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:
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.
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)