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I was among a busload of tourists who took a day-long guided tour of Florence, Italy. We boarded the bus in Rome and about 3 hours later arrived in the town known as the birthplace (or center) of the Renaissance. It was a rainy, cloudy day, but the weather didn’t slow us down.

The first stop was in front of the Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiori), or simply “Duomo” with its distinctly unique orange dome. This massive Gothic cathedral dominates the skyline of Florence and is generally considered to be the center of the city. It is said to be the most important landmark in Florence and the fourth-largest church in the world. Today, is the episcopal seat of the Archdiocese of the city of Florence.

Our walking tour took us into the Piazza della Signoria, the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century. It is the location of the Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall. It is the main symbol of civil power. To the right of the Palazzo Vecchio is the Loggia dei Lanzi, a kind of open-air gallery of sculptures—a replica of Michelangelo’s David, Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, The Nettuno (1575) by Ammannati, the statue of Perseo holding Medusa’s head, by Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines and more.

As the rest of the people on the tour studied the sculptures in the square, I glanced a smaller courtyard and stepped away to admire it. There, the ornately sculpted pillars and arches displayed crests of the church and city guilds.

We stood in front of the Santa Croce church, which houses the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli, to name a few. The church is said to be one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic architecture. Like so many other churches in Italy, this is also a museum combining history, religion, and art.

The guide gave us a break so that we could get lunch on our own. Since Florence is known for leather, I stopped into a shop that had jackets, among other things, for sale. I saw a red leather jacket that fit me perfectly. After some negotiation, I bought it.

On the way to the Academia Gallery, where the actual “David” by Michelangelo is on display, we walked by the home of Leonardo DaVinci. The Gallery prominently features this one piece, Michelangelo’s most famous work. Before we entered the gallery, we were told not to take pictures in order to preserve the piece. However, when we got inside, I saw people taking pictures. So, I pulled out my camera and discretely photographed “David” from every angle before being scolded by a little lady in Italian. She, I suppose, worked for the gallery.

There were many other pieces on display in the gallery. Some of them were pieces Michelangelo started but never finished. I found it intriguing that he had so many. I wondered if that was a source of regret for the artist.

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