You’d think we only had gray days in Tuscany when you look at these photos. Well, mostly true. That famous Tuscan sun has only peeked out from the clouds a couple of times.
Yesterday, our day in Florence, was especially gloomy. The sky was heavy and leaden, hanging low over the medieval city. Grim. Even a few sprinkles. This didn’t dampen our spirits though. We zigged and zagged through the winding streets, enjoying the many attractions Florence has to offer.
Our shortlist of attractions included the Uffizi, the first public art museum in the world. It is chock-o-block full of Medieval and Renaissance art. It was interesting to learn about the difference between the two periods while looking at these amazing original and very old paintings.
I learned that Medieval art is flat, mostly religious and lacking in perspective. As the artists move into the Renaissance period, they learn about showing distances, scale, including scenery and real people. This is probably pretty simple, but hits the highlights.
I was most fascinated with the preoccupation and adolation with the pearl in Renaissance art. The Madona and wealthy women of the time were frequently depicted with pale faces, blond hair, and decorated with pearls. The reason: the pearl symbolized purity and chasteness, the ideal for women of the time.
I loved the gorgeous ceiling in the Uffizi and the spectacular view of the bridges of Florence from the third floor gallery. The tiny shops on the Ponte Vecchio, now housing gold merchants, were butcher shops until the mid 1500s. Can you imagine the smell? Eewww.
After the Uffizi, we made our way through the crowded streets to the indoor market of Florence where the delicious displays of food were appealing. This was a good spot for a slice of pizza and a bit of nourishment while enjoying the wares of the butcher and baker. I especially liked the charming young ladies who made sure we had a good lunch.
After lunch we were off to see the David. I can see why tourists wait patiently in line for as long as two hours to see this magnificent 500 year old sculpture. The size. The artistry. The light. It’s amazing. Travel tip: make a reservation ahead and you can skip the long lines.
When we viewed the David, we learned about the importance and significance of Florence in the world of art. According to one guide book, Florence produced more great works of art than any other city.
Our guide explained that one of the reasons is that the leaders of Florence were tolerant of diverse people with an artistic temperment. She said that peopole who didn’t follow a traditional lifestyle were often were cast out of the conservative city/states of the day. In Florence, in spite of the role of religious, there was great appreciation of diversity. That combined with the great wealth of famiies like the Medici’s who supported the creation of art made a huge difference in the artistic character of the city.
After that we popped into the Duomo. Being rather tired, I almost skipped this but was glad I didn’t. While only slightly larger than the huge catheral in Siena, it is very different. Siena is ornate and striped in gray and white marble. Dark. The huge Catheral in Florence(fourth largest in world) is almost stark in contrast. It features an absolutely stunning dome ceiling.
It took 120 years and thousands of worker to build. Five different architects worked on this structure.
What was amusing was the announcement, repeated about every 15 mintues, in a Booming, yes Booming surround sound. “SHHHHHH. Shhhhhhh. SILENCE. PLEASE.” This message was repeated in several languages and quieted the crowd of gawkers instantly.
Being a bit intimated ourselves with what sounded like the voice of God coming from the vast reaches of the dome, we stopped talking and tiptoed about.
After the Duomo viewing, Jack and I headed off to a very contemporary hotel on the Arno to meet up with long time friends who just “happened” to be in Florence on the same day. We made our way thorugh the crowded streets, market stalls and folks with hands out for money. I was a bit surprised with how crowded it was even though we are at the end of the typical tourist season. Tours with guides leading the way, lots of school groups, empty nest couples like us all crowded the narrow by-ways.
Clearly, there is no such thing as “Hidden Florence.” Too many people for anything to be undiscovered in this glorious city. If there is, please write about it. I am already planning my next visit to view the art and architecture I missed on this adventure. And maybe a little of that Tuscan sun we have all heard about.