In Florence, Linda and I discovered a real treasure, a church containing the tombs of many great Renaissance men. We walked out of the narrow, crowded pedestrian streets into the grand Piazza Santa Croce, a large square famous for its horse races and tournaments. Stores, banks, apartments, and sidewalk cafés bordered the cobblestone area as large as three football fields.
Watermarks 20 feet high on the walls of the buildings revealed the height flood waters reached in 1966. This is a low area adjacent to the Arno River which is now somewhat contained by a series of dams, but still pours over its banks after heavy winter snows.
On the western side of the square was the magnificent Basilica of Santa Croce which dates back to 1294. It is where many famous scholars, artists, and politicians of Florence are entombed.
• Michelangelo. The epitome of a Renaissance Man. He painted The Last Judgment (largest fresco of the Renaissance) and the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. He was the architect for St. Peter’s Basilica, and he created the great statues of David, Pietá, Moses, Dying Slave, and Bacchus. He even wrote the famous Poems for Vittoria Colonna. • Galileo. The scientist who changed our understanding of the universe and was excommunicated for his writings. As a mathematician, he discovered the theory of motion and the law of falling bodies. As a craftsman, he improved the telescope and designed the pendulum clock. His work in astronomy proved the Milky Way is made up of stars, the Earth rotates around the sun, and sun spots are great surges of energy
• Machiavelli. The first political scientist whose books, The Prince and The Art of War, defined politics and war.
• Dante. The poet who popularized the Italian language with his famous allegory of human life, The Divine Comedy. As a philosopher, he professed that all virtues and all vices proceed from love.
• Rossini. The great composer of Italian operas such as Barber of Seville, William Tell, and Otello.