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Stendhal syndrome

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Florence, Italy:

We [the husband and I] are financial analysts, not writers, but we love to travel and explore. A few weeks ago, Italy was on the cards. Our twelve day sojourn in Italy covered all major architectural and historical attractions—Capri island, Milano, Pisa, Pompeii, Roma and Venice. But, at the end of it, what moved us the most [and the city whose beauty is forever etched in our memories] is Firenze. It’s less for a lifetime, you’d think.

Florence, or Firenze, is the capital city of the Tuscany province in central Italy. Geographically, Florence lies in a basin between hills, and the Arno river flows right through the middle. It is a major historical and economy hub in Italy; it was the centre of medieval European commerce and one of the richest cities at the time. It is widely regarded as the origination point of the Renaissance, rightly earning the sobriquets “Cradle of the Renaissance” and “Athens of the Middle Ages”.

But despite the strong presence of Renaissance architecture, traces of medieval, Neoclassical and modern architecture are evident. It was the capital of Italy in the late 18th century as well. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a must-visit for its rich culture, art and architecture. Florence has many museums and art galleries—the most well known being the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti. I did not know this, but our tour guide told us—it is in fact on the Forbes list as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The fact that it was home to Michaelangelo definitely helped.

The best known architectural wonder in the city is the Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The world famous dome, which represents Florence itself, was built by Brunelleschi. It is the largest dome built of brick and mortar in the world. We strongly recommend the climb to the top of the cupola for breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city and the Tuscan countryside. Beware though; the climb is 463 steps which is tough even for the fittest of us. The bell tower and the views at the top, however, are totally worth the laborious climb.

At the heart of the city is the Piazza della Signoria which has the famed Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammanati a marble masterpiece and still functioning Roman aqueduct. Michaelangelo’s famed statue of David adorns the Piazza (square in Italy). The other famous statue in the square is that of Perseus with the head of Medusa by Cellini. The Piazza is also home to other famous statues and works by Donatello, Giambologna, Ammannati and Cellini.

The Pallazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Firenze, and today houses an art museum. It is built in the neo-Renaissance style. These two monuments—the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio dominate the skyline of Florence.

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