Valentine’s Day and I remember a visit my husband and I made to the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy where we stop to circle and admire a monument in Michelangelo’s honor. The monument, comprised of bronze copies of Michelangelo’s David and the allegorical figures commissioned by Pope Clement VII for the Medici tombs, is located in the square’s center. We wander past the souvenir stands scattered around the square crowded with film and postcards, water, sodas, snacks and calendars with photos of cats and cathedrals, finally we pause to admire artists who paint their impressions of the vast panorama that is Florence.
The Cradle of the Renaissance, opens before us–in the foreground the Arno River, on the left, the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge and the only one not destroyed during World War II, crosses the river. Jostling shoppers crowd the bridge as they stop to gaze at jewels displayed in the windows of the boutiques-glittering replacements for the butcher shops banished in the 1500s. On the highest section of the bridge is the Vasariano Corridor, a covered passageway that links the Pitti Palace and the Palazzo Vecchio. For three centuries a private passageway for the Medici’s, it was opened to the public by King Victorio Emmanuel II in 1866.
The gate of San Niccolo, built in 1324 along with a tower as a part of the city walls used for defense, still stands, the only example of the original gates of Florence.
The cypress trees covering the Florentine hills present a magnificent backdrop for the towers and bell towers of this memorable city. Santa Croce, the gothic church built by the Franciscans, in the 1200s, with its tombs of famous Italians and Florence Nightingale is described as Italy’s Westminster Abby. In the heart of the city, Brunelleschi’s red-tiled dome crowns the Duomo. To the right, the intimidating Bargello, a castle in 1225, police headquarters during the 16th century, a dungeon and the scene of public executions and, in 1859, a museum, renowned for 15th and 16th century Tuscan sculptures, the arms and armor of war and della Robbia ceramics.
But this afternoon, our attention strays to a young couple; they kiss, then he reaches into a shopping bag, removes a tee shirt and pulls it over his head. On the shirt are stenciled the words, WILL YOU MARRY ME? The girl says, “Yes,” blushes and throws her arms around the boy as everyone in the square focuses on the happy pair. The boy’s grin is almost as wide as the Arno as he places a ring on her finger. Congratulations are offered in many different tongues followed by hearty handshakes. Photos are snapped and everyone will remember a romantic afternoon on the Piazzale Michelangelo.
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