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Italy, Rome: Pieta by Michelangelo

As you enter St. Peter’s Basilica, in one of the first niches as go to the right, you can see Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of the Pieta, Madonna and child.

Italy, Rome: Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world with the tallest dome in the world. This Renaissance architecture was designed over the centuries by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

On 1 January 1547, Michelangelo, then in his seventies, was Pope Paul III’s 3rd choice to be the superintendent of the building program. So way beyond the Sistine Chapel, he was the principal designer of most of the building as you see it today.

 Michelangelo, who did not want this job, wrote “I undertake this only for the love of God and in honour of the Apostle.” In order to take the assignment, he insisted he be given a free hand to achieve his ultimate design by whatever means he saw fit.

The Basilica is supposedly the burial site of Saint Peter, first Bishop of Rome whose tomb is supposedly directly below high altar.

Italy, Rome: Colonnade St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Have fun looking for the trompe l’oeil Gian Lorenzo Bernini planned in the center of St Peter’s Square. There are 2 semi-circles surrounded by 4 rows of columns. You can see the rows from any place in the piazza except from 2 spots (look for the metal plates in the ground) where the illusion allows you to see only 1 row of columns and not the four.

Italy, Rome: Vatican Entrance, Rome

Entrance to the Vatican Museums. Michelangelo’s ceilings in the Sistine Chapel is right near here.

Italy, Florence: Ponte Vecchio Fountain

It makes sense that a bust/fountain on the Ponte Vecchio would be of a sculptor and goldsmith, Benvenuto Cellini. Cellini did not have any connection with the jewelry shops on the bridge, which are there today because when he was alive, butcher shops lined the bridge. The artist, in a shout out to Cellini, used motifs taken from the pedestal of Perseus, Cellini’s masterpiece. The inscription on the monument states: “To Benvenuto Cellini ­ Master ­ The Goldsmiths of Florence.”

Italy, Florence: Florence’s Bronze Doors to the Gates of Paradise

Florence’s Baptistry of the Duomo is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors which have relief sculptures. The south doors were created by Andrea Pisano, and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

It was Michelangelo who gave the East doors their fame, calling them “the Gates of Paradise”. The 17-foot-tall gilded doors, weighing 4 1/2 tons, are casts of the original doors created in Ghiberti’s 15th-century workshop.

The Italian poet Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in this baptistry.

Italy, Florence: Florence’s Bell Tower

You can climb the 414 steps to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore. The climb is worth the view. Hope the 7 bells aren’t ringing when you get up there.

Italy, Florence: Florence Through a Window

So many artistic vistas in Florence.

Italy, Florence: Overlooking the Red Roofs of Florence

You get a great view of the majestic Renaissance Filippo Brunelleschi -designed domed Florence Cathedral, the Duomo if you ascend one of the hills around it. The Gothic-styled Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore was begun in 1296 along with it’s Baptistery and Giotti’s Bell tower (Campanile). Ghiberti’s original Baptistery doors are in the museum (the ones outside are copies).

Brunelleschi was commissioned in 1418. The dome is egg-shaped and was accomplished without scaffolding. A balcony by Baccio d’Agnolo was added in 1507. Notice that only 1 of the eight sides was finished by 1515, when someone asked Michelangelo (whose artistic opinion was by this time taken as cardinal law), his thoughts of it. The master reportedly scoffed, “It looks like a cricket cage.” Work was immediately stopped, and to this day the other 7 sides remain only rough brick.

Italy, Florence: David Statue in Florence

This is one of the more famous copies of Michelangelo’s David statue. You don’t have to pay to go in to see it, it’s on top of a hill at Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking the town of Florence.