Tour Day 6
The line to the Uffizi Gallery is long when our group arrives in the morning. Since our tickets have been arranged for us through the tour, we do not have to wait, except to go through security. Our local guide gives us an excellent overview of the art museum. The collection is stunning. Immense. We cannot take it all in. We concentrate on important works by Giotto, Lippi, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Titian.
And of course, Botticelli’s two masterpieces, the Birth of Venus and the Allegory of Spring (La Primavera.)
The paintings are hung in adjacent rooms; the crowds in front, thick and impenetrable. We revel in their sheer beauty and sensuality. (We know we are suckers, but we buy the refrigerator magnets anyways.)
Not only is the Uffizi one of the most famous museums in the world, the structure itself is imposing. Designed by Vasari in the 1500’s, the building originally housed offices of the Medici government.
The interiors, especially the ceilings, are richly appointed, a perfect backdrop for the outstanding collection of masterpieces.
The artwork that sticks out most to my traveling companion is the Doni Tondo, by Michelangelo. This round panel painting of the Holy Family is the only known painted work by the Renaissance master. The display of the work on a bright red wall is most impressive. Da Vinci’s Annunciation is exhibited in its own room, as is his Adoration of the Magi. Other highlights for us are Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, and Caravaggio’s Bacchus. Hmm. Bacchus looks a bit like my traveling companion.
After all that art, we break for the afternoon. My traveling companion and I are determined to see one site from our list before meeting back up with the group this evening. We cross the Ponte Vecchio on our way to the Pitti Palace. But first we need sustenance. Several cafes line the street across from the palace, and we pick a spot where we can watch the comings and goings. We try La Papa al Pomodoro, a Tuscan tomato bread soup served in a mason jar. As with all the other soups we have sampled in Florence, this one is delicious.
The Pitti Palace is a massive, brooding structure, imposing as a prison. Now the largest museum in Florence, the palazzo once served as home to the Medici, a treasure house to display their wealth and power. The collection is hung as it would have been in such a grand residence, with paintings stacked one upon the other. Each room is more opulent than the last. The ceilings are heavily decorated with carved and gilded moldings. We visit the Palatine Gallery, marveling over the great number of works by Raphael, Titian, and Reubens. We visit the royal apartments. We tread where the wealthy and powerful once tread centuries ago. We run out of time and energy to visit the vast Boboli Gardens behind the palace, but catch a glimpse of the fountains and green spaces from the courtyard.
See more Ornate Ceilings
On the walk back to our hotel, we discover a stationery store, and are drawn inside by the beautiful marbleized papers. Il Papiro originated in Florence, and has several stores in Italy. All their books and gift items are produced locally with the unique papers. The craftsmanship is exquisite. The proprietor graciously shows us the back room where stacks of the hand-decorated papers line the tables. I am drooling, but only buy what will fit into my backpack.
It is time to meet the rest of our group “under the Duomo” for a tour of the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the one thing everyone comes to see in Florence: Michelangelo’s David.
We must have seen other artwork in the building, but neither my traveling companion nor I can remember anything else except the room that houses David. We enter through the Hall of Prisoners. The space is crowded. Four unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo line the hall. We try to study the figures imprisoned in the marble blocks, but our eyes are pulled to the end of the hall, where David stands on a pedestal. We move forward with the crowd, ever drawn to the figure. And then we are before David. At seventeen feet tall, the figure dominates the space, ready to strike, eyes focused on the challenge. The marble is alive. The sculpture is lit from above. We cannot tear our eyes from the commanding figure. We walk all the way around David. We share a moment. Later, some in our group admit they were moved to tears.
We take a closer look at the Prisoners sculptures as we leave the hall. They are powerful in a different way, figures struggling to escape imprisonment in the blocks of marble, and we begin to comprehend the whole difficult process of sculpture. A Pieta is also on display in the gallery. This version of Mary holding the crucified Jesus is rougher, darker, sadder than the more famous version we will be seeing in a few days in Rome. We turn back for a last look at David. We exit the Accademia, and find ourselves back in the bustle of Florence.
Well, what can you do after such a moving experience of seeing perhaps the greatest art work in the world, but have a glass of wine. My traveling companion and I walk to the Central Market, the Mercato Centrale. This is the place to be in Florence if you love food. We wander through the outdoor market, full of leather goods and other souvenirs. We head for the second floor gourmet food court. Wine, cheeses, meats, pastries, gelato—each counter looks more tantalizing than the last.
We meet up with others from our group to share wine, pizza, and stories. We say arrivederci to Florence as we walk back to the hotel to recharge before tomorrow’s trip to Rome.