Monday, September 29, 2014

Ten Days of Travel: Florence

On a 'fine' Wednesday morning K and I took a fast train from Rome to Florence. It rained a lot during the journey and on our way to find our little airbnb-booked guest house. Cute it was. And raining the morning was. And sleepy we were. And nothing to do till 11am to go for the renaissance tour by the Florence Free tours. (So you can imagine how early we woke up).

The renaissance tour introduced us to some of the beauty of Florence with the sculptures and paintings of the great renaissance artists including of course, our favourite Michaelangelo. The tour started at Piazza San Marta Novella and walked through to the Florence cathedral, and the church of Santa Croce. The Florence cathedral is a different kind of beauty, a renaissance church in all its glory. It had a dome that is at odds with the rest of the structure because the calculations were slightly off and the dome had to be constructed differently with an octagonal base.

The guide also pointed out Florence as the fashion capital with Ferragamo museum and the new Gucci museum. Right next to our stay was a massive leather market. Now that I'm writing about it I wonder why I didn't shop!

I wanted to visit Florence because it was the city that Leonardo Da Vinci spent his interesting life in and the Medici's were the first bankers to rule. And I not so long ago read Dan Brown's Inferno (now now, Dan Brown may not be right or amazing but he did describe Florence beautifully). So I was delighted to walk on the cobblestones of Florence listening to the stories of the wonderful art that flourished. We grabbed some food in a little local shop and had some lemoncello before coming back for another tour by the Florence free tours, the Medici tour. 

The Medici tour was more fun simply because the Medici's were insane. The place where the Medici's are buried has a big hole in the middle because they wanted to bring the body of Jesus from Jerusalem to their tomb so that they all can be buried next to the Son of God, the audacity of it is hilarious. But the Medicis did rule successfully for many years were patrons of art and science which flourished. The guide took us along the Vassari corridor, except from the outside (if you want to go inside you would need to go into the Uffizi and should have booked a guided tour of the corridor). The corridor is another example of the eccentricities, built so that the Medici family can walk between their palaces and attend church without ever having to be seen by outsiders so as to protect themselves from potential assassins. The tour ended at the end of the corridor at Pitti Palace which has the famous Boboli gardens. We didn't go in though.

We spent the evening and night, until we got tired at the Piazza della Signoria, the biggest example of the endorsement of art by the Medicis. It is a piazza where some sculptures, really amazing masterpieces, were generally displayed for the public. Michaelangelo's David was here until it was taken inside the Gallerie Accademia to protect it and was replaced with a replica. The piazza also hosts the originals of the Rape of the Sabine, a master piece in its depiction, the Hercules and Cacus, and the Perseus with Medusa's head. 

The next morning we went to the Gallerie to see David. The replica does not do justice. Honestly, no picture does justice to the original sculpture. Michaelangelo's master piece captures such determination in his eyes, in his taut body, in the veins of his hands and tightened muscles. This is David, not the shepherd victorious over Goliath, but the classical hero ready and waiting to strike Goliath at the right moment. Looking at the sculpture makes you want to have that sense of purpose in life. See what are art did there? 
I have some pictures here but as a said, it's impossible to capture the perfection.

See the veins?:

This was originally placed in the piazza I mentioned, right in front of the Medici offices, Palazzo Vecchio. It was said that Michaelangelo had intended to place David looking at the goliaths of Medicis, challenging them as a common man.

Time was running out for us in Florence and we had many more things to do but we could only pick a few. For the next we picked the Galileo museum. It actually turned out to be the museum of science, time, astronomy, cartography, navigation, etc. It starts off when earth was at the centre of our universe and moves through history all the way to electricity and electric machinery. This is an astronomy model of time, sun, moon, earth, heavenly bodies and zodiacs.

We also got to see Galileo's telescopes, the ones with which he proved that the sun is after all in the centre (though now we know it's an inconspicuous little star in the universe). And for some random reason they also displayed some mummified body parts of his, like fingers or something.

The next thing in our agenda was the museum of Leonardo da Vinci which is not really a museum since it doesn't curate old paintings or anything and we were running out of time and there's one in Venice, so we gave it a miss. Instead we went to Piazza del Michaelangelo. It's a piazza on top a hill from where you can get glorious views of the city like this one:

The piazza is named after Michaelangelo because his disciples decided to pay tribute to him by making his replicas and displaying them there. So there was yet another David. We also went there because a gelato festival was happening that weekend. The gelato was invented in Florence when one of the women of the Medici family was married to the prince of France and a sorbet was invented for the wedding as dessert. So this festival is apparently big but it was actually very small. We tasted some: a cheesecake gelato, of course a 'David' gelato, a strongly tumeric flavoured gelato, and a slightly regular type of gelato.

And then we hurried back down to the bnb, picked up our bags and went on our way to the train. We got on the wrong train and kept searching for our seats until we realised it was the wrong train. Got on the right one just in time.

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