Piazzale Michelangelo is a square in the Oltrarno district of Florence with fantastic panoramic views over the city. The Piazzale is a popular tourist destination, as visitors can get some of the best photographs over the city with its rooftops, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina, the Bargello, the Uffizi Gallery, the church spires and the sparkling waters of the River Arno with its bridges including the famous Ponte Vecchio, and in the distance the hills of Settignano and Fiesole. At night the scene is even more spectacular with the twinkling lights of Florence making the Piazzale a romantic destination for lovers. There are gift shops and cafes and Gelaterias which cater for the many tourists and stalls and street vendors offer a selection of Italian leather goods, ladies scarves and souveniers.
One of the main attractions in the Piazzale is the huge bronze statue of Michelangelo’s David which is a copy of the white marble original which is displayed in the Accademia Gallery in Florence. The square is dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelgo and alongside the statue of David, contains other copies of his works, the originals are to be found elsewhere in Florence. The copies are all made of bronze whereas the originals are all of white marble.
The square was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and was built in 1869 on the hill just south of the historic centre of Florence which was the Capital of Italy at that time. Poggi designed the loggia in the neoclassical style that dominates the whole terrace, which today houses a panoramic restaurant. This was originally designed as a museum which was to house works of art by Michelangelo but this was, unfortunately, never realised.
The Piazzale Michelangelo can be reached by car along the tree-lined Viale Michelangelo, which winds its way up the hill, or by walking up the steps or ramps from the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, in the district of San Niccolò, which is a very pleasant walk through the trees, illuminated at night, and one in which the views slowly open out the higher you walk. The climb up the steps, or ramps, takes you past caves that yawn out from deep in the hillside which are decorated with Stalagtites, Drapery and Straws all formed from the slowly dripping waters coming down the rock face. The San Niccolò Tower in Piazza Poggi, at the bottom of the walk, once formed part of the strong city walls when Florence was the Capital City of Italy, these walls were later removed to make way for residential use and the San Niccolò Tower was the only tower not to be destroyed, it is still of the same height as it originally was. Since 2011 the Tower has been opened to the public after renovations were completed, and retains a fascinating walkway that was recently secured so that residents and tourists can access it. Once visitors make it up the 160 steps they are treated to a 360 degree view of Florence which is a truly unforgettable experience.
At the rear of the square is one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Florence, San Miniato al Monte. It is accessed via a wide marble staircase from the Piazzale Michelangelo. To the right of the church is the Bishop’s Palace, from the 13th to 14th century. Around the walls are the Walls of the Fortress which was constructed by Michelangelo in 1529 to defend Florence during the siege by the Spanish army of Charles V. Within the grounds of the fortified Basilica of San Miniato al Monte is the Cimitero delle Porte Sante, completed in 1848. The cemetery houses the remains of many famous people.
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