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Archive for the ‘Monasterys in Florencne’ Category

There is so much information now available on the internet about hotels in cities around the world, no less so for Florence. For years selected as the number one travel destination on the globe, the choices for hotels are nearly overwhelming.

This brief post covers those hotels that I have stayed in over the years and believe to be very good values for both first time and experienced travelers.

Tornabuoni Beacci

Above one of the busiest intersections in Florence, in a location few even notice, is a hotel that has played host to visitors during the “Grand Tour” at the end of the 19th Century and continues to provide exceptional value for accommodation in Florence-The Tornabuoni Beacci. You enter the elevator lobby just off of the piazza named for the nearby Church of Santa Trinita.

Terrace Tornabuoni Beacci Florence

Terrace
Tornabuoni Beacci Florence

The reception area is straight out of the Grand Tour and, while ‘intimate’ is one word many people use, your welcome could not be warmer nor more sincere.

Rooms are comfortable and, I have found, a bit larger than most in the city. Air conditioning in the summer, an absolute must these days, works well. The hotel offers a lovely roof top terrace where you can enjoy breakfast or a quiet break during the day. The breakfast room windows are usually open during the morning meal and the sounds of the city rise to the room and increase a visitors anticipation for the activities ahead.

The hotel’s great location provides visitors access, within less than ten minutes, to the Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Repubblica and the Piazza Duomo.

My first experience in this hotel was nearly thirty-five years ago and I have not be disappointed since. A gem in a gem of a city.

See IF YOU GO below for details about reservations, address, web site and contact.

Orto de’ Medici

Named in honor of the nearby Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici’s medicinal plant garden, the Orto is a wonderful hotel. A five minute walk from

Night View Garden Courtyard Hotel Orto de' Medici

Night View Garden Courtyard
Hotel Orto de’ Medici

the Accademia brings visitors to the main entrance to the building. Within, a lovely large cool lobby and a well staffed reception desk welcome guests.

The rooms are more than comfortable and, like the Tornabuoni Beacci, large with one exception – singles are very small, yet if you book a double accommodation for single use (which I always do) you have the comfort of a large room. The bathrooms are clean and well appointed as well.

Staff are always helpful, and questions about any special service you might require, from restaurant reservations / recommendations to private car reservations are handled flawlessly and with no hesitation.

You can easily be in the Monastery of San Marco in about five minutes, as with the Accademia. The Piazza Duomo is about a ten minute walk, the Ponte Vecchio about fifteen minutes.

Recently, new rooms were opened at the garden level of the hotel. These rooms are furnished in a very modern, sleek furniture and offer views into a small garden courtyard. There is not a formal bar in the hotel, yet each evening, there is a lovely service for wine on the terrace just outside of the breakfast room.

The breakfasts served each morning are well stocked and provide plenty of fuel for a busy day in the city. A very comfortable and safe hotel in Florence.

See IF YOU GO below for details about reservations, address, web site and contact.

Hotel Facade and Ponte Vecchio Hotel Berchielli Florence

Ponte Vecchio with
Hotel Berchielli Florence

Hotel Berchielli

My first stay at this, now, four star hotel facing the Arno River was over forty years ago. Then, it was a stodgy dowager of hotels, no air conditioning and a sense that it had passed its prime. No longer! The gorgeous restoration completed nearly twelve years ago has raised this hotel to the ranks of one of the finest four star hotels in the city.

The lobby reception area is cool, clean and comfortable, the staff very efficient. Breakfasts are  more than satisfactory and filling. My recent stay was made more welcoming by fresh flowers in the room and windows that offered a wonderful view of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. (NOTE: If you stay at this hotel, confirm that your room will face the Arno. Rooms in the back of the hotel are certainly comfortable, yet the view will make your stay all the more enjoyable.

Of all the hotels written about in this article, this is the most expensive, given its location – but the view and the easy access you have to both the major sites on the north side of the river and those on the oltrarno make it yet another great place to stay in Florence.

See IF YOU GO below for details about reservations, address, web site and contact.

IF YOU GO:

Hotel Tornabuoni Beacci

Via Tornabuoni, 3 – 50123 Firenze

TEL: + 39 055 212645

Web:  Tornabuoni Beacci

Hotel Orto de’ Medici

Via San Gallo, 30  Firenze, Italy

Tel: +39 055 483427

Web: Hotel Orto de’ Medici

Hotel Berchielli

rno degli Acciaiuoli, 14

Florence 50123 Italy

TEL: +39 055 264061

Web: Hotel Berchielli

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Piazza San Marco Florence

Piazza San Marco Florence

The present day Church and Monastery of San Marco in Florence was built on the foundation of a 12th Century Valambrosian Monastery. It was in 1435 that the Dominicans from the Convent of San Domenico, located in the hills above Florence in the town of Fiesole, assumed responsibility for the church and buildings. In 1437, the prior of San Marco appealed to Cosimo di Medici (the elder) for the funds to expand the entire complex. Such request was granted and the building you enter today are as those of the time of the early Renaissance.

The piazza that fronts the church is a hive of constant activity. Buses from across the city stop near a wonderful gelateria, Carabè. Motorcycles parked like the spine of a dinosaur line the edges of the central garden and fountain. It is a space that meets its design, yet detracts from enticing visitors into one of the most peaceful and most treasured collections of art in Florence.

Enter. Early morning is the best time to visit, before the crowds arrive. I am always in San Marco immediately after opening at 8:15am. Walking through the arched Cloister of Sant’Antonio and up the long stairway to the monks cells is, for me, a voyage back in time. Morning light reflects against the sandal-polished terracotta floors that line the hallways.

The light of Angelico, the shadows in San Marco

The light of Angelico, the Shadows in San Marco

In each of the cells are works by the early Renaissance artist and master of the fresco Fra Angelico (Beato Angelico in Italian). There are a total of forty-three monk’s cells at San Marco, each decorated with a work by Angelico. What startles most visitors on each visit is the masterpiece of this level of the Monastery, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation.

The master’s use of light – note the beam of sunlight that touches Mary, the fine detail of the angel’s wings. Even the folds of the cloth on both main figures is as if you could touch and feel the texture of the fabric. The panel at the base of the work tells the story of Mary’s life.Devoid of most other symbols that were used in most depictions of this event, and of Mary’s life, Fra Angelico chose to focus on the moment and the effect that the news brought by an angel had on Mary.

Fra AngelicoAnnunciation1438 - 1445

Fra Angelico
Annunciation
1438 – 1445

Within the hushed corridors of this spiritual place, I remember the monks who, from early morning til dark, toiled daily at their chores and then returned to their cells reminded by Angelico’s work of the most important reason they had dedicated their life to the church.

After time in this area of the monastery, I descend the long stairwell and enter the small refectory. It was in this very room that Ghirlandaio, a master who studied the hand of Fra Angelico, created what many consider his masterpiece, L’ultima Cena, the Last Supper. The work was completed in 1486 and is located in the small refectory, a place reserved for very special guests in the lodger’s wing of the monastery. The space now also contains the book shop, where you can find some gorgeous art books if you are interested.

The work by Ghirlandaio not so much mimics, rather pays deference to, an earlier work by Andrea del Castango in the Convent of Sant’Apollonia located only a five minute walk from Piazza San Marco. With the actual arches in the space providing a shelter for the fresco, the entire wall is covered in the most incredible colors. Again, and as with Angelico, the folds of fabric, the details of beards, the fingernails of the saints, the shimmer of light on the old halos above each of the figures nearly beyond belief. This is another gift from the halls of San Marco.

Last SupperDomenico Ghirlandaio 1486 Monastery San Marco

Last Supper
Domenico Ghirlandaio 1486 Monastery San Marco

On March 21 of 2011, the Tabernacle of the Linaioli, a highly prized masterpiece by Fra Angelico, was showcased in the Library of Michelozzo on the second level of the Monastery. I was fortunate to discover this treasured display in May of that same year. Michelozzo’s Library is a perfect example of Renaissance symmetry and balance. Columns and arches support a space that has three aisles.

Library after MichelozzoMonastery of San Marco

Library after Michelozzo
Monastery of San Marco

On the particular day I visited (and I returned numerous times as well) there was not one other person on the second level of the building. At the far end of the dark columned space was the brightly lit Tabernacle. The effect was unforgettable. There, for the world to see was a freshly and perfectly restored masterpiece of the 15th Century. The wonder of this piece was not only the incredible brilliance of the paint. Around the back of the three panels was a large X-ray of the actual internal construction of the wood upon which Angelico painted. What struck me most about the internal structure of the work was that it had been strengthened and reinforced, it had been lovingly cared for. As I have believed for many years, if anyone in the world can successfully restore art it is the Italians.

Tabernacolo dei Linaioli, 1432 - 1433Fra AngelicoPilgrim's Hospice San Marco Florence

Tabernacolo dei Linaioli, 1432 – 1433
Fra Angelico
Pilgrim’s Hospice San Marco Florence

Perhaps, as you study this photo, you can imagine what it was like to come upon this spectacular and especially moving work all alone.

The restored work is back in its original location, the Pilgrim’s Hospice in the Monastery.

If you find yourself in Florence, get up and going early. Visit  before of the city is even awake and listen to the whispers of Dominican monks, study the shimmer of light on terracotta, the reflection from frescoes of incredible beauty while surrounded by a glorious Renaissance Monastery.

IF YOU GO:

Museum and Monastery of San Marco

Piazza San Marco, 3 Florence

Tel: 055.238.86.08

Note the very unusual hours of this Museum and Church!

Monday to Friday, 8:15Am to 1:50PM, Saturday and Sunday 8:15AM to 4:50PM.

Closed the 1st, 3rd, 5th Sunday and 2nd and 4th Monday of every month, New year’s Day, May 1, Christmas Day. These hours are subject to change so it is best to check at your hotel and or with the Museum directly if you have any questions.

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