Over Christmas, some friends were looking at photos from my September trip to Italy and came across a few that I had shot from the rooftop cafe La Terrazza, which sits atop La Rinascente, the downtown Florence department store.
It's actually a great little place for lunch -- probably only a dozen tables; not bad prices for a panini or salad and a glass of wine; and, most important of all -- fantastic views. I popped up there on my second-to-last day in Florence, and while the late September wind was cool, the sun shone and the scene around me was spectacular. I felt as though I could almost reach out and touch Firenze's fantastic Duomo.
Just as my friend Girasoli (http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/girasoli/) loves to climb towers -- church towers, clock towers, bell towers -- I love to sit in rooftop cafes and have a drink while admiring a panorama.
You can definitely get that on La Terrazza. The department store itself sits right on the corner of the Piazza della Reppublica in Florence's historic centre. It is also midway between the landmark Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria, arguably the artistic centre of Florence.
Besides the spectacular sight of Brunelleschi's dome, there is also a lovely view down onto the Piazza della Repubblica, although in my view it has seen better days.
Heresy, perhaps. But to me, this piazza is a bit too modern to be stuck in the centre of historic Firenze. This piazza was in ancient times the site of the city's forum, and later, of Florence's ghetto, which was swept away during the city improvement works or Risanamento initiated during the brief period when Florence was the capital of a reunited Italy, according to Wikipedia.
The porticos with the triumphal arch, called the "Arcone", was designed by architect Vincenzo Micheli and was inspired by the most courtly of Florentine Renaissance architecture, although critics would say that modern changes made this design quite different from the true Renaissance style.
The pompous inscription on the arch reads:
L'ANTICO CENTRO DELLA CITTÀ
DA SECOLARE SQUALLORE
A VITA NUOVA RESTITUITO
(The ancient centre of the city / restored from age-old squalor / to new life)
On top of the Arcone had been an allegorical group of three women in plaster, representing Italy, Art and Science. Alas, the Florentines instead nicknamed them after three famous prostitutes of the era: la Starnotti, la Cipischioni e la Trattienghi.
Having deteriorated, the group was removed in 1904, according to Wikipedia.
The view south towards the Palazzo della Signoria is blocked, as this photo of one side of another palazzo, indicates.