Walk Description

This three-hour walking seminar focuses on Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence's cathedral which is usually simply referred to as the Duomo. In the company of an art or architectural historian, we will spend our time visiting the major sites in and around the church, tracing the architectural development of what would become, by the end of the Renaissance, the symbolic core of the city.

We start with the Baptistery, an 11th century structure that the Florentines believed was originally a Roman temple. (We will get a glimpse of the ancient structure below the floor, now thought to be a Roman house.) We will spend some time discussing the architectural decoration on the exterior of the building and how this mixture of green and white marble later became the "house style" of Renaissance Florence. Inside, in the shadow of the absolutely stunning Italo-Byzantine mosaics, we will look at the context of the medieval period and how the great architects, like Brunelleschi, were as much inspired by old Florence as they were by Rome, Greece, and classical models.

Depending on opening and closing times, we'll move from here to the Duomo itself, dealing with the long, dramatic story of its design and construction. We'll talk about Brunelleschi while standing in front of the facade, on the top step, where many historians believe he set up his "perspective machine" to establish, for the first time since antiquity, a system of mathematical perspective. Inside, we'll discuss Arnolfo di Cambio, Pisano, and Brunelleschi in the context of Florentine politics. We will engage in a short discussion of the dome; its novel construction and how Brunelleschi used the model of the past to invent a radically modern way of building.

Finally, we will move to the museum of the Duomo, an often-overlooked collection of masterpieces. Here we will find a wealth of artworks removed from the Duomo and surrounding buildings, including Ghiberti's bronze doors of the Baptistery and Donatello's figures for the facade of the cathedral. We will linger at some of the more important pieces, such as Michelangelo's late-career Pieta' and Donatello's disheveled statue of Mary Magdalene. We will also spend some time among the construction tools and architectural models designed by Brunelleschi and his successors to complete our understanding of the building that has come to represent for so many Florence itself.


Duration: 2.5 hours
Category: Architecture
Venues: Baptistry, Museo dell'Opera Del Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore
Incidentals: Entry Fees- €10.00
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    Anne Bahrenberg Barbetti

    Originally from the United States, Anne came to Florence many years ago to study art history at the University of Florence. She became enmeshed in a long-term project researching Renaissance and Baroque embroidered fabrics, during which she has personally uncovered many hitherto unknown collections of antique fabrics. She is currently working on a catalog and book based on this work.

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    Lucia Montuschi

    Lucia is a University of Florence PhD art historian who completed her dissertation on eastern art. She has worked and researched in the many state museums of Florence, with a particular focus on art therapy. She has also taught for Pepperdine University and the International Art University. Currently, she teaches Venetian art at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Florence. Lucia is a charming and extremely knowledgeable docent, and is a lover of ideas.

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    Jane Zaloga

    Jane is working on her dissertation for a PhD in architectural history from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. She currently teaches art history and architectural history as an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University and New York University. She has lived in Florence for ten years, and has a young daughter named Olivia.

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    Cornelia Danielson

    Cornelia has a PhD in art history from Columbia University and wrote her dissertation on Renaissance city planning. She is especially knowledgeable about Medici patronage. In addition to her research and teaching, Cornelia, a mother of a disabled child, runs an association dedicated to barrier-free travel in Florence and is author of "The Accessible Guide to Florence."

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    Monica Shenouda

    Monica completed her PhD in 2009 in the the history of art and architecture from the University of Virginia, specializing in the Italian Renaissance period. As a writer, she is interested in the literary culture of Florence as well as the city's art and architecture. Before coming to Florence, Monica lived in Rome, Venice, New York City, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

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    Elizabeth Butler

    Elizabeth recently received her MA in Florentine Renaissance art from Syracuse University in Florence. Her interests include women's history and women artists, particularly by women in convents. In addition to leading walks, she also lectures at various universities and institutions in Florence.

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    Valerie Niemeyer

    Valerie received her BA with highest honors in art history and museology at the University of Florence, focusing on the Renaissance art market. Although German, Valerie was born and raised in Rome, making her eager to build bridges across different cultures. She also works for the educational department of the state museums in Florence, where her mission is to communicate art and culture as a means of understanding the visual signs that surround us.

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    Sheila Barker

    Sheila (BA, Amherst College 1993; MA, MPhil, and PhD, Columbia University 2002) is Director of the Jane Fortune Research Program on Women Artists at the Medici Archive Project. At the archives she undertakes research on women artists, mentors younger scholars, and organizes publications, lectures, and conferences, often in collaboration with the Advancing Women Artists Foundation (AWA). She has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Medici Archive Project. Additionally, she has taught art history at several colleges and has managed the old masters gallery of Robert Simon Fine Art in New York. Her publications cover topics in Renaissance and Baroque art, Pope Urban VIII and politics, and medicine and pharmacy in the seventeenth century. Currently she is editing a book of essays on women artists in Early-Modern Italy and finishing an essay on Michelangelo's "Battle of Cascina."

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    Waldemar de Boer

    Waldemar completed his PhD on a seventeenth-century art guide of Vicenza at the Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence in 2005. He recently published a critical edition of Francesco Albertini's "Memorial of Many Statues and Paintings in the Illustrious City of Florence" (1510), which is considered to be the first guidebook to this city. Furthermore, he is conducting postdoctoral research on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art auctions in Italy and works as a private art history teacher. Waldemar is also a certified cheese taster and organizes gastronomic holidays in Tuscany.

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    Lucia Picchi

    Lucia Picchi grew up in Rome where she graduated in 2001 with a thesis on Roman fresco decoration, after which she took part in an internship at the Louvre. In Florence since 2003, she expanded her passion for drawings thanks to a student's grant at the Longhi Foundation of Art History. In this city, she has also continued building on her knowledge of minor arts with a Masters program at the University of Florence, and an additional license in wood restoration. In the last few years, Lucia has been strongly interested in the movement of artworks for temporary exhibitions.

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    Patricia Rucidlo

    Patricia holds an MA in Italian Renaissance history from Cornell University, and another in Italian Renaissance art history from Syracuse University. Both of her theses were on Florentine topics. She also writes about Florence, Tuscany, and Emilia-Romagna for a popular guide book, has led wine tours in Chianti, and has cooked in several Florentine trattorie. She lives in the Tuscan countryside with her husband and six dogs.

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    Siro Chini

    Born and raised under the shade of Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome in Florence, Siro belongs to an important Tuscan family of art nouveau artists. After a diploma in ceramic decoration obtained in 2000, he has worked in a typical Florentine workshop. He received his BA at the Università di Firenze and in 2008 published his research about the Richard-Ginori porcelain production that was commissioned by the vice-king of Egypt upon the celebrations of the opening of the Suez Canal. In order to share his passion and love for art, culture, and the Florentine lifestyle, Siro is professionally trained as a tour guide for his hometown.

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    Alessandra Becucci

    Born and raised in Florence, Alessandra has a degree in art history from the University of Florence with a specialization in seventeenth-century painting. She obtained an MRes from the European University Institute in Florence, where she defended her PhD in history, focusing on the patronage of Tuscan nobility in Europe during the seventeenth century. In addition, she holds a diploma in archival administration, palaeography, and diplomatics from the State Archive in Florence. She has been teaching art history and Italian for several years in various schools and institutions in Florence.

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    Amal El Khoury

    Amal first came to Florence in 1982 on a scholarship for a one-year ‘Restoration of Architectural Monuments’ course. She has been living in Florence ever since. She was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, where she began her university studies in Architecture. She obtained her MA in architecture from Virginia Tech in 1980. Her experience varies from work in architectural studios to technical illustration to film subtitle translation. She is a professional licensed tour guide for Florence and enjoys sharing her passions for history, art, and architecture with all visitors to Florence. Amal is fluent in Arabic, English, and Italian, and is also good in French and Spanish. She has several years of international experience as a leader in children’s camps, youth interchange programs with CISV (Children’s International Summer Villages), and Lions International Youth Camps in Italy.

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    Laura Fenelli

    Originally from Parma, Laura has been living and working as an art historian in Florence since 2007. She has an MA in medieval art history and a PhD in medieval history. She works on the history of medieval and early-modern images and saints’ iconography and hagiography, and collaborates with the University of Bologna and the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. Since 2009 she has been teaching medieval and modern art history in Parma, Pisa, and Florence for American colleges and universities.

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    Alexandra Lawrence

    After studying Italian literature at the graduate level, Alexandra made her permanent home in Florence where she teaches journalism, contemporary Italian culture, and travel writing courses at several local universities. A member of the council of advisors for the Advancing Women Artists Foundation, she is particularly interested in female artists and patronage in Florence and Tuscany. In addition, she has written on several of the city’s most important restorations and has enjoyed getting to know many of the experts in the restoration field. She is a licensed professional guide for Florence and its province and is the editor-at-large of the English language newspaper, The Florentine.