Revisiting some old classics

Ponte VecchioHaving an overseas visitor was such a good excuse to revisit some of the old classics in Tuscany, even in my hometown of Florence. To remember the stories told by friends and guides over the years and relate them to a first time visitor to Europe, bowled over by the beauty, was a very rewarding experience!


Florence Uffizi gallery Being Autumn the days are short and there was so much to pack into her visit that we caught some of my favourite places at sunset and evening as we dragged our feet back to the car.Flroence Neptune Fountain





Here Neptune, impertinently nicknamed  ‘the big white lump’ by locals, gazes across to the perfect body of David knowing he is but a poor imitation. The fountain has suffered a lot of damage over the centuries the last being in 2005 when local vandals broke off his hand.

Statue of DavidFlorence Palazzo Vecchio









Beautiful David keeps a forever watchful eye towards any possible enemy invasion from the river, ready to defend Florence at all costs. And to think David may never have eventuated! The block of marble was to be given to Leonardo Da Vinci which had Michelangelo racing back from Rome to claim it. The statue in front of the Palazzo Vecchio  is only a copy as David was moved in 1873 to the Accademia and the real thing is even more stunning and hardly comparable.

Palazzo VecchioStatue Perseus








The bronze Perseus, by Cellini, boasts what will happen to any enemy dare they risk to enter the city. The story goes that Cellini was forced to melt down his household pans and plates for the casting!  Times were tough even then!Florence Baptistery


The Baptistery now sparkles after its recent clean and in the dusk the entire Cathedral complex glows. Pope Francesco was suitably impressed on his visit here early November.


Vasari CorridorTime to explain the Vasari corridor – the passageway between  the Uffizi gallery, leading over the Ponte Vecchio and ending inside the Boboli gardens of the Pitti Palace. Built so Cosimo I Medici did not feel at risk walking amongst his populace.


Porcellino market


And before leaving Florence a trip by the Porcellino market to touch the nose of the wild boar and let a coin drop to ensure  a return visit to the  city.




It was now time to explore some of the other classics of Tuscany and where better to start San Gimignanothan the Mediaeval Manhattan of San Gimignano. The battle between families to build their tower higher than the other, thus showing their wealth and power gives San Gimignano a unique skyline in the midst of rolling Tuscan hills of vineyards and olive groves.

It also has the best gelati!San Gimignano gelati




San Gimignano piazza







Siena Il Campo
Siena Cathedral

On to Siena to walk where horses race bareback at breakneck speed around the piazza Il Campo in the magnificent Palio. A piazza where all the locals hang out especially at aperitif time, so we head for a local café to join them.


And as night falls we circuit the Cathedral to see the unfinished walls still leaning precariously, that were to make the Cathedral bigger and better than that of Florence.

Unfortunately the plague hit at that time and the population was halved so together with the structural problems already evident the project was abandoned.

It was not the only monumental building to suffer from structural problems, and you may wonder if it would have become as Pisa Leaning towerfamous as it has without the lean……where are we? The leaning tower of Pisa of course! The lean has now been brought back to that of 1838 after the foundations were strengthened and it spent many years drawn back by steel cables. The same innocent comment “I thought the tower stood by itself!? ” So many still have no idea that it is actually the bell tower of the Cathedral and are stunned by the, appropriately called, Piazza of Miracles.

Pisa Cathedral

Piazza of Miracles

The old classics cannot be beaten, still as awesome as ever to both old and new  visitors.



Angels fall from Heaven – Mitoraj

Pisa Piazza of Miracles

I walk through the archway and wham! I am blown away by how magnificent these buildings are, their splendour glistening on the velvet lawn. I am at Pisa.



I have been here so many times, but never on a cold winter Saturday with so few tourists and the line of trashy souvenir kiosks relegated (at least for the moment) to outside the wall. We had come to see the “Angels” exhibition by Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj in the Piazza of MiraclesAngel Mitoraj

Angel by Mitoraj




The powerful bronze body of Icarus melts into the lawn behind the Tower as if resting from his fall.

I am awed by the Baptistery such an ice cream cake, the lavish Cathedral and the famous Tower, and so appropriate for Angels to be in their midst. A pity that Mitoraj passed away last October, although as he spent much of his time in Italy I am sure he was honored at being the first contemporary artist to exhibit in the grounds and legendary monuments of Pisa. The introduction reads ‘The presence of the “Angels” has a symbolic significance, which is that of finding a minimum of serenity and peace’ and we hope Mitoraj has found his own serenity and peace.

Leaning Tower PisaAfter  a quick Tai chi pose to hold the Tower up, alongside the other tourists having a giggle, we were off to explore the exhibition.

Frescoe drawings



Part of the exhibition was in the Sinopite Museum where the preparatory drafts (sinopites) for the Monumental Cemetery frescoes gave a delicate background to Mitoraj’s dramatic faces of sleeping gods, or evocative Angels poised on their flight to freedom.

Sleeping Osiride Mitoraj sculpture Mitoraj Angels

The remaining statues, paintings, and swathed faces were on display in the Cathedral Museum, enveloped in its rich burgundy walls and décor that truly enhanced the heroic Angels, gilded in paintings and intensified the radiance of their marble hands and feet.

Marble hands

Classic AngelsTwo Angels  adorned the chapel coyly glancing at each other, their  poses and pared limbs a reference to classical sculptures, just perfect for this location.


Mitoraj works are not unknown to places of worship with several marble sculptures in the Vatican museum and the monumental bronze doors on the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri in Rome.

I first came across one of his Angels in the main square of Greve in Chianti, a rather bold statue in front of the Council offices, which always creates a talking point.Greve in Chianti piazza
.Mitoraj statue Greve




And another fallen Angel on my visit to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily.

Temple Agrigento

Valley of the Temples





The Angels exhibition in Pisa is still on until April 2015 in case you are over this way, or you are sure to come across Mitoraj‘s statues elsewhere  on your travels