BTW, forgot to mention in yesterday’s entry about the Raphael Section in the Sistine Chapel. We could not visit that due to lack of time. Too bad.
Our tour started today at 8am. Our starting point was at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Just when we thought we had seen it all in the Vatican Museum, Florence takes us to the next level.
Here in the Accademia, we took in the jaw-dropping David by Michelangelo. Its a 16-foot-tall imposing marble statue with remarkably accurate anatomical features down to the carotid artery in the jugular and the tendons above the knees. Later we learnt that Michelangelo dissected cadavers at the age of 16 to understand the human body intimately. This is considered to be one of the greatest sculptures of all time. He made this sculpture right after the Pieta we saw in the Vatican. He was just 26 years of age and it took him 2 years and 4 months to make this sculpture.
We also saw some incomplete works of Michelangelo including another Pieta. Apparently he made totally 4 Pietas.
There were a few other good paintings in the Academia but David makes anything else sub-par. We also saw a bronze statue of Michelangelo himself.
Then we walked through the city to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – one of the largest churches in the world. The facade is made of pink, green and white marble. A competition was run to chose the designer for the dome. Fillippo Brunelleschi won the competition and designed the dome which is another engineering marvel. At that time to put such a large dome at that height was not considered possible. Brunelleschi invented some new techniques. First, he designed the dome in 2 layers with a gap in between which reduced the overall weight of the dome. He also used an innovative herringbone design to lay the bricks to give the structure more strength. Brunelleschi’s methods were later widely copied including at the St.Peter’s in Rome.
The inside of the dome holds Georgio Vasari’s version of the Last Judgement and is the world’s largest painting. He is one of the leading disciples of Michelangelo. The cathedral also includes a bell tower designed by Giotto – another famous renaissance artist. We’ll cover him again later.
When we got out of the Cathedral we saw the Heaven’s Doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Interestingly Ghiberti won the competition to design the doors that form the entrance to the Baptistery beating Brunelleschi. This is another fantastic work.
We then reached the Basilica of Santa Croce. At the entrance there is a huge statue of Dante (Divine Comedy fame). We talk of august presence but the inside of Santa Croce should be called super august presence. It contains the tombs of the favorite sons of Florence – Michelangelo Buonarotti, Guglielmo Marconi, Galileo Galilei, Enrico Fermi, Dante Alighieri, Nicolo Machiavelli, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gioachhino Rossini.
We lit a candle and prayed that some of the genius of these people rubs off on us all. It was time for us to start the 1pm tour of the Uffizi Gallery. This gallery is considered to be one of the first modern museums in Europe. Our guide started the tour with Giotto’s paintings which set the stage for later Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Raphael. He was the first one to give a 3D feel to the paintings. How Giotto himself became a painter is another inspiring story.
The Uffizi Gallery houses the cream of the Renaissance art. Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Da Vinci’s unfinished Adoration of the Magi, Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, Raphael’s portrait of the Pope, Tijiano’s paintings, Caravaggio’s paintings etc. It also houses the largest collection of Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings. With that our tour of Florence was complete.
We had also seen some more interesting sculptures like Giammatti’s Neptune in the Piazzas during our walks through the city. Florence is a beautiful city with the river Arno running through it. We are definitely completely overwhelmed by the sheer talent that had been assembled in Florence, Rome and the rest of Italy.
Clearly, the accomplishments of these great people puts Italy in a different league altogether. Don’t know when and where we’ll see the next assembly of such great talent.
After the tour we walked back to the hotel took some rest and went back to the city for dinner. Our guide had recommended Boldavino’s. What shall we say – it was soul food – a fitting finale to the fabulous day in Florence.
Tomorrow we’re off to Venice with a stop enroute at Verona. More to come.