This is a guest post by Paloma (9 years old) and Giulia (11 years old) Martinez-Brenner about their experience on Context Travel’s Symbols and Legends of Florence Tour.
Symbols and Legends of Florence Family Tour
Paloma and Giulia were both born in Rome and essentially have grown up in a hotel, The Beehive, which their American parents own. They went to a private British School until 2009 when they moved to Bali and attended Green School, and ambitious all bamboo school in the middle of the jungle, for two years. In the summer of 2011 they moved to Orvieto, a small medieval hill town in Umbria, an hour north of Rome, where they go to Italian public school. They have a little sister named Viola and their parents run their hotel, as well as an accommodation website called Cross-Pollinate, mostly from home, or wherever else they may be.
Over the Easter break we went to Florence and met up with Monica and Elena of Context Travel who took us on their “symbols and legends” walk. It’s a tour for families where you walk around and learn about interesting stuff.
Our guide gave us pictures of the different symbols hidden all over Florence
We started at the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria where Monica gave us pictures of different symbols that are hidden all over the city. The Palazzo Vecchio was a government building, made over 700 years ago. It looks like a castle and it was built to show how important Florence was in the world.
Florence used to be a Roman city. The name came from Flora, the goddess of flowers and plants. The Iris, the symbol of the city, is everywhere. During the renaissance, Florence grew to be a really rich city by making and selling fancy fabrics. All this money that was used to trade all over Europe needed to be exchanged safely, so they started banking too.
The statues of David are famous in Florence
We talked about the statues and how the people of Florence started to appreciate ancient things from the Romans during the renaissance. The statues of David are the ones that most people know. The people of the city had Michelangelo carve the statues because they felt that Florence was like David in the bible story of David and Goliath.
Probably the most important family of Florence were the Medici. They were very rich and paid for a lot of things to be built in the city. One of the Medicis, Cosimo, declared himself the Grand Duke of Florence and he had the Uffizi built, first as offices, then as an art gallery. A corridor was constructed so that they could walk from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Uffizi and then cross the river to the Palazzo Pitti, which is one of the many palaces that they lived in.
At the Ponte Vecchio, which means “old bridge” Monica explained that back then, they had this good idea to move all the butchers onto the bridge so they could just throw away all the scraps of meat into the river instead of stinking up the city. But then the important Medici who were crossing the bridge in their corridor didn’t like the smell. So they decided it would only be used for goldsmiths. And still today it is filled with jewelry stores.
Rubbing Porcellino’s nose for a guaranteed trip back to Florence
Next we walked to the Mercato Nuovo (which means “new market”). Since the 1500’s it’s been used as an outdoor market – so it isn’t really “new” at all. We saw the Porcellino (which means little pig), but it’s not that little – it should be called “Porcellone”. We rubbed his nose which is supposed to guarantee a trip back to Florence.
We went to a building where they used to store grain which was important to make food. Here were statues of all the patron saints that represented the guilds, which are groups of people who do the same thing. So there was a blacksmith’s guild, a doctor’s guild, a banker’s guild, and they all had their own symbols. but only the more important ones got to have statues.
We saw what was once the original Roman Forum at Piazza della Repubblica
When Italy came together as one country in the late 1800’s, Florence was the capital of Italy before it was moved to Rome.Next we went to the Duomo – Florence’s enormous cathedral. It’s real name is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – which means St. Mary of the flower. They started building it in 1296 and finished it in 1436, over 100 years later.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Campanile
Back then, cities used to compete with each other to be the best and richest, so Florence decided it had to have a bigger dome and better cathedral than Pisa and Siena which were its rival cities. The dome alone took 15 years to build, which was pretty quick for such a complicated construction. you can go up to the top, which I bet has a great view. There’s a huge bell tower called the Campanile. Monica asked if we knew why the belltower was important. Back then, people didn’t have clocks, so the ringing of the bells told everyone what time it was and what stuff they needed to do. In front of the Duomo was the baptistry. The doors on it are called the doors of Paradise and they have pictures in bronze which tell stories from the bible.
We kind of made Monica tell us each story which took awhile, but she new them all by heart, and you could tell she liked explaining them. Then it was time for us to get one last gelato and catch our train back home.
We were very tired, but it was much better than walking around trying to figure out everything for ourselves. Before, I felt like Florence was just any other city, but now that I’ve done this tour, I understand the city better and feel closer to it.
Photos by the Martinez-Brenner family