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“The Train from Milan to Rome Stops at Florence”

“The Train from Milan to Rome Stops at Florence”

D800-Florence-0967-2014-02-27So said the travel agent, when I phoned to inquire about possible ways to get from Milan, in Italy’s industrial north, to the capital, some 360 miles to the south-west.

Having been asked to speak at a conference in Milan on a Wednesday and at a second event in Rome on a Friday, the conference organizers left me to my own devices on the Thursday, simply asking me to make my own way from Milan to Rome that day.

“You could fly”, they suggested, unhelpfully.

But once I heard that the Milan to Rome train stops in Florence and that I might have the opportunity to spend a few hours there, all thoughts of flying were immediately discounted.

Faced with the prospect of, at most, six or seven hours in Florence, a city I had never before visited but had long wanted to see, my principal concern was wasting time and missing the best shooting locations.

A little research ahead of my trip led me to a Florence-based professional photographer, Giorgio Magini, whom I hired to devise an itinerary for me, starting and ending at the railway station.

This idea turned out to be the best thing I could have done to make my short time in this beautiful city as productive as possible. Giorgio figured out a path through the city which took me to all the best locations and gave it to me as an interactive Google map, accessible from my iPhone, with specific instructions on where to go and, even, what to look out for at each location.

“At 8.30am, climb Giotto’s bell tower and photograph the dome of the Florence cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo”, instructed Giorgio’s map. And so I did; here’ s the proof:

D800-Florence-0857-2014-02-27_HDR

Giotto’s magnificent campanile, all 280 feet of it, proved to be a vigorous but worthwhile climb, providing inspirational views not just over the dome and the piazza below but over the entire city.

Originally a celebrated painter, Giotto di Bondone was nominated in 1334 as successor to the original Master of Works of the Cathedral, Arnolfo di Cambio, some thirty years after the latter’s death. Working closely with Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the preeminent architects and engineers of his day and designer of the cathedral’s magnificent dome, Giotto and Brunelleschi together made some of the most seminal contributions to the founding of the Italian Renaissance.

Begun in 1334, only the lower floor of Giotto’s bell tower had been completed by the time of his death in 1337; it was eventually completed by another of the greats of the Renaissance, Andrea Pisano, in 1359.D800-Florence-0884-2014-02-27

Of course, being an undisciplined and inquisitive soul by nature, I frequently veered off my pre-ordained trail, wandering off into interesting-looking alleyways and poking my nose inside various courtyards and houses, finding my own locations and compositions, such as these colorful houses reflected in the waters of the Arno River, just east of the Ponte Del Vecchio.

By 5.00pm, the wisdom of Giorgio’s map had directed me on a long walk out towards the south-east of the city and up another steep climb to the Piazzale Michelangelo, an elevated square affording commanding views of the river and the city to the north-west.

By 5.30pm, the light of the setting sun began to turn from white to yellow and, eventually, to gold, bathing Giotto’s campanile, Brunelleschi’s dome and the yellow houses along the banks of the Arno in sweet light, as in the lead image. Thank you, Giorgio.

Another lengthy walk had me back at the Stazione Santa Maria Novella by 6.30pm, in good time to catch the 7.05pm “FrecciaRossa” (Red Arrow) high-speed train to Rome.

(click on an image to enlarge it)

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4 Comments

  1. Irv Freedman March 23, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    Shaun – I love image number one – the colors and composition are superb. PBS has a great program on how the Duomo was finally built. Check out using this link:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/great-cathedral-mystery.html

    Program Description
    The dome that crowns Florence’s great cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—the Duomo—is a towering masterpiece of Renaissance ingenuity and an enduring source of mystery. Still the largest masonry dome on earth after more than six centuries, it is taller than the Statue of Liberty and weighs as much as an average cruise ship. Historians and engineers have long debated how its secretive architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, managed to keep the dome perfectly aligned and symmetrical as the sides rose and converged toward the center, 40 stories above the cathedral floor. His laborers toiled without safety nets, applying novel, untried methods. Over 4 million bricks might collapse at any moment—and we still don’t understand how Brunelleschi prevented it. To test the latest theories, a team of U.S. master bricklayers will help build a unique experimental model Duomo using period techniques. Will it stay intact during the final precarious stages of closing over the top of the dome?

    • shaunmoss March 23, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

      Irv: Thanks a lot for the link to the PBS program. It’s a fascinating story, indeed. I shall watch it with great interest.

  2. Irv Freedman March 23, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    My fingers slipped – that number 3 – the yellow houses.

  3. Ramana March 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    Beautiful pictures, Shaun. Great work.

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