by Ryan Cox ’18
Almost 80 students and faculty members from Providence College’s Liberal Arts Honors Program spent their spring break in Florence, Italy. The program chooses a new destination every year, usually a city in Europe. The program was centered mostly in Florence but included excursions to Rome, Siena, San Gimignano, and Lucca.
While taking in the art, architecture, and food of the so-called “cradle of the Renaissance,” many students opted to explore the Piazza del Duomo. Located in the center of the city of Florence, the plaza is marked by the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as “Il Duomo di Firenze.” With the purchase of one ticket for 18 euros, tourists are given a 72-hour window to see the inside of the cathedral, climb the dome (with a reservation), explore the Baptistery, and tour the Duomo museum.
The Duomo still serves as an active Roman Catholic church, and daily Masses are offered before and after museum hours. This offers faithful Catholics an incredible opportunity to attend mass in the basilica while taking in the ornate Gothic and Renaissance artwork which decorates it.
Our tour guide’s advice was simple: climb to the top of every city to which you travel. The 463-step climb takes about 15 minutes and offers a bird’s-eye view of Florence from the center of the city. The breathtaking view at 376 feet is flanked by the Apennine mountains on the east side and the Piazzale Michelangelo on the west side. The Piazzale Michelangelo is situated at a higher elevation than the Duomo and offers another panoramic view overlooking the Duomo, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Basilica di Santa Croce.
The inside of the Duomo displays artwork primarily by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. The masterpiece on the Duomo’s interior, however, is a large fresco painted on the interior of the cupola itself. The 3,600-square meter fresco by Giorgio Vasari depicts the Last Judgment, showing the fires of Hell but placing a natural emphasis on Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.
The Baptistery in the center of the Piazza del Duomo features three sets of doors by Ghiberti. The original doors are now found in the Duomo museum, but the replica doors still depict detailed scenes from the Bible, done in relief, and were called the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo.
The campanile, or bell tower, was constructed by Giotto. The 277-foot climb to the top also offers a panoramic view of the city that also includes a view of the Duomo. Students on the trip generally agreed that the view at the top of the bell tower was nice because it included the Duomo in the panorama, but the view atop the Duomo itself was more impressive.
For students in the Honors Program, these trips offer the opportunity of a lifetime to become immersed in cities central to western history. Students from all classes on the trip constantly commented on how the sights of Florence connected to the Development of Western Civilization curriculum, especially the freshmen who were preparing to begin Dante’s “Divine Comedy” once the group returned to Providence.
Next year’s destination has yet to formally be announced but promises to once again provide both an exhaustive, and an exhausting, week abroad.