Welcome to our third English language class. Last class we talked about some of Tuscany’s traditional food culture, and the traditional way of making and eating that food.
This week, we will read about some of the architecture and history of Florence, the capital of Tuscany, explain some of the word and phrases, and have some group questions. Then we will have a break (for 20 minutes). Then in part two, we will read a little about the some of the art of Florence and have some more group discussion.Â
Part One:Â Florence, architecture (jiÃ nzhÃº) and history (lÃ¬shÇ)
Tuscany is an Italian province (YÃ¬dÃ lÃ¬ shÄ›ng) famous (zhÃ¹mÃng) for its history and culture (wÃ©nhuÃ ). The region’s (dÃ¬qÅ« de) capital is the medieval town (zhÅngshÃ¬jÃ¬ chÃ©ngzhÃ¨n) Â Firenze, which the English call Florence. Florence is renowned (wÃ©nmÃng) for its beautiful Â (piÃ oliang, hÄ›n mÄ›i) architecture, including the bridge â€” the “Ponte Vecchio ” â€”Â which means the “old bridge” (lÇŽo qiÃ¡o). There has been a bridge crossing Â (hÃ©ngguÃ²) at this narrow (xiÃ¡zhÇŽi) part of the river Arno (Arno hÃ©) since the time of the Roman Empire (LuÃ³mÇŽ dÃ¬guÃ³). However (rÃ¡n’Ã©r), the bridge we can cross today is the result of reconstructions (chÃ³ngjiÃ n) that started in the 14th century.Â Florence: Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is lined by a series of small shops (xiÇŽo shÄngdiÃ n) which originally (bÄ›nlÃ¡i) Â included butchers (tÃºfÅ«), fishmongers (yÃº fÃ n), and grocers (zÃ¡huÃ² diÃ n). In the 16th century the ruling Medici familyÂ built a covered passage called the “Vasari Corridor” (zÇ’ulÃ¡ng), (after its architect [jiÃ nzhÃº shÄ«] Georgio Vasari) over the shops so they could walk safely (Ä€nrÃ¡n), and privately (sÄ«zÃ¬), from their residence (zhÃ¹zhÃ¡i), a newÂ villa (shÃ¹) on the southern bank (Ã¡n’Ã n) of the Arno river called theÂ Pitti Palace.
The wealthy (fÃ¹yÃ¹) Medicis using the corridor complained (bÃ oyuÃ n) about the smell (wÃ©n) of the food shops and had them replaced(gÄ“nghuÃ n) with Goldsmiths (JÄ«n jiÃ ng) and Silversmiths (YÃnjiÃ ng) shops. To this day the bridge remains famous for the jewelry shops (zhÅ«bÇŽo diÃ n) and their long history.
At the end of the Ponte Vecchio is theÂ “PiazzaÂ dellaÂ Signoria”, (which meant the square [guÇŽngchÇŽng] of the ruling body [zhÃzhÃ¨ng jÄ«guÄn]). The origin (lÃ¡iyuÃ¡n) Â of the square goes back to the thirteenthÂ century when the area was owned by the Uberti Family, at the time the most powerful (wÄ“iwÇ”) family in Florence.
The square is overlooked (hÅ«shÃ¬) by theÂ Palazzo VecchioÂ (Old Palace, GÇ” GÅng), originally named the “Palazzo Popolo” (Palace of the People). The Palace, which was completed in 1322 gave the square a key role in the city’s political life (zhÃ¨ngzhÃ¬ shÄ“nghuÃ³). From the fourteenth century, Florentines (Florence de rÃ©n) gathered (jÃ¹jÃ) here for important political occasions and rulers â€”Â such as the Medicis Â â€” often addressed (jÄ«ngchÃ¡ng jiÇŽnghuÃ ) the citizens (shÃ¬mÃn) from the Palace.
At this time Europe was ruled by city-statesÂ (shÃ¬-zhÅu) like Florence and Venice, not nation-states (mÃnzÃº guÃ³jiÄ) like Italy or France. The Medicis were very powerful (wÄ“iwÇ”), and Florence was very wealthy (fÃ¹yÃ¹).
Part Two: Some Art (yÃ¬shÃ¹) of Florence
Florence is also famous for its art (yÃ¬shÃ¹). If you walk around the “PiazzaÂ dellaÂ Signoria” you can see some of the historicalÂ sculptures (xÃng).Â The most famous oneÂ isÂ the statue (diÄoxiÃ ng) of David by Michelangelo, sculpted around 1501-1504. Â The statue of David in the square is a copy (kÃ¤pÄ“), and the original is in the “Galleria della Accademia” (the Accademia Gallery [guÇŽn]). Â The statue represents (biÇŽoshÃ¬) the biblical hero (yÄ«ngxiÃ³ng) David, famous for defeating (jÃbÃ i) the giant (jÃ¹rÃ©n) Goliath, an enemy (dÃrÃ©n) of King Saul. Because of the hero it represented, the statue came toÂ symbolize (biÄozhÃ¬) the defense (bÇŽowÃ¨i) of civil liberties (mÃnquÃ¡n) of theÂ Republic of Florence (1115-1532).
The SquareÂ is alsoÂ overlooked (hÅ«shÃ¬) by the Uffizi Gallery, whose art work (yÃ¬shÃ¹ pÇn) display continues (jÃ¬xÃ¹) through the Vasari Corridor:
Maybe the most famous art work in the Uffizi is the Birth of Venus:
Caravaggio is another famous Renaissance painter. Some of his art works are housed in the Uffizi Gallery.
His oil painting (yÃ³uhuÃ ) emphasized darkness (hÄ“i’Ã n) and light (guÄng). Many later artists were influenced (yÇngxiÇŽng) by his style (yÃ ngshÃ¬), including the female artist (yÃ¬shÃ¹jiÄ) Artemesia Gentileschi.
Some Questions about the capital of Tuscany
- Tell us about the city’s famous bridge.
- Tell us about the city’s famous square.
- Tell us about the city’s famous corridor.
- If you have been to this city, what did you see? What did you like or dislike?
- Have you been to another famous Italian or European (ÅŒuzhÅu de) city? If so, can you tell us what you saw, and what you liked or disliked?
- How does Florence compare to Tianjin? What are the similarities? What is different? What do you like?