Piazza della Signoria (Florence, Italy)

A replica of Michelangelo's David

A replica of Michelangelo’s David

Out in a public space in Florence are sculptures that are considered to be masterpieces. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the openness and public trust. It was surprising to find a body double of one of the great works of Renaissance art.

Michelangelo’s David originally appeared in the square of the Palazzo Vecchio, but because of its artistic importance, the statue was moved to its current location at the Accademia. In its place is a replica of the famous statue.

Nearby is the Loggia dei Lanzi, a building consisting of beautifully constructed, wide open arches, under which are sheltered other sculptural masterpieces. One of them is Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, a work in bronze that consumed ten years of the artist’s life.


Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa

One of the most impressive pieces artistically is Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, a recreation of the abduction legend of Sabine women by the mostly male founders of Rome. It was carved out of a single block of marble in a spiral motif that was meant to be appreciated from all sides.


Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women

St. Mark’s Basilica (Venice, Italy)

The arched portals at the front of St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most recognizable places in Venice, if not as the church of the Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, then surely for the tens of thousands of pigeons that flock around its plaza. The cathedral has a commanding presence in the square, once the Doge’s chapel but now an ornate cathedral. The exterior is a strange, eclectic combination of architectural styles (including Gothic and Romanesque with Egyptian flourishes) but its predominant motif is Byzantine with characteristic domes on top (photo immediately below). There also is a hodgepodge of marble used both inside and outside that might make a modern designer cringe. Note the use of a variety of marble in the columns and archways in the photo above.

True to its Eastern orthodox influence, the cathedral’s floor plan is in the shape of a Greek cross with the largest dome over the center and one over the end of each of the four arms. Impressive inside are the intricate mosaics, much of them covered in gold leaf, all telling Christian stories and events, and extensive use of gilding on the frescoes that makes the interior shine. No picture-taking was allowed of the interior.

Pigeons of St. Mark’s Square

No experience at St. Mark’s square would be completely without the pigeons. It is estimated that 100,000 birds make Venice their home. Bird seed can be purchased from vendors in the square. It was funny to watch tourists shield their heads when the pigeons took flight.

In order to visit the famed glass studios, most tourists take a boat to Murano. Murano glass is known for its clarity and vibrant designs. Genuine pieces can get to be very expensive. Our guide took us to a studio near St. Mark’s (Galleria San Marco), where we watched a glass-blowing maestro fashion a vase and a horse. The tour concluded with the obligatory sales pitch. With their ornamentation, gold-leaf embroidery and Arabic-influenced designs, the glassworks were not to our taste (let alone pocketbook), but we did purchase a simple animal piece as a gift.

Murano glass works at Galleria San Marco

Mercato del Pesce (Venice, Italy)

Within easy walking distance of our hotel were the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge. Also, it turned out to our surprise, was the fish market (Mercato del Pesce) and produce market. Here is where locals and restaurant chefs and buyers purchase fresh fish, crustaceans and mollusks, in tremendous variety. We made a quick trip through the markets before having to board the tour bus for Florence.