It is very, very hard to be bored in Florence. There are over 70 museums here, not to mention all the theaters, churches, and mini-expositions that come through. As a tourist it can be a bit daunting, but as an inhabitant you can see things at your leisure and really take time to process it all. When I got here I bought a pass that allows me unlimited access to all of the state museums, and I have made a special effort to visit the Uffizi Galleries every week. However, I don’t know why but I have not been to many others on my own, though I did visit quite a few places with the school. So the other day I decided to go visit my old friend David (yea, the one by Michaelangelo), at the Accademia Gallery. I will never forget the first time I saw him several years ago when I first visited Florence. For all the hype, I was still not prepared for how incredible he is. The detail, the look on his face, the idealic form of his body– it really does take your breath away. I have been kind of avoiding the Accademia because it is small and houses the true masterpiece of Renaissance art… so as you can imagine you sometimes feel packed in like sardines. Anyway, so I chose to brave the crowds and see if he was really as glorious as I remembered. And the verdict is: Yes. It was funny walking into the big hall where they keep the statue because it was at once familiar and at the same time completely stunning. The feet, the hands, the calves, the ringlets– absolutely amazing. The Uffizi can be a little disappointing at times, not for the works of art but for the way they are presented. The lighting is terrible which is a shame because you can’t really see and appreciate many of the paintings. However, the hall in which David stands– all 17 feet of him– is beautiful and really does the statue justice. There are several other interesting pieces in the Accademia, among which are stacks upon stacks of busts of then-famous people, now forgotten. They sort of haunt the back rooms of the Gallery, lost in the afterglow of the magnificent David. And, at the end of the day, it should be that way because David is really that special. Here is a “stolen” picture I took when I the guards weren’t watching:
Last Thursday, Simonetta invited me to go take a mini-tour of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a small state museum where they do a lot of restoration work. We were there for the unveiling of “La Pala di San Zeno,” this amazing altar-like structure from the 1450’s that will be restored to its home in a church in Verona this summer. It was very badly damaged (in a flood??) and was thus handed over to the Opificio to restore it to its original splendor. The work went on for two years because the structure itself is made of wood and was buckling under its own weight. It was sort of bulging in the center, as if about to collapse in on itself, and thus had to be basically completely rebuilt without damaging the canvases. The piece itself is absolutely stupendous, and no photograph could ever do it justice. However, I posted a few pictures below so you can have some idea of what I am talking about. It was a real privilege getting to see such beauty so close-up.
The structure in its entirety.
The details of the main canvas.
We had a guide who worked at the museum give us some history and some of the particulars on the restoration process. Of course I cannot recount everything here, but it was one of my prouder Italian moments because I understood nearly everything, even though he used a lot of art-specific language. I guess I am finally getting somewhere!
After we left the museum, I decided to take a look at the Handicrafts fair that was being held in the same building. It was sort of a last-minute decision, so I wasn’t quite prepared for how enormous it was! One thing I love about Italy is that they really take a lot of pride in the work that they do. Whether you are looking for shoes or matresses, there is someone in Florence, probably in your neighborhood, that can make it to measure, exactly how you like it. Coming from a culture where fast, mass production is encouraged, it is nice to see people really slow down and take the time to create something beautiful. So you can imagine that, when there is an entire exhibition dedicated to artisan crafts, there would be quite a few really special things. I will post some pictures on my Shutterfly site…. soon, I promise!!