September 04, 2017 - Florence and surroundings, Tuscany, Museums, Historical landmarks, Events
Florence bejewels Tuscany, bringing its special beauty into full flower. The city is also overlaid with extravagance and the visitor is easily overwhelmed by its so many masterpieces, beautiful buildings and splendid shops
High above Florence close to Piazzale Michelangelo is the beautiful church of San Miniato al Monte,
one of my all time favourite – it has an archaic mystical feel, like
many medieval churches, in which the mystery of the liturgy was
paramount. It sits on one of the highest points around Florence, with a
beautiful view towards the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, with the
Fortezza Belvedere to the left. The facade is an intricate intarsia of
black, green and white marble started in the 11th century.
The interior is similarly decorated, with more marble, intricately painted roof beams and rafters and richly decorated walls.
The columns are re-used from old Roman structures, as was common
before the 13th century, and are all different heights and width.
The present church dates mainly from the 11th and 12th centuries –
work is said to have started in 1013 – though there has been a shrine
here since the middle of the 3rd century.
The site is said to have been picked by Minias (San Miniato) himself,
an Armenian prince who was beheaded for his Christian beliefs by the
Roman Emperor Decius. Minias is said to have picked up his head and
walked up the hill of Mons Fiorentinus to his hermitage.
In the third week of June Florence revives a 16th century form of football, known locally as Calcio Storico
(historical football). 'Calcio' means 'kick' - never so appropriate as in this rough and tumble match. The pitch is the square of Santa Croce, made
into a giant sand pit with a goal that is the whole width of the end of
the pitch. Each of four teams has 27 men and the ball must be kicked or carried
to your adversaries’ end of the field. The final is held on June 24th, Florence's feast day for its patron saint John the Baptist. A game without rules in stripped down costume, it has the vigour and energy of
rugby and carries the same penalties for the players – some of whom have
had ears bitten off and noses broken!
Florence has a number of opera and music festivals throughout the year, the most well-known of which are probably the ‘estate fiesolana‘, with concerts held in the Roman theatre in Fiesole, and the ‘opera festival‘.