Four of us left Rome by high-speed train for Florence (Firenze) on Friday afternoon. We got in just before sundown and checked into the Convitto della Calza Conference Center, a monastery handed over by Pope Clement VII in 1531 to the Gesuati friars (Acolytes Apostles of St. Jerome founded by Blessed Giovanni Colombini of Siena), later occupied by the Congregation of the Priests of Gesu Salvatore in 1664. We did not see much more of it than what was common for all guests, and our own rooms. And after putting our bags away, we headed on foot across the river into the city.
We passed the Pitti Palace which was once the residence of the noble Pitti family. It is now a museum with lots of Renaissance art which we did not get to see.
We continued on our way toward the River Arno and crossed it on the famous Pontevecchio from the south. The place was lit up like a Christmas tree, the jewelry stores beckoning shoppers to part with their hard-earned wages. Lots of bling.
After crossing the bridge, we walked in the direction of the Duomo, the Cathedral of Florence dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore (St. Mary of the Flower). The building is massive and covered in black and white marble. Across from the main entrance is the baptistry, in similar black and white marble. Everything was closed, but the night was cold and clear. It was a great opportunity just to have seen it.
My traveling companions: Fr. Dennis Yesalonia SJ, Fr. Bill Dickinson, Fr. Jim Walsh.
We went into the chocolate and candy shops as well. But there’s no guarantee the merchandise will make it home. Just saying.
We headed back toward Pontevecchio and the jewelry shops in our search for a place for dinner. It had only been an hour since we came that way. And the place looked completely different as the shop windows were all boarded up for the night. It was like the jewelry boxes were just shut tight, big padlocks, solid metal hinges, iron grates and window covers … amazing transformation.
After dinner (I didn’t remember to take pictures, but I can assure you I ate well), we headed back to the Convitto della Calzo. It would be an early morning start the next day. We were catching a taxi for the train station at 5:15 AM.
The “bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I” by Giambologna (1594)
Back at the Convitto della Calza, in one of the meeting rooms, the Last Supper by Franciabigio (Francesco di Cristoforo 1482-1525).
My room at the Convitto della Calze.
Tomorrow to La Spezia and Cinque Terre.