>Dr. P, Dr. H, and I spent the morning of May 11 – our last day in Florence – at Il Duomo, Santa Maria Fiore (the church attached under Il Duomo), and Santa Reparata (the church under Santa Maria Fiore). We were a bit worried when we set out because it was quite overcast and we worried that the view from the top of Il Duomo would not be very good. No worries needed – the view was great and we had quite an interesting time in the dome as well as on it.

This dark picture is taking from Santa Maria Fiore looking up Il Duomo. We climbed 643 stairs to get to the top and outside, with intermittent stops inside Il Duomo right under the stained glass windows and right below the arch.

As we climbed the stairs, we saw this sign: Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people? Who the fuck would write on the wall of an amazing church? Why can they not exercise any self-control or restraint? As I was to learn in Rome at the Catacombs, idiot assholes who do this types of things ruin the experience for everyone else when things get taken away. How much would it suck if the stairs to Il Duomo were closed due to excessive graffiti? If caught writing on walls, the defacers deserve to have there hands broken on the spot. Sigh.

Anyway, my seething anger at other people was forgotten when we finally got to the top and enjoyed the views. The second picture is of the synagogue in Florence. I think it is one of the most stunning synagogues I have ever seen. (Dr. H’s guidebook (or maybe my little map-guide, I can’t remember) said that the ark still has swastikas carved in it from when it was ransacked in the 1940s.) We stayed up on the cupola and just gaped for some time before heading back down.

As you can see, going down the stairs from Il Duomo’s cupola was a terrifying experience. I swear that I did not hold the camera in any weird way to make Dr. P (visible near the bottom of the stairs) look like she was walking down stairs in some MC Escher drawing. I must’ve clung to the railing on my way down as if my life depended on it. (I have a wee fear of heights, and going down stairs like this amplifies the feeling that I will plunge down any second.)

The stairs led us from the cupola to an even scarier scene – hell. We walked along the level right underneath the stained glass windows and got a close look at Il Duomo’s frescoes depicting hell.
Seriously, people were crazy 400 years ago. The second picture does indeed show a demon with a stick on fire anally raping a man while another demon with a fire stick is vaginally raping a woman. The woman is grabbing another fallen man’s penis as she screams. Dr. P, Dr. H, and I all agreed that repression can make people severely demented. What scares me is that there are still people today who believe that this is exactly the punishment that the sexually “deviant” deserve. It’s grotesque, but a very important reminder of how dark times still were even during the Renaissance period of “enlightenment” that created so much other beautiful art, and both how far and how not far we have progressed in Western culture.

From the heights of Il Duomo (which ironically was so close to hell), we then went into Santa Reparata, which is actually several meters below the ground level of Santa Maria Fiore. I forgot when architects discovered Santa Reparata, but it is incredibly cool. My favorite part is that people can walk on actual parts of the floor that have been uncovered. I so love the mosaic tiled floors, and they had a soothing texture when you walked on them. In addition, there are many interesting tombs, and much to my delight, relics!!! These babies definitely made up for my disappointing visit to San Marco the prior day. Before we went back to the hotel to collect our belongings and take the train to Rome, Dr. P and Dr. H each took a picture of the Baptistery, another Renaissance marvel.

Here’s my final picture of Florence: Almost every corner building in Florence has a painting of the Madonna and Child. Some are very old and faded, others old and better protected, and some are quite new. I found it very interesting that most, if not all, corner buildings had one, but none of our guidebooks mentioned anything about them.

Arreviderci (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) Firenze!