[click here to read part one of the Florence blog]
July 7th (Thursday):
Our day started early- we had to be at the Uffizi Gallery at 9am to meet up with our tour group. We had reserved a guided tour of the Uffizi highlights and the Vasasri Corridor.
The Uffizi complex (uffizi meaning “office” in Italian) originally served as the office buildings of the Medici family. Today, it houses one of the best collections of Renaissance art in the world, including works by Botecelli, Lippi, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Goya, Titian, Peter Paul Ruebens, Caravaggio, and many more. One of the few paintings attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is also housed here – The Annunciation.
The Uffizi is one of the most overwhelmingly cram-packed galleries I’ve ever seen. When you’re in there, it’s hard not to think about how each work of art you’re seeing has some sort of artistic or historical significance. One of the Uffizi’s downfalls is its lack of information about the pieces; they only provide the basic information like artist, title, date and material. It was nice (my second time around) having a guide to tell us the stories behind each of the most significant works.
When we finished going through the gallery, we had a thirty minute bathroom and snack break.
After the break, we met back up with our group at the door that connects the Uffitzi to the Vassari Corridor. The Vassari Corridor, built in 1565 by the Medici family, is basically a glorified covered passageway that allowed the family to get from the Uffitzi across the Ponte Vecchio to their home (the Pitti Palace) safely and without having to interact with peasants. At the time it was built, the Medici family was not well liked by the public so it was not safe for them to walk amongst the commoners for fear of attempted murder.
The corridor is only open for tours a couple weeks out of the year and they only allow a limited number of people in. Today the corridor houses a large part of the Medici family’s portrait collection.
It was a very unique experience to get to walk through this passageway. To think of the history that happened at the time in which the passageway was in use. For me, I like to think of all the significant people that have walked down the same path we got to walk.
The Vassari Corridor tour ended at the Pitti Palace. We went to our apartment, which was a couple blocks from the Pitti Palace, to grab some lunch and gelato.
After refueling and a little siesta, we headed back to the Pitti Palace.
The Pitti Palace became the home of the ruling Medici family in the late 1500s. Today, the palace houses several different galleries; we only went into the Palentine Gallery and the modern museum. It also has several halls of rooms open that were the private living quarters of the Medici family.
I guess we left right around closing because the way we exited was very dark and sketchy. The whole time we were all saying how we didn’t think we should be there.
Once we finished at the Pitti Palace, we walked about 10 minutes to find a leather shop called Misster that the owner of our apartment recommended. Florence is known for its leather goods that are handmade in the city.
For dinner we had take-out pizza from Gusta Pizza and salad, which we ate outside on our patio.
July 8th (Friday):
The family got up around 8:30. We went across the street and got our daily cappuccinos and pastries. After eating breakfast, we headed to the Duomo museum.
The museum is located in the shopping strip buildings behind the church; it’s not actually part of the duomo.
Some of the most important pieces in the museum are Brunelleschi’s (the architect of the duomo) sketches and models for the duomo, the original bronze baptistry doors, Donatello’s sculpture of Mary Magdalene, and Michelangelo’s sculpture The Pieta. The museum also houses other artifacts and sculptures from the duomo.
In 1401, a competition to design new doors for the baptistry was announced. Lorenzo Ghiberti won the competition with his designs for what was going to be called the “Gates of Paradise.” It took Ghiberti 21 years to complete these guilded bronze doors. On the doors are twenty-eight panels that depict the life of Christ from the New Testament, the four evangelists and the Church Fathers Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory, and Saint Augustine. The doors seen today at the baptistry are copies; the originals remained on the northern baptistry doors until 1990, when they were removed in order to preserve them.
What I would consider the gem of this museum is Michelangelo’s sculpture, the pieta, which depicts Christ’s deposition from the cross. However, this sculpture, along with Donatello’s wooden sculpture of Mary, are placed in a room right past the exit to the gift shop and therefore are very easily missable.
The first time through the museum, half the family walked out without even knowing it was there. Luckily, my dad pointed it out. We could not believe we had missed it and that it was so poorly placed in the museum. Thankfully we explained to the gallery guard and he said that it happens to a lot people and he let us back in so we could see it.
And I am so thankful for that. Michelangelo’s pieta is an incredibly significant piece of art. It was one of the last pieces he ever did. The sculpture depicts Mary and Nicodemus mourning over the death of Christ. Nicodemus is said to be a self portrait of Michelangelo. The weight, movement and lifelikeness of the sculpture is hard to put into words.
The sculpture was paired with a sonnet Michelangelo wrote right before his death. He was deep in reflection upon his life and this is what he said:
“The course of my life has brought me now
Through a stormy sea, in a frail ship,
To the common port where, landing
We account for every deed, wretched or holy.
So that finally I see
How wrong the fond illusion was
That made art my idol and my King,
Leading me to want what harmed me.
My amorous fancies, once foolish and happy
What sense have they now that I approach two deaths
The first of which I know is sure, the second threatening.
Let neither painting nor carving any longer calm
My soul turned to that divine Love
Who to embrace us opened His arms upon the cross.”
After admiring Michelangelo’s work for a long time, we headed to the Mercato Centrale to meet up with one of my sisters and I’s favorite teachers, Ms. Gutman. She was in town visiting a friend during the same week that we were in Florence. Ms. Gutman is an English and Art History teacher at Woods Charter School that my sisters and I all had. It was her AP Art History class that introduced me to art history and made me fall in love with it. And for that, I’ll be forever grateful. Had I not taken that class with her, I would probably not love and appreciate art and art history to the extent that I do today.
We ate lunch at the Mercato Centrale, which is a big warehouse with a bunch of different food stands. Our family got a selection of fried goodies-fried pasta, fried mozzarella, fried olives, fried meatballs and fried rabbit. All of which was delicious.
After a good long lunch catching up, we said goodbye and our family headed to the crypt inside the Church of San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapels – which were right down the street from the Mercato Centrale. The crypt is the final resting place of the Medici family’s founder, Giovanni de’Medici, as well as early Renaissance sculptor Donatello.
The Medici Chapels were right around the corner from the church and crypt of San Lorenzo. The chapels serve as the burial site and private chapels of the Medici family. One of the most important parts of the chapels were the funerary statues created by Michelangelo. Michelangelo was a close friend of the family, he even spent his teen years living with them, so it was only fitting that he was commissioned to create the family’s final tribute.
Around 4:30, we walked about 15 minutes to Santa Croce Church. This fourteenth century church is the burial place of several important Renaissance figures and also features several frescos by Giotto. Some of the most notable people buried here are Michelangelo Buonarroti, Niccolo Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei and Dante Alighieri. It is a strangely amazing and powerful feeling being so close to the remains of such incredible human beings.
After we finished at Santa Croce Church, my dad, Gracie and I went to the Palazzo Strozzi to see a visiting modern art show, From Kandinsky to Pollock: The Art of the Guggenheim Collection. This show, as the title states, was work from the collections of Solomon and Peggy Guggenheim. It included works by Man Ray, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso and many more. It was an incredible cross-section of the revolutionary modern art movements that the Guggenheims witnessed and patronized.
Once we were done, we met back up with the rest of the family to get some dinner. We ate at a restaurant right near our apartment called La Casa Linga. It was a great way to end our time in Florence.
July 9th (Saturday) we picked up our rental van and drove to the Tuscan countryside, where we’ll be relaxing for the next week.