We flew out to Pisa on Monday 8 May but after nearly 12 hours travelling, once we reached the apartment that we were staying in for the week, we weren’t really up for going anywhere too much. So a quick trip to the local supermarket was had, followed by a nice meal out in a sweet little restaurant just opposite the Museum of San Marco. The walk to and from the restaurant had me losing my footing on the paving slabs – one of which was in torrential rain after a whole lot of red wine, straight into a massive puddle. And then it was straight to bed, because the next day would be a busy one.
Our original plan had been to start at the Palazzo Vecchio and move on from there. But once we arrived we found that the tower was closed until the afternoon because of the previous nights rain storm, and a whole lot of the museum was closed up because of some big event, talk thing. So we decided that we would spend the morning in Santa Croce before heading back to the Palazzo later on.
On the way out, we decided to stop by Savonarola’s execution monument located in the Piazza della Signoria. Seeing it for the first time was a very emotional moment for me, given the amount of time I have put into researching his life, and the time I still intend to put into researching his life in the future. The monument itself is placed on, or if not directly on then very near to, the spot in which Fra Domenico; Fra Maruffi and Fra Savonarola were executed for their supposed crimes by hanging and burning.
The walk to Santa Croce was a short one, actually half way between the Palazzo Vecchio and our apartment, so it didn’t take us all that long to get there. The church itself is an absolutely stunning example of Italian architecture, consecrated in the fifteenth century. Although the outer facade that we see today wasn’t added until much later, being completed in 1865.
I was seriously surprised at the lack of any sort of queue when we finally found the entrance to the little basilica – although with our Firenze Card’s we were able to skip the line anyway, there wasn’t even a queue in sight.
But the moment we stepped inside, I was in awe. I stopped, looked around and tears sprung to my eyes at the sheer beauty of the place. Not only the beauty, but the fact that some of my very favourite Renaissance personalities are buried within this beautiful little church including Machiavelli and Michelangelo. I honestly didn’t know where to look first, it was all so beautiful. And there were so many rooms and chambers off the main church – one of which included the apparent robe of St. Francis of Assisi! After we had finished looking around inside and I had finished getting emotional over Machiavelli, we headed outside and had a looks around the Pazzi Chapel and the cloisters.
After a quick lunch we headed back to the Palazzo Vecchio for the rest of the afternoon, using our special cards to get tickets for both the museum and the tower. I was itching to get up the tower, as it was where Girolamo Savonarola was imprisoned after his arrest, but we decided to do the museum first. And from the word go, I think I spent more time looking up than I did looking anywhere else! The ceilings were so stunningly beautiful that they look my breath away with their frescos and gold leaf. Everywhere you looked you could see the Medici coat of arms and more exciting for me, there were frescos involving the most famous members of the Medici family.
The very first room you enter is the Hall of the 500, a large chamber that was commissioned by Girolamo Savonarola in 1494. The hall, although beautifully decorated now, was incredibly plain during Savonarola’s time – he himself had vowed to have a life of poverty, and had the Florentine’s working towards making their city the New Jerusalem. That meant getting rid of all vanities – so his new Government hall had to reflect that.
On the way down from the tower, we sat in the Alberghetto for a good long time. The Alberghetto, or ‘Little Inn’ is a tiny cell at the top of the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and has played host to some incredibly important prisoners including Cosimo the Elder and Girolamo Savonarola. It was a very moving experience for me, sitting in this plain little cell and knowing that Savonarola spent his last remaining days on earth in that tiny little cell. As we sat in there, others came into the room and simply used the bench within for a rest point before heading up the rest of the tower. They gave little thought for what the room was actually used for or who had been imprisoned there. I doubt they even noticed the plaque above the door stating that this had been the holding place of Savonarola. I haven’t put any photographs up that I took within the Alberghetto as these are being used for my upcoming book on the man himself.
After a good few hours within the Palazzo Vecchio we stopped for a gelato in the Piazza della Signoria before taking a slow walk up to the Ponte Vecchio and heading back to the apartment. Dinner that night involved pizza and wine in a quaint little pizzeria just within sight of the infamous Duomo – which was to be our destination the very next afternoon!