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Dear Luke and Leia,
Today we decided to dig into Florence and the Ninja Turtle connection. I'll bet you didn't realize that there was a link between this famous Italian town and those teenage mutants, but there is. Leonardo, Michelangelo,and Donatello all lived in this wonderful Tuscan city, although rumor has it that Raphael did spend some time here. With signs everywhere pointing to their presence, where should we start our investigation?
The Florence-Ninja Turtle Connection (Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael)
Let's begin with a little background information about these four colorful characters. Michelangelo Buonarotti was arguably the greatest artist of the Italian Renaissance and bodacious at sculpture, painting, fresco, and architecture. Leonardo da Vinci was the original Renaissance Man, a gnarly painter, inventor, and natural philosopher who loved tinkering with new techniques and materials. Donatello was a more unassuming dude (even though his real name was Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi) and a totally tubular sculptor. Last but not least was Raphael, alias Raffaello Sanzio, who joined the gang in 1504 and started a career as radical architect.
Off to find these guys in Florence. Cowabunga!
Florence Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore)
Knowing that Donatello had his hand in the Duomo of Florence I think this is a great place to start. Its unique dome dominates Florence's skyline and is still the largest masonry dome in the world. Donatello and others built a model to test the proposed design. Leonardo also was involved here: He made sketches of machines used to raise the bronze ball to the top. Finally, we find that the decorations in the drum gallery were never finished because Michelangelo disapproved of them.
Just a few steps away from the Duomo is Florence's baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of Saint John. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style.
The Baptistery is renowned for its sets of bronze doors with relief sculptures. Michelangelo dubbed the east doors the Gates of Paradise. In 1401, Donatello entered (and lost) a competition to design the doors for the north side of the baptistery. And Leonardo helped design the bronze statues of John the Baptist preaching to a Pharisee and Sadducee over the northern gate. Leonardo also assisted the sculptor in the choice of his tools.
Knowing these guys, I would bet there is pizza behind these doors.
These guys love pizza, so what better place to find them than in the markets, where fresh ingredients are abundant? The markets are full of an unbelievable variety of foods (and more) that would make any Ninja Turtle happy. A hungry turtle is not a happy turtle.
We did come across some other things for sale besides food, of course, but I don't think flowers and silk ties are Turtle style.
Walking around Florence
The elusive turtles showed us signs of their presence everywhere as we went off to take in the glorious sights of this magnificent city. Tops on our list were two museums, the Uffizi (to see some of Raphael's paintings) and the Accademia, which houses Michelangelo's well-known sculpture, the statue of David. On our way to see the real one, we passed a replica of David in Piazza della Signoria. The original statue stood on that spot until it was moved to shelter it from the weather.
The city of Florence, like many others, was founded upon a river; in this case it is the Arno River. There were no signs of the Ninja Turtles to be found near the river but we did find a medieval bridge that has shops on it. Ponte Vecchio was built in the 13th century and managed to survive Allied bombings during World War 2.
Night walk and the Ponte Vecchio
In a last ditch effort, we decided to search for the Ninja Turtles after sunset. Knowing their habits, they are out and about after the sun yields to the darkness. Florence seems to come alive when the lights come on. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge reveals its full beauty after dark, when the lights reflect in the Arno River.
Well, we never did find those wild teens, but what we did find was a beautiful and charming city in Tuscany along the Arno. Florence has become our favorite for so many reasons, from the old streets, delicious foods and the offerings from the Uffizi gallery to Academia. It has turned out to be a welcoming door to our wanting to spend much more time in Toscana, as well as the rest of Italy. We hope that someday you both will have a chance to discover its charms as well.
Nana and Pap