic highly glazed decorations (example below) that have assumed his name, but I will now remember him for these exquisitely carved cantorie

  Toy can view the full panels with the icons below.


The third haunting image above is the stunning wooden statue of Mary Magdalena by Donatello. It stands alone in the center of a gallery and in contrast to every other image of Magdalena I have ever seen. Here she is not a beauty, but a worn and tired woman who has spent her life on the street and on her back.  It defies the Renaissance ideals and depicts a verissimo suggesting that it could have been carved today.



Cappella Pazzi
Flippo Brunelleschi 1430-1446

Capella Pazzi
Cappella Pazzi
Cappazzi Cloister.jpg
Chiostro Grande, Bernardino Rossellino, 1453
St. Mark Tondo, Luca Della Robbia
Interior Dome, Cappella Pazzi, Brunelleschi

This beautiful space is so easy to miss and such a lovely refuge that you must not.  Just to the right of the great Basilica of Santa Croce is a small door in the wall that leads into a nice cloister with the justifiably famous Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi, the same that designed the heroic dome on the Duomo.  Stepping through that little door provides a sanctuary from the bustle of Florence.  There is soft green grass, quite, and a soothing sense of scale. The lovely facade of the chapel has a perfect symmetry, and is idyllic at the end of the grassed cloister.

The small interior space is simply decorated.  In the pendentives are heroic tondos by Della Robbia depicting the four Evangelists. These polychromatic reliefs are the kind of thing I thought of when Della Robbia was mentioned until I saw his cantorieSt. Mark, one of these tondos, is above along with a straight-up view of the dome showing all four of the tondos.

Beyond the chapel is a small passageway to a second and truly beautiful space, Cloister 2, or Chiostro Grande, designed by Rossellino.  Here is architecture that begs you to contemplate.

Certainly you want to visit the monumental Basilica to see the beautiful frescos and to give homage at the tombs of the Renaissance greats Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo.  With these icons you can view images of the Basilica and it's small Piazza from the church:



Mercato Centrale

Nerebone Pana
Nerbone in the Central Market

The paninaio preparing the famous panino con la carne bagnato at Nerbone

Andrea Perini at Gastronomia Perini

The Central Market in Florence seems like an indoor extension of the bustling, outdoor market that extend for blocks from San Lorenzo. The entire atmosphere feels like stepping into another, much older generation. The building is massive and just looms out of the bancarelle (stalls) crowded streets. It is a grand brick, glass and iron structure with two floors of shops and stalls.  I was surprised to learn that it was built in 1874 (it seems quite modern) and designed by Mengoni, who also brought us the great Galleria in Milan.  If you want to experience a bit of everyday Florentine life, you must visit the Central Market.

Once inside it is all about the assault on the senses. Upstairs are the vegetable and fruit vendors. Downstairs are the meat and fish vendors and the gastronomia - food specialty stores (what we think of as an Italian delicatessen). Here you will find lots of things you will not see in Safeway.  Italians believe every bit of the animal should be used and have no problem with displaying animals with their heads still intact or rabbit with the fur still on - in fact, they insist that at least one paw be intact to make sure the carcass is not a cat. 

A colorful shop with fantastic salamis, cheeses, and every other imaginable delicacy is Gastronomia Perini. Run by brothers Andrea and Claudia, they are famous for their mostarde of orange, apple, fig and more. You can visit the Perini website and explore their offerings where on the English version they call their mostarde Chutneys. They also carry the delectable gigantic bright green olives stored in brine.  These are a treasure we always seek in Italy.  

One place in the market that must not be missed is Nerbone, and you must reserve one day for lunch there. It is not more than a large counter with a half dozen tables against the wall across the isle.   Here is where the workers of the market eat, and the food is hearty and genuine Florentine.  Big bowls of pasta, perfect soups (ribollita is great), all at very low prices.  But the gastronomic main attraction is the boiled beef sandwich: panino bollito.  The Nerbone boiled beef sandwich is a must on any visit to Florence.  It is fun to watch the paninaio (sandwich maker) assembling these delicious offerings, which can be had plain or with salsa verde or peperoncino oil (very spicy) or both. Make sure you specify carne, as there are other boiled meat sandwiches, and you could end up with tripe.

Nerbone is so much more than just good food. Combined with the market, it is la vera italia - where you will find the real Italy. But, don't plan on your typical late Italian lunch. Nerbone closes with the market at 2:00, and they start running out sooner.

Outdoor Market bancarelle (stands)with Central Market on the left   Second Floor Vegetable Stalls showing the beautiful ironwork


Benvenuto Cellini, 1545

Perseus - PalazzoVecchio Backdrop
Perseus, Cellini,
Loggia dei Lanzi
The beautiful and delicate detail of the Perseus Base, Cellini
In my humble opinion Benvenuto Cellini's statue of Perseus is one of the most beautiful, elegant, and powerful statues ever created.  For me it works on so many levels.  It's graceful form and lines,
Bridges of the Arno
Ponte Vecchio.jpg
On the Ponte Vecchio at Night
Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio
Ponte alla Carraia
Ponte alla Carraia
Trattoria Cammillo.jpg
Antico Fattore
Via Lambertesca
Some Nice tidbits
Courtyard of the Borgello
Florence Negozio
A Typical Store

Perseus was born of the god Zeus and the mortal Danae. Acrisius, the father of Danae, had been warned by an oracle that the child of his daughter would be his killer. Hence, Acrisius set the young child Perseus adrift at sea with his mother. Floating to Seriphus, Perseus and his mother were discovered by a fisherman and dispatched to Polydectes, the king. Polydectes fell in love with Danae and, considering Perseus an obstacle, sent him in quest of the head of Medusa -- thinking that Perseus would be killed. Medusa, the Gorgon, had once been a very beautiful woman, her hair being her great glory. The end result of what was the mythological equivalent of a catfight lost to Minerva, the equally beautiful Minerva deprived Medusa of her beauty and changed her glorious hair into hissing serpents. She became so hideous that any living thing that looked directly upon her turned to stone. In his quest to return to Polydectes with the head of Medusa, Perseus was aided by Minerva and Mercury, receiving a shield and winged shoes. Perseus arrived at the cave of Medusa, scattered with stone figures of men and beasts. Rousing his inner courage and cleverly using the reflection of the shield from Minerva to deflect Medusa's direct gaze, Perseus severed her head and flew back to Polydectes, eventually turning him to stone with the Medusa head in response to his poor treatment of his mother and the kingdom. As for his father, Acrisius, Perseus did eventually kill him -- with an accidental discus throw at a contest.


Benvenuto Cellini was born in Florence in 1500. He was apprenticed to a goldsmith at the age of 15.

At the age of 16, continual duelling and brawling caused him to be exiled to Sienna. In 1523, he was prosecuted yet again for fighting. The justice ruled that he be given the death penalty. Luckily for Cellini, he managed to flee to Rome. There, he became a pupil working under Michaelangelo. In 1527, he shot a constable of Bourbon and the Prince of Orange. In addition to his criminal list, Cellini was accused of killing a rival goldsmith. Ten years after the murder of the constable and the prince, he was accused of embezzlement. After being thrown in jail, he escaped with much skill to be foolishly caught and imprisoned again.