Nearly seven years before I set foot in Florence, a younger Keely discovered a phenomenal musical: Adam Guettel’s 2003 The Light in the Piazza, set in the same city. I fell so in love with this remarkable story and incredible score that I even performed the title song at an awkward voice recital.
One of the musical’s leads, Clara, describes Italy as “the land of naked marble boys,” and I couldn’t help wryly remembering her various comments as I browsed Florence’s galleries and museums. I would say that it’s also the land of sweeping architecture, pale yellow houses, tourists gaping at masterpieces, and one spectacular vegan Italian restaurant. I certainly can’t show these photos to my sixteen-year-old self, who was constantly singing Piazza lyrics under her breath and dreaming of Europe–but I’m happy to finally share them with anyone who plans to find their own way to these piazzas!
The Florence Cathedral dome and the Palazzo Vecchio were only two among the many iconic architectural achievements we visited in Firenze. That first moment when you get off the train, weave your way through the high street shops, and finally catch a glimpse of that massive dome looming over the street like a wayward, Earth-bound moon–it’s like nothing else.
There’s also that moment when you find a giant metallic turtle sculpture in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The ever-knowing internet informed me that this is a work by Jan Fabre, a contemporary artist, and that it essentially appeared overnight. You keep riding your turtle, sir.
If you really don’t want to miss anything, climb to the top of the dome to see all of Florence at once! But not if you have claustrophobia/anxiety/a general fear of being in centuries-old tiny staircases while stuck in a massive crowd of tourists.
I don’t know what convinced me that I could handle the Duomo climb–I mean, I already know that going on subways gets me into a panic!–but my inner art historian somehow started heading up those stairs. The walk up was okay (I kept myself calm with fun facts about Brunelleschi’s architectural design and breathing exercises!) but the way down…
See, the uppermost parts of the dome staircase only have one corridor for both up- and down-bound traffic. My family and a few other unlucky souls ended up trapped in a tiny alcove while scores of tourists headed upwards, while I was panic-attack’d like nobody’s business.
As you can see, the view from the top was phenomenal, and I would recommend it to anyone who can climb stairs with ease–but only if you’re cool with tight Renaissance stairs! In the meantime, I’ll sit out any future crowded 400-stair nightmares, and happily wave to the people at the top while listening to The Light in the Piazza.