60 Years Ago Today

Friday, 4 July 1952:

In the morning we hurried off to the fruit market. Afterwards we journeyed to see the San Lorenzo Church of Medici, Old Sacristy Cloister and library. The library had a 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci with an exhibition of his works. He was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, and writer.

Leonardo da Vinci’s designs were really ahead of his time. He painted many self portraits and there were study sketches of pictures, Madonna on the rocks, and proportions of human body, face, and eyes. I saw designs of battles, weapons, and tanks. Other works included: Design for the Cathedral at Paris, study for horse equestrian statue, sketches for Santa Anna, manuscript of Divine Comedy, writing done backwards in mirror to keep it secret, study of Christ going to Calvary, sketches of Ceasar Borgia a friend, study of the flight of birds, manuscript of Divine Comedy, study for the last supper, wooden carved ceiling, manuscripts collected by Medicos family, pictures of Laura Petrarch, original poem written on vase by Sappho who was an ancient Greek poet, and huge music books written by monks from the 15th century.

Next we saw the Medici chapels in the Basilica of San Lorenzo Medicos Chapel and the crypt. The chapels included the New Sacristy and Chapel of the Princess. The Florence Baptistery had Ghiberti’s doors. The first set of Ghiberti’s four panel doors took twenty years to make. The second set of doors took the rest of his life. Seeking refuge we went in the cathedral to wait for the sun to shine on the right spot for a picture of the Cathedral Brunelleschi of Florence.

The cathedral church of Florence was the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as El Duomo. It was started in 1296 a.d. in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio. Later the church was completed structurally in 1436 a.d. with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.

The exterior of the basilica was faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white. It had an elaborate 19th century Gothic revival facade by Emilio De Fabris. The cathedral dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. He received his inspiration from the Pantheon. Later we passed from the cathedral back door and into the baptistry.

Then we had lunch at the same restaurant where we had eaten the night before and at the hotel we had a cool siesta. Afterwards we traveled to Dante’s house, an Italian poet of the Middle Ages, and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall. The guide was English speaking and helped us to see all of it in an hour and a half.

Next we reached the Uffizi Gallery. It had masterpieces from the 11th to 18th centuries and 10th and 12th centuries from Tuscany. The Christ on the cross was painted by an unknown painter. Giotto and Cemabore both painted a Madonna and child paintings. Starnina was a follower of Giotto. Angelico from the 15th century painted the coronation of Virgin Fillipo Lippi. The first painting on canvas by Botticelli was the Birth of Venus. Next was the only painting in Italy by Michelangelo done in wood.

I walked down to the end of the courtyard to take pictures with Herr Watkins and Dick. When we got back to the Vecchio bridge everyone had taken off. Here was little old me waiting to climb the tower. Lisa popped out of nowhere and I talked her into going up with me. I had difficulty finding the stairs again, but success! We climbed the tower together.

There was a beautiful view of the city at the first platform all around the tower. We continued upward through the locked door and tower. There were peep holes at different intervals and I found another platform with an equally incredible 360º view of the city. On the last lap I ran into some congestion of the winding stairs. Then onto the top.

At the top we met two students from Chicago and New York. Both were traveling alone with their travels concentrating on Italy. We compared notes on our travels to see who could outdo each other. It was time to close the tower, so we went down on the street again.

We stopped at a sidewalk café for an orangeade, our favorite drink in Italy. I told them about our cute, cool, and cheap restaurant. While our meal had cost 500 lire a piece, the students last meal had cost 1400 lire a piece. We showed them the way. They had to go back to their hotel so we ate. They came back before we were through, so we chatted with them some more. And we met a Texan as well. Then home to bed.

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