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Detail of the Cloister of Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, October 2007

Detail of the Cloister of Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, October 2007

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Through My Lens: Basilica di San Miniato al Monte

San Miniato al Monte

My experience visiting this church, the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, was probably the most unique of any visit I have ever made to a European church. It was late in the afternoon, and my friend and I stumbled upon the basilica almost by accident after taking dozens of photos of the amazing view over the city of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. (Go back to the First Sunday of Lent if you want to see one of those photos.)

Basilica di San Miniato al Monte is located just a few steps further up the hill from Piazzale Michelangelo. We wandered in and were immediately overwhelmed by the music. Gregorian chant, to be precise. It was mesmerizing, and took all of our attention during our entire visit. The monks were singing in the crypt, located below the raised choir, and there were maybe a dozen tourists scattered about, listening to them.

I had read how the monks who live in the monastery next door sing each afternoon during Vespers, but had completely forgotten about it until we just happened to enter the church at precisely the right hour. If you’re wandering about Florence in the late afternoon and want a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience, go listen to these monks.

Basilica di San Miniato al Monte is my photo choice for today, the Third Sunday of Lent.

Through My Lens: Detail of Il Duomo di Firenze

Duomo Detail

For the Second Sunday of Lent, here’s a detail of the colourful stonework of the Duomo in Florence.

Through My Lens: Il Duomo di Firenze

Il Duomo

Once again we’ve arrived at the Season of Lent. It’s much later than usual this year (which also seems to be the case with the arrival of spring in most parts of Canada).

As is my tradition, I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of some European churches. This year it’s Italy’s turn.

First up, for the First Sunday of Lent, is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. In English, that’s the Basilica of Saint Mary the Flower. In Florence, it’s referred to simply as the Duomo, which is Italian for “cathedral.”

I took this photo of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks the city of Florence and the River Arno. At the far right, you have Brunelleschi’s dome and then, to the left of the dome, is Giotto’s Campanile. The smaller dome to the left of the Campanile isn’t part of the Duomo ― that’s the Medici Chapel.

Florence

Florence. Firenze. Birthplace of the Renaissance. Home of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and the Medicis. Site of Brunelleschi’s Dome and the Ponte Vecchio. A major stop on the Grand Tour of every young Englishman during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. One of the most-visited European cities in this century.

Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence is intense. And not just because of all that art and history. Its historical centre is small, easily covered on foot, and jam-packed with tourists.

The Arno from Piazzale Michelangelo

The key to enjoying Florence is to not resent the crowds ― everyone is there for the same reason you are. If you can, visit Florence in the off season.  And, if that’s not possible, get up early, and explore as much of the city’s piazzas and narrow streets before the rest of the world is up and about. You won’t regret it.

Copy of Michelangelo’s David in Piazza della Signoria