Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Renaissance Art and the Art of Shopping

Buon Giorno!

Day 9 was dedicated to art and shopping. Can’t come to Florence and not shop! But first the art part. I know Florence is a big Renaissance city, but certain art just don’t excite me much, namely pre-Renaissance religious art, or art from the high Middle Ages, art prior to 1400. In the morning we visited the Museo degli Uffizi, Italy’s most glorified museum. There were some really fantastic paintings and sculptures in the Uffizi. Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” is certainly the highlight. It is just a pity it was behind a sheet of clear glass, making it look like you watching it on TV. But being surrounded by 18 Botticelli's in one room, among other the Primevera, is quite something. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Giotto and many others were also on show. All in all, the Uffizi has a very good, complete art history of the Renaissance period in Italy. I am more of a modern art and Impressionist art lover, but during our trip I really started to appreciate Renaissance art. If I have learned nothing from our Italian trip, at lease lI learned to appreciate the work of Renaissance artists.

In the early afternoon we visited the Dell’Accademia, but apart from Michelangelo’s David, there was not much to look at and in my humble opinion, give the Dell’Accademia a skip. It was downright disappointed and a total waste of money. There are more masterpieces on the Loggia, for free, than in the Accademia. We should have spent the €46 entrance fee (for 3 persons) on more shopping. Thank goodness we did not have to wait in any of the loooong lines at these museums. I used the Internet to reserve timeslots at the museums and bought tickets 5 weeks in advance.

In between the museums visits and afterwards, we dedicated our time to sightseeing and shopping at a very leisurely pace. We journeyed the narrow medieval streets, passed Dante’s house, or where they think it was, walked through many piazzas: Repubblico, Di Maddonna Degli Aldobrandini, di Santa Maria Maggiore, di San Giovanni (right) and several more. We had lunch just behind the Piazza Del Mercato Centrale, was serenaded by two gentlemen playing the “trekklavier”, accordion, and typical Italian music, while we did people watching: a television crew interviewed a local shop owner, a baker delivered fresh bread to the restaurants, Italian workers scurried from point A to point B in their lunch hour, a garbage truck made his appointed rounds, tourist casually strolled from attraction to attraction and other people like us, sat at lunch tables, waited for their food and did people watching.

I popped in to the Mercato Centrale, a massive marketplace for meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and other delicacies. We browsed and shopped at the street vendors on Via San Lorenzo where they sell anything from t-shirts to leather goods. We even had to buy an extra suitcase, a Louis Vuitton look-alike, for all the extra purchases. The road home took us down Via Del Ciglio and through the very narrow, medieval Via del Moro to Piazza Carlo Goldini and on to Borgo Ognissanti. I did not take many pictures today, but rather experienced Florence by the naked eye. However, I did take several of the “Picture Paintings” you will see on the blog on the Via San Lorenza.

It was really enjoyable and mind-blowing to walk these narrow, cobble-stoned streets, sharing it intimately with tiny cars, scooters, motorbikes and bicycles, especially coming from the new world with its wide boulevards, big gas-guzzler cars, strip malls on the edge of town and wide open spaces. Rome (to a lesser degree), Naples and now also Florence, are compacted, noisy, hectic, crowded and very exciting, but also very strenuous on the feet and on the senses.

Florence, for all its beauty, history, its art and architecture, also has its down side. It is packed with tourists and according to our experience, by far the most expensive city in Italy. Example: A pizza in Naples and Rome would be €7 to €8, but in Florence it is €13 to €15. Our accommodation in Florence was also the most expensive in all of Italy. But there are gems to be discovered like the Osteria Il Mostrino. Nevertheless, Florence was great! And we may have to revisit because 4 days was just not enough. There was no time for visits to the Basilicas Santa Maria Novella or the Santa Croce and except for a brief visit to the Palazzo Pitti we never explored the south side of the city. When in Rome do like the Romans do and when in Italy a visit to Florence is a must.

Michelangelo's David. Certainly the most referenced piece of art in Florence, if not in Italy. Eventhough picture taking inside the Dell'Accademia is strictly forbidden, I snapped three of David while the gallery staff was telling others not to take pictures.
The central square of the Uffizi. Standing in the centre of the square, one can rightly say: I am now surrounded by so much art that no money in the world can buy.

Florence's skyline with the Ponte Vecchio in the foreground. I took this picture from one of the windows overlooking the Arno River in the Uffizi Gallery.

Monica shopping for souvenirs and presents for ourselves and friends on the Piazza della Signoria after our visit to the Uffizi.

Entrance to the Via dell'Ariento and the street vendors around the Mercato Centrale (Central Market) with the Basilica di San Lorenzo in the background.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo, one of the largest churches in Florence. It is the burial place of all the principle members of the Medici family and it was also the parish church of the family.

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