It’s time for us to leave Florence.  I am taking pictures of the same things – but I always think I will get a better angle – or clarity.  Hah!  Probably not!  We will be leaving this Saturday so today we went up to the top of the dome for the last time.  The first time we went up there I did not know what everything was that we were looking out at, but now I do.  This dome is still the largest brick dome ever constructed.  The cathedral itself was built in (started) 1296 but the dome was not built until 1420 and took Brunelleschi 16 years to complete.  So for all that time there was a hole in the cathedral.  The building of this dome is an interesting story and there is a book out there by Stephen Ross which is good.  It was the wonder of the age and the model for many domes to follow from St. Peter’s to the US Capitol.  Before getting to the top of the dome you can walk around just under the frescos inside for a close-up look.  Some of the figures are very odd for a sanctuary.  I am assuming they are representing hell.  Not much is written about the frescos.  We next went into the Baptistery which is the oldest building in the square.  In the 5th or 6th century AD the first baptistery was erected there but beginning in the mid-11th century, the Baptistery was reconstructed on a larger scale, and in the 12th and 13th century even further enlarged.  The inside is fairly empty but the dome mosaics are beautiful.  What have become very famous are the 3 bronze doors- the most famous done by Ghiberti with Old Testament scenes and done between 1425 and 1450.  They are now called “Gates of Paradise” because this is what Michelangelo called them.  The doors on the Baptistery are copies since the original ones were moved to the Duomo Museum in 1990.  Next we went down below the nave of the cathedral to see the excavations of the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata.  Here we saw the remains of Roman houses on which Santa Reparata was erected in the 5th century AD, portions of the early mosaic pavement and elements of later constructions and enlargements of the church up to the mid-1300’s when Santa Reparata was replaced by the present cathedral called Santa Maria del Fiore – or as I have been calling it – the Duomo.  The last thing to see of this whole complex is the Duomo Museum.  But it is under major construction so you can only see a few things, mainly the Ghiberti bronze doors and Michelangelo’s Pieta’ (one of three).  This Pieta’ was designed for Michelangelo’s own tomb.  Michelangelo (as Nicodemus), who spent a life-time bringing statues to life by “freeing” them from stone, looks down at what could be his final creation, the once perfect body of Renaissance Man that is now twisted, disfigured, and dead.  But he hated this piece of marble for it was hard and grainy, and actually took a hammer to it, then never finished it.  We then had a couple of errands to run – water, market- then hung around the apartment until dinner time.  We ate at one of our favorites – Osteria Santo Spirito – where we met a family speaking fluently in Italian and English.  So, of course, I stopped to speak with them and found out that they have lived everywhere and the kids go to an American school here.  So impressed with the ability of being multi-lingual.