Notes from the Road – Florence, Italy!
Traveling out of the country can be a stressful proposition – there’s passports to organize, electronic adapters to figure out, money to exchange – but all of these worries fall away when you get your first glimpse of an amazing new city filled with sights unlike any other. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Tuscany and now that I’ve returned, I can’t wait to go back. The food, the air, the water – everything seemed more vibrant and alive in Italy. My journey began in Florence, and what a way to start! From the Duomo to the Basilica di Santa Croce, everywhere you look there’s amazing architecture and artifacts to see, not to mention all the gelato and pizza. I felt like I wanted to take a picture of everything – the simplest window shutter seemed exciting and most likely has a history older than our entire country.
I’m sure you could spend an entire week exploring the museums and galleries in Florence, but the two most popular are the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) and the Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery).
The Accademia houses the original David by Michelangelo, as well as many other sculptures and paintings by major artists working in and around Florence before, during and after the Renaissance. It was amazing to finally experience these works that I have studied in school and to see, up close, the forced perspective of David’s huge hands and feet. Art history class came rushing back! The Gallery also houses the Museum of Musical Instruments, a collection of the most important and historical instruments of the time. I particularly enjoyed the exhibit showing the works (some finished, some in progress) of Michelangelo’s protégés, as well as some modern art influenced by these artists.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. The gallery was originally built in 1560 as a palace for the Medici family to use as the offices for the Florentine magistrates (uffizi = offices). Over the years, parts of the palace evolved into a display place for many of the paintings and sculptures collected or commissioned by the Medici family. After the house of Medici was extinguished, the art remained in Florence and formed one of the first modern museums. The gallery has been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, and in 1765 was officially opened to the public. The Uffizi houses an enormous collection by artists too numerous to list fully, but the highlights include The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, The Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring by Botticelli, Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael and The Doni Tondo by Michelangelo. My favorites were the Botticelli’s and the displays of Florentine coins, but there is most definitely something for everyone in this museum.
You can easily see both museums in a day, just make sure you don’t start to experience Stendhal’s Syndrome. Also known as Florence Syndrome, Stendhal’s refers to the dizziness and fainting that can occur when exposed to particularly beautiful and/or large amounts of art in a single place. But don’t let that deter you, just be sure to drink plenty of water and take breaks when you can. I’ve heard that eating gelato helps with this too!
These museums only touch the surface of the amazing things I saw and experienced in Florence. The city was very welcoming to tourists and everyone politely tolerated my broken Italian (or spoke English before I had the chance). Buon viaggio!