Big City Tales

Run for the Roses and River Views in Louisville

February 20, 2018
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Whether you’re coming to take in the spectacle of the annual Kentucky Derby or take in the splendor of the sprawling banks of the Ohio River, the city of Louisville, Kentucky will have you cheering loud and long for its famed “Run for the Roses” horse race and impressive river views.

Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs covers 147 acres and is a designated National Historic Site. The derby, also known as the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport,” takes place on the first Saturday in May and features the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds.

The twin spires on the grandstand and the Barbaro memorial statue are two of the most recognizable architectural features and symbols of Churchill Downs. While the grounds are mostly serene and empty during the year, come race day crowds can reach over 150,000 with 50,000 lucky enough to have seats to witness the first leg of the famed Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

Gateway to the South

Situated on the southern banks of the historic Ohio River (The Beautiful River), Louisville has the unique distinction of being influenced by both southern and mid-western cultures. One of the city’s nicknames is “Gateway to the South” due to its status as a major shipping port and transportation hub for both trains and airplanes.

The city boasts many outdoor recreation areas, including Waterfront Park that stretches for over a mile along the Ohio River. The park features playgrounds, historical statues and artistic landscaping, and offers stellar views of both the city’s downtown core and the river.

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Main Street USA

There’s nothing more American than baseball so it is fitting that Main Street is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum and the world’s largest baseball bat. Some of the other quaint and quirky sights along Main Street include the 21c Museum Hotel that features a double-size replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David covered in gold paint, numerous “Horse on Barrel” painted statues, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, and the headquarters of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Center for Higher Learning

Louisville is proud of its numerous academic institutions and the acclaim the likes of the University of Louisville has achieved for its hand and artificial heart transplant efforts.

The university is also home to a bronze cast replica of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture that was the first of its kind and was personally supervised by the artist.  The statue is situated in front of the university’s administration building, Grawemeyer Hall, which is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

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Feast Your Eyes on Florence

July 22, 2013
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The Piazzale Michelangelo offers one of the best views of Florence, Italy and features a large statue of David.

Nestled high in the Tuscan hills, the city of Florence offers up one idyllic scene after another.  Be it the incredibly detailed and delicate exterior of the massive Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral), the grandeur of the larger-than-life statue of David in the Galleria dell’Accademia, or the breath-taking panoramic view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo, there is plenty to feast your eyes on in Florence.

An Artist’s Haven

Despite the fact Florence may not be Italy’s largest or most famous city, at the peak of its development during the Renaissance the city was a mecca for the great artists of the day who served as patrons of the powerful Medici family.  Eager to demonstrate and show-off their incredible wealth, the Medici spared no expense in commissioning a series of buildings, public landmarks, and works of art that remain to this day amongst the most splendid examples of Italian craftsmanship.

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Detail of Brunelleschi’s massive dome that is the crowning glory of the epic Florence Cathedral.

The Duomo and David

The handiwork of two famous Italian artists, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo, is on display throughout Florence; the most famous of the former being the Duomo dome,  the latter being the David statue.

Mammoth structures in terms of size and artistic impact, the dome and statue dominate their respective landscapes and are amongst the most visited city attractions. While the dome is fully accessible and photographable (you can even climb to the top and take a walk around the exterior), the statue of David is less so with it being housed in a museum meaning that viewing hours are restricted and pictures are prohibited in order to safeguard the integrity of the marble. That said, two replicas of the statue are located in outdoor venues (one in Piazzale Michelangelo, one in Piazza della Signoria) and provide plenty of photo opportunities to capture the splendor of Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece.

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Detail of Michelangelo’s iconic and stately statue of David that stands in the Piazza della Signoria.

A Sculptural Garden

Along with the replica of the David statue, the Piazza della Signoria features the Neptune Fountain, which symbolizes Florence’s status as a naval power in the mid-to- late 1500s; an equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici, who is proudly shown on his mount making a triumphant return to the city as its ruling power in 1537; and an imposing statue of Hercules, the mythical hero who is thought to have filled in the swampland Florence was founded upon.

The piazza is also in close proximity to two buildings of historical significance: The Uffizi Gallery that houses the most extensive collection of Italian Renaissance art, and the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) that has served as city hall since the 1300s.

A Famous Burial Ground

Not far from the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio, the Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is noteworthy as being the largest Franciscan church in the world and the final resting place for some of Italy’s most famous citizens, including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. Given the celebrated status of the dearly departed buried here, the building is also referred to as the Temple of the Italian Glories.

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The Santa Croce is the burial place of some famous Italians (e.g. Michelangelo and Galileo), earning it the moniker: Temple of the Italian Glories.

A Bridge Like None Other

Crossing the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the oldest bridge in Florence and has the unique distinction of having houses/shops built into its design and a pedestrian walkway (the Vasari Corridor) that runs over the tops of the shops. Since the 16th century, the bridge has been the home of goldsmiths and jewellers catering to a wide range of clientele. The Vasari Corridor bustles from dawn ’til dusk with tourists enjoying a myriad of entertainers and some of the prettiest views of the river.

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The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge like none other…shops on the inside and a walkway over its top.

View From the Top

While the Piazza della Signoria is the heart of old Florence, the Piazzale Michelangelo is the city’s prime viewing location where one of the Michelangelo’s replicas of David enjoys an incredible view from the top for all eternity.

Perched high above the city, David overlooks the Arno River with its series of beautiful bridges, and the mass expanse of the city lying just across the river banks. From this vantage point, the Duomo di Firenze, the Palazzo Vecchio, and other historical sites take on a new perspective revealing the full breadth and glory of these ancient, awe-inspiring structures.

Florence is truly a city of fabulous views and if you’re looking for a place to tantalize your eyes, look no further.

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View of the expansive, elaborate and elegant Florence Cathedral from Piazzale Michelangelo.