Italy

Museum Day in Firenze

Friday, 13 ottobre 2006

The second day began with a knock on the door at 7 a.m., because we had a reservation for the Accademia at 8:15. We met another American couple in line and compared notes. We were beginning to realize that every other person in Florence was an American, or it seemed that way!

I was there mainly to see The Prisoners, a group of unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo. He worked on a slab of marble from front to back without drawing anything out, freeing the spirit from the stone, so to speak. I was fascinated to see these in transition – but I wasn’t ready for the power of David, which before my visit I considered to be just another thing to tick off a list. I was wrong. You can see the copy in the Piazza dell Signoria for free, but the original David is not to be missed. Framed by an arched dome, he radiates strength and courage as he considers the task before him. If we could only elect a leader with the spirit of David in 2008!

We went to our first Italian coffee shop (bar), and we picked a good one because we weren’t charged extra to sit down and the proprietor was friendly. I was bold enough to order “due caffe latte per favore” and he responded in Italian, at which I was baffled. He laughed in a nice way and switched to English, and we picked out a couple of pastries for breakfast. I think it was good to get away from the area flooded with tourists.

Then we meandered over to the Museo Archeologico, where Sandy’s main interest lay. They had a large Egyptian collection on the second floor, where we were surprised by some mummies in a darkened room that reminded me of the back room of an old country store. Except, you know, with sarcophagi and stuff like that. As we moved into the Etruscan exhibits, I got yelled at for taking this photo of this bronze Chimera (forgot to turn off the flash), which was turned up in a Tuscan farmer’s field. The Chimera has the body of a lion, and the heads of a lion, goat, and snake. Very little is known about the Etruscan civilization except that it was destroyed by the Romans, but its art was beautiful. The third floor, surprisingly, had been remodeled and looked like a modern museum, with many English translations in the exhibits. It moved from Etruscan to Roman and Greek displays, mostly pre-medieval statuary, ceramics, and metalwork. There was a courtyard garden that looked inviting but it was only open on Saturday mornings.

If you ever go to Florence, get reservations for the Accademia and the Uffizi way ahead of time. We barely made it by reserving them through our hotel on Monday afternoon for Friday. By that time we had the choice of only one time for each. I guess that the tour groups book them ahead of time so you could check with them. But the last thing you want to do is stand in line with for hours with a bunch of frustrated tourists, when you’ll be spending more hours on your feet inside. By getting a reserved ticket, we walked right in the “special” line.

We went all the way up the stairs and stepped into Renaissance art heaven. I was especially eager to see Sandro Botticelli’s work, because I have always loved The Birth of Venus. It was so refreshing to see some work that did not have a biblical theme! The Birth of Venus was actually a bit disappointing – it seemed a little washed out to me and maybe I built it up in my head too much. But his other paintings – La Primavera and Pallas and the Centaur knocked me out. We were also able to see the Annunciation by da Vinci and the Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael, as well as a self-portrait of Rembrandt that I remembered copying in an art class at some point in my education.

Now, I love art, but I have to admit here that Sandy outshone me in the Uffizi. By the time I got to the end, I was whining and needed a time-out. Museumed out, I guess. After a while, it was “madonna, madonna, madonna, crucifixion, madonna, annunciation, madonna…” then “painting, painting, painting, statue, where’s a bench?” Just being brutally honest here. But the Uffizi is an amazing, overwhelming repository of beauty. Looking up, there were frescoes on every ceiling and statues and paintings lining every wall. One room’s frescoes depicted smiths and craftsmen working, which pleased me amid all the depictions of wealth. On one end, the wall is made up of windows that overlook the Arno and the other side of Florence. It is worth the price of a ticket for the views from the Uffizi, if nothing else.

So I was grateful to get off my aching feet on the terrace overlooking the heart of Firenze, where we overpaid for a couple of drinks and some truly awful food, and fed little sparrows at our table. Actually Sandy fed the bold little buggers while I had paranoid visions of Alfred Hitchcock. One of them actually sat on his finger and pecked at it. But I was able to take some awesome photographs from this high vantage point.

To be continued…

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