2005 Mathematics May Seminar

Florence, Italy, by Lindsay Weisel

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Florence, Italy, by Lindsay Weisel

The Romans founded Florence in the first century B.C. It became the capital of Tuscany because of its convenient location at the meeting of the Arno and Mugnone rivers. The Medici family had a huge influence on Florence, which can be seen throughout the city. Giovanni di Averardo de' Medici was the richest banker in Italy and he passed his fortune on to his son, Cosimo the Elder. Cosimo overthrew the leaders of Florence in 1434 and became ruler. Generations of the Medici family ruled Florence and later all of Tuscany from 1434-1737. The death of Gian Gastone de' Medici in 1737 marked the end of the Medici power in Florence, but during their years in power, the Medici family definitely left their mark and evidence of this can be seen in nearly every corner of the city.

Some of their biggest influence can be seen in several of the 67 museums in Florence. A few of these museums will be described in detail below:

Pitti Palace-The Palazzo Pitti was constructed in 1450. Luca Pitti, the local rival of the Medici family, ordered its construction. A century later, in 1549, the ruling Medici family purchased the palace. They began living in the palace in 1550. Inside this more than 200 meters wide facade visitors can experience how the late Medici family members lived.

The inner courtyard of the palace leads to all of its museums: the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Gallery of modern art and the Galleria del Costume. The palace itself has developed into a priceless private museum of paintings, sculptures and other rare collectibles. In the back, the Pitti Palace opens up to the beautiful Boboli gardens with fountains, sculptures and breath-taking views of the city of Florence.

The Uffizi Gallery- The building was designed by Giorgio Vasari and was constructed between 1560 and 1580. It was originally designed as special offices for the Duke Cosimo I of the Medici family to host the archives and administrative offices of the state of Florence. The gallery began as a private art collection of the Medici family on the second floor of the office building. In 1737, Anna Maria Ludovica de Medici, the last member of this family, converted it into a Museum. The 45 rooms and galleries of this building hold one of the most famous museums in the world. It contains artwork by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, da Vinci, Botticelli and many more famous artists. Due to its popularity and the fact that only small groups are let in to the gallery at a time, there are often very long lines and people wait for several hours to get in. It is open 8.30-18.50 including Sunday (closed Monday)

Room 24 - Miniatures room
Room 25 - Michelangelo and Florentine Artists
Room 26 - Raffaello and Andrea del Sarto
Room 27 - Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino
Room 28 - Tiziano and Sebastiano del Piombo
Room 29 - Parmigianino and Dosso Dossi
Room 30 - Emilian Painting
Room 31 - Veronese
Room 32 - Tintoretto
Room 33 - Room 33 - 16th Century Painting
Room 34 - Lombard School
Room 35 - Barocci
Room 41 - Rubens
Room 42 - Niobe
Room 43 - Caravaggio
Room 44 - Rembrandt

Room 45 - XVIII Century

oom 1 - Archaeological room
Room 2 - Giotto and 13th Century
Room 3 - Senese Painting 14th Century
Room 4 - Florentine Painting 14th Century
Room 5/6 - International Gothic
Room 7 - Early Renaissance
Room 8 - Filippo Lippi
Room 9 - Antonio del Pollaiolo
Room 10/14 - Botticelli
Room 15 - Leonardo
Room 16 - Geographic Maps room
Room 17 - Ermafrodito
Room 18 - The Tribune
Room 19 - Perugino and Signorelli
Room 20 - Dürer and German Artists
Room 21 - Giambellino and Giorgione
Room 22 - Flemish and German Painting
Room 23 - Correggio

Gallery of the Accademia- The Accademia Museum’s art collection has changed throughout the years and it is now one of the finest art galleries in Florence due to its high quality of exhibits. It has paintings and sculptures dating back to the fourteenth century. The academy started off as a drawing school run by the Lorraine family to bring all the talented artists into one academy rather than having several small schools throughout the town. The gallery began simply displaying the work of the pupils studying art there, but it has really grown. Today, the gallery contains the most spectacular and complete display of work done by Michelangelo. In 1873, the museum became the focus of attention in Florence when Michelangelo’s “David” was put on display inside the gallery. It is said that through the artwork displayed inside the gallery it is possible to “understand the complex moral and religious tensions underlying his [Michelangelo’s] unique creative powers.” It is open 8.30-18.50 / Sunday 8.30-18.50 (closed Monday)

Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza [IMSS]-(The History of Science Museum) It was founded in 1927 at the initiative of the University of Florence and according to its statute, its function was that of collecting, cataloguing and restoring ancient instruments and devices of historical and scientific interest. It contains important scientific artifacts from over five centuries. Most of the oldest artifacts in the collection come from the Medici family. The first floor (11 rooms) is dedicated to the Medici core: quadrants, astrolabes, meridians, dials, compasses, armillary spheres, bussolas, real works of art made by famous Tuscan and European artists. The latter of the artifacts come from the Lorraine family. The Lorraine family came into power after the Medici family. The second floor (10 rooms) shows a large number of very interesting and beautiful instruments, mostly belonging to the Lorraine family, most of which are Galileo’s original instruments, including thermometers, microscopes, and meteorological instruments.
Not only is the town filled with museums; there are also several churches. The interesting thing about churches in Florence is that no matter how small they may be, the inside is most likely decorated with some amazing Renaissance artwork. Here are details on two of the most popular churches to visit in Florence:

San Lorenzo- This is the oldest church in the city. It was consecrated by St. Ambrose in 393, and then was rebuilt along Romanesque lines in 1060. The Medici family adopted this church as their own in 1418 and had it completely renovated which is the building that we see today. The present building dates to 1423 and was designed and built by Brunelleschi. The simple bare facade lacks the marble revetment; Michelangelo's design was never carried out. The internal facade, which Michelangelo also designed, is comprised of three doors between two pilasters with garlands of oak and laurel and a balcony on two Corinthian columns. The ceiling has magnificent gilded rosettes in white-ground coffering. The church contains several important art works including some by Donatello, Bronzino Rosso Fiorentino, and the majority of them are from Michelangelo. It is open from 7.00-12.00 and 15.30-18.30 including Sunday
Church of Santa Croce- (Church of the Sacred Cross) The Basilica of Santa Croce is one of the largest churches in the city. Building this masterpiece began in 1294 but it was not completed until 1443. It is built on the plan of an Egyptian cross (in the shape of a T), with the interior divided into three naves. It is full of chapels, which were reserved for the burial of the most illustrious families in Florence. Giotto and his school immediately covered the walls of these chapels and the entire church in breath-taking frescoes. They also designed the beautiful stained glass windows, which can be seen throughout the church. The basilica also contains numerous examples of typically Renaissance sculpture. The most famous of these is the Crucifix by Donatello. The presence of a great many funeral monuments and tombstones (276 can still be seen on the floor alone) has led to the Basilca being thought of as the city Pantheon, the burial place of Florence's most illustrious citizens. The floor is covered with old tombstones for the entire length of the nave.

Some of the most famous tombs include those of Michelangelo (tomb by Vasari, 1570), Galileo Galilei (tomb by Foggini, 1737), and Vittorio Alfieri (tomb by Canova, 1810). It is open 8.00-12.30 and 15.00-18.30 / Sunday 15.00-18.00

Another sight you will most definitely see is that of Ponte Vecchio which crosses the Arno River. Ponte Vecchio means “Old Bridge” which is a very fitting name considering it is the oldest bridge in Florence. It was built back in the Roman era, however it has been rebuilt several times since the original structure. The upper side of the bridge, known as the Vasariano corridor, was designed by Vasari to link the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace; today it is an art gallery. The sides of the bridge are inhabited. Originally, they were lined with foot shops selling fruits and vegetables. In the 15th century, silversmiths and goldsmiths took over the shops. Today, the bridge is lined with jewelry shops selling modern and authentic jewelry.

Neighborhoods of Florence

(directly from http://www.tours-italy.com/florence/city_guide.htm)

**Central Florence, from the Duomo to the Arno River

This is Florence at its most chaotic, within the space of a few city blocks you'll find all the must-see attractions of Florence: the Cathedral (duomo ) and baptistery, Piazza Signori (the main square of Florence), the Uffizzi Museum, Ponte Vecchio, as well as numerous other attractions.

** The District of San Marco

Northeast of central Florence, it's is one of Florence 's most liveliest quarters that boasts a large student population. The centre of activity is around the Piazza, which is one of Florence 's most beautiful squares. Nearby is the Galleria dell'Accademia. For those looking for alternative to visiting museums, the Giardino dei Semplice (garden of samples) is not far. Established during the reign of Cosimo, exotic plants were cultivated and oils that were extracted were used to make cures for various ailments.

**The District of Santa Croce

Santa Croce quarter is the largest of the districts of Florence. It's a wonderful place to go wondering along interweaving streets with hidden architectural gems to discover from the different periods of Florence 's history. In and around Piazza Santa Croce, there are numerous craft shops, restaurants and cafes.

**The District of Oltrarno

A map of the city

n the far side of the River Arno from the centre of Florence, the word Oltrarno literally means "beyond the Arno ". This area of the city is away from the hordes of tourists, and retains more of a local character. Its most important monument is the Palazzo Pitti, which is a huge structure that incorporates many important museums as well as the beautiful Boboli Gardens. West of Ponte Vecchio you'll find the area of Santo Spirito, which is home to furniture restorers and other artisan workshops.

**Santa Maria Novella

This area lies directly between the railway station and the Arno River. The streets in and around Piazza Santa Maria Novella are an architectural treasure trove, lined with some of Florence 's most elegant piazza. It's also home to Florence 's finest shopping street Via Tornabuoni. In between the lavish palazzo's and expensive shops are enchanting medieval streets to see, as well as the Croce al Trebbio, a little shrine erected by the Domenican friars to celebrate the defeat of the Patarene heretics, in a bloody street brawl.

General Information:

What to wear?

In general Italians dress well and are not sloppy. They do not usually wear shorts in the city. Even when dressed casually they are careful about the way they look. Dress code is strict for visits to churches. Women must cover bare shoulders and arms - a shawl will do - but no longer need cover their heads. Shorts are not allowed for either men or women.


Just steps from the Duomo, in the middle of Florence's historic center there is a new facility fully equipped for using the Internet and sending E-Mail.

Also, there are 2 facilities with 45 personal computers, Internet service, and E-mail service located 1 near the train station and 1 near the Duomo.


The electrical current in most of Italy is 220 volts whereas the United States runs on 110 volts. In Italy, you need continental-type plugs, which have two round prongs.

Eiffel Tower Info, by Katie Kluver
If you were to think of Paris, what is the first thing that would come to your mind? If you thought of the Eiffel Tower, you are correct! Here is some information on the Eiffel Tower that you may find interesting as you visit this amazing monument!

The Eiffel Tower, or the Tour Eiffel in French, was first opened on March 31, 1889 for the Universal Exhibition in celebration of the French Revolution.

The design began in 1884, with over 5,300 different designs produced. The construction began in 1887 and lasting two years, two months and 5 days.

It is built from 18,038 pieces of metal and is held together by 2,500,000 rivets.

The whole structure weighs 10,100 tons.

With the flagpole on top, the total height of the Eiffel Tower is 324 meters.

The force of the wind causes the top of the tower to sway 6 to 7 centimeters.

Since its opening until the end of 2004, there have been over 216 million visitors.

Ever wonder how many steps lead to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Well, you have to up 1665 steps in order to reach the top!

The tower is owned by the city of Paris.

The pillars are oriented in the manner of the four cardinal points, contained within a square with 125-meter sides.

Until the construction of the Chrysler Building in 1930 by William Van Allen, architect, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest building in the world.

The tower is repainted every five years, using 50 tons of paint.

The Eiffel Tower has used many different types of lighting so that the whole structure can be illuminated. Since its opening, the tower has used sodium lamps, neon lights, incandescent lamps, gas lighting and also electricity. In 1925, the tower lights were used as advertising for businesses. In 1937, colored lighting was added to the handrails. Now, the lights are inside the structure of the tower. Recently, there were four projector lights added to the tower. They are run by a computer that moves them 90 degrees and they are synchronized so that they form a double beam in a cross that pivots around 360 degrees. For the New Year each year, the tower lights are redesigned to be even more spectacular than the year before.

For the time that we will be there, the Eiffel Tower will be open every day. If you want to use the elevator, the hours are 9:30 am to 11:45 pm. It will cost you 10,70 euros to take the elevator to the top. If you want to take the stairs, which is recommended by other trip participants, it will cost you 3,00 euros but will only get you to the second floor. The hours for the stairs are more limited, from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm.

One thing that is highly recommended by past trip participants and others who have visited the Eiffel Tower is to eat at the restaurant on the second floor. The restaurant is called Jules Verne and features gourmet cuisine. They are open daily from 12:30 to 2:30 pm and from 7:30 to 10:30 pm. The restaurant is located about 400 feet off the ground and offers a beautiful view of the city. If you want to eat there, you must make reservations in advance. The phone number is

Cathédrale Notre Dame
Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, decided to build a new cathedral for the growing population of Paris, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The construction started in 1163, but it wasn’t completed until 1345. Because there was so much illiteracy during this time, the cathedral retells the stories of the Bible in its portals, paintings, and stained glass.

Notre Dame has a rich history. Crusaders prayed here before leaving on their holy wars. Notre Dame was pillaged during the French revolution. Citizens mistook statues of saints above the portals on the west front for representations of their kings, and removed them. Some of these statues were found in the 1970s in the Latin Quarter. Many of the cathedral's other treasures were either destroyed or stolen, only the bells avoided being melted down. Revolutionaries dedicated the cathedral first to the cult of Reason, and then to the cult of the Supreme being. It’s hard to imagine, but the church interior was once used as a warehouse for the storage of food.

It was also here that Napoléon, wanting to emphasize the primacy of the state over the church, crowned himself emperor, and then crowned Joséphine, his wife, as his empress. This job would normally have been done by an archbishop, but Pope Pius VII, there for the occasion, raised no objections.

During the Commune of 1871, the Cathedral was nearly burned by the Communards. Whatever happened, Notre Dame survived the Commune essentially unharmed.

The art of Notre Dame is said to be amazing. The west front contains 28 statues representing the monarchs of Judea and Israel. The three portals depict the Last Judgment, with the Madonna and Child, St. Anne, the Virgin's mother, and Mary's youth until the birth of Jesus. The interior with the columns has room for as many as 6,000 worshipers. The three rose windows are said to be beautiful on sunny days.

In 1768, geographers decided that all distances in France would be measured from Notre Dame. One hundred and seventy-six years later, when Paris was liberated during World War II, General de Gaulle went to the cathedral after his return, to pray in thanksgiving. In many ways, Notre Dame was and still is the center of France.

For a look at the upper parts of the church, the river, and much of Paris, climb the 387 steps to the top of one of the towers. The south tower holds Notre Dame's 13-ton bell, which is rung on special occasions.

Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, but it was not finished until 1836. There are four huge sculptures at the bases of the four pillars. These commemorate The Triumph of 1810, Resistance, Peace and The Departure of the Volunteers. Engraved around the top of the Arch are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. Beneath the Arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and eternal flame commemorating those who died in the two world wars. Inside the Arch there is a museum documenting its history and construction. From the roof there are spectacular views of Paris. In the east, you can see down the Champs Elysées, toward the Louvre.

Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde is the largest public square in Paris. Situated along the Seine, it separates the Tuileries Gardens from the beginning of the boulevard Champs Elysées. Originally named Place Louis XV, the square was designed for the purpose of showcasing a statue of the king on a horse.

Construction of the square began in 1754 and was completed in 1763. It is actually in the shape of an octagon, and was once bordered by large moats that no longer exist. The major street off of the square is the Voie Triomphale, or Triumphal Way, which extends east to west in a perfectly straight line from the Louvre Museum and through the Tuileries Gardens, up the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and beyond.

Several decades after its construction, this square was to serve as a focal point for the bloody demonstrations of the French Revolution. When the revolutionaries seized power, they renamed the square Place de la Révolution, tore down the statue of Louis XV and replaced it with a guillotine. Between 1793 and 1795, more than 1300 people were beheaded in public executions, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It is said that the scent of blood was so strong here that a herd of cattle once refused to cross the grounds.

Today, the open-air square still looks quite similar to the way it did in the 1700s, except for the large obelisk in the center. The Obelisk of Luxor was given to the French in 1829 by the viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Amon temple at Luxor. It is more than 3,300 years old and is decorated with hieroglyphics that document the reigns of the pharaohs Ramses II and Ramses III. The obelisk was installed in 1833 and weighs 230 tons and standing 22.83 meters, or 75 feet, high in the center of the Place. On both sides of the obelisk are two fountains constructed during the same period. Having survived more than 33 centuries, the obelisk has suffered the most damage during the past half-century by air pollution from industry and cars.

Other places of interest which border the Place are the Tuileries Gardens and the Embassy of the United States, which is located in the corner of the square at the intersection of avenue Gabriel and rue Boissy d'Anglas.
Musée National de Picasso
The museum has a collection of several thousand works of Pablo Picasso. Picasso was born in 1881 in Spain and he began to study art in 1895. During his life he created diverse works including painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, engraving, and even poetry. To house the collection, they chose to use a seventeenth century hotel. Today, there are 203 paintings, 191 sculptures, 85 ceramics, and over 3000 drawings, engravings, and manuscripts in the museum. Besides the personal collection of Picasso, the museum also has some works of Cézanne and Matisse.
Food in Paris
If you are planning on eating while in Paris, here are some suggestions of restaurants that you may want to consider.

  • Café Six-huit

    • Classic French cuisine

    • Affordable

    • Open daily from 12-3 pm and 7-11 pm,

    • Located at Quai Malaquais, 75006/quai Montebello

  • La Coupole

    • Classic French cuisine

    • Moderately priced

    • Open daily from 7:30 pm – 2 am

    • Located at 102 boulevard du Montparnasse

  • Le Restaurant

    • Good, plain cuisine

    • Affordable

    • Open Saturday from 8-11:30 pm

    • Located at 32 rue Veron

  • Café Marly

    • Classic French cuisine

    • Moderately priced

    • Trendy café located inside the Lourve

    • Open daily from 8 pm – 2 am

    • Located at Plais du Lourve, 93 rue de Rivoli

Food and Menu Terms
If you do not want to end up ordering something that you will not enjoy, here is a translation of some common French words pertaining to the menu, foods you may enjoy and others you may not.
Menu Terms
Addition Restaurant bill

Apéritif Before-meal drink

À point Medium rare

Assiette de Plate of

Bien cuit Well done

Boisson (compris ou non-compris) Drink (included or not included)

Carafe d’eau Pitcher of tap water

Carte Menu

Choix Choice

Chaud Hot

Couteau Knife

Cruilliere Spoon

Cuit Cooked

Déjeuner Lunch

Dîner Dinner

Eau (minérale) Water (mineral)

Entrée First course

Épices Spices

Farci Stuffed

Fermé Closed

Fondu Melted

(Au) four Baked

Fourchette Fork

Frais, fraîche Fresh or chilled

Froide Cold

Glacé Iced, glazed

Gratuit Free

Grillade Grilled

Hor d’oeuvre Appetizer

Huile Oil

Léger Light

Légume Vegetable

Maigre Thin, no fat

Marché Market

Marinée Marinated

Morceau Piece

Mélange Mixture

Mets selon de la saison According to the season

Nappé Covered with a sauce

Nature Simple, plain, no sauce

Nouvelle New

Ouvert Open

Pané Breaded

Parfum Flavor

Petit déjeuner Breakfast

Plat Dish

Plat du jour Dish of the day

Repas Meal

Salé Salted

Sel Salt

Serviette Napkin

Service compris Service charge included

Sucre Sugar

Tiède Warm

Tranche Slice

Try this!

Baguette Long thin loaf of bread

Basilic Basil

Beurre Butter

Bifteck Steak

Champignon Mushrooms

Citron Lemon

Confiture Jam

Contre-filet Sirloin steak

Crevette Grise Shrimp

Crudités Raw vegetables

Dinde Turkey

Frites (pommes) French fries

Fromage Cheese

Galette Pancake, flat pastry

Gaufre Waffle

Glace Ice cream

Infusion Herb tea

Jambon Ham

Jus Juice

Lait Milk

Laitue Lettuce

Madeleine Small tea cake

Marquise au chocolat Rich chocolate mousse cake

Miel Honey

Moutarde Mustard

Menthe Mint

Nouilles Noodles

Oeuf Egg

Oignon Onion

Pain Bread

Parmentier Potatoes, usually mashed

Pâtes Pasta

Poisson Fish

Pomme Apple

Pomme de terre Potato

Potage Soup

Poulet (rôti) Chicken (roasted)

Riz Rice

Salade mixte Mixed salad

Salade verte Green salad

Tartine Buttered bread

Thé Tea

Viande Meat

Yaourt Yogurt

Use caution!
Boudon noir Blood Sausage

Caille Quail

Calamar Squid

Canard Duck

Carre d’agneau Rack of lamb

Cervelles/cervaux Brains

Cheval Horse

Chèvre Goat cheese

Claire Oyster

Coeur Heart

Foie Liver

Gésuer Gizzard

Grenouille (cuisses de) Frogs (legs)

Lapin Rabbit

Oie Goose

Pouple Octopus

Rognon Kidney

Tête de veau Calf’s head

Tortue Turtle

Veau Veal

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