As a history buff, my fascination for the past has also made me an avid lover of the arts. I’m a creative arts junky on all levels; books, theatre, music, fine art, architecture, crafts, movies even television. You name it; I have an endless appetite and love for seeing whenever possible the great masterpieces of culture. Taking the time to see in person these unexpected and moving forms of art with one or more of your five senses, can uplift your sense of awe and well-being on so many levels. Such private and often times personal epiphanies frequently opens windows into inspiring the impossible and experiencing life on its most raw and emotional level.
Previous, I mentioned how Florence on its own has unseen electricity that generates true creative inspiration. This inspiration has been occurring for centuries, and as a Mecca for the arts and seeing what’s been produced from this energy, this city offers you often a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the great masterpieces you’ve only seen in various forms of print. Such a front seat to human inspiration and artistic genius can be a life changing lesson in howwe as humans view our world.
Beyond its art filled churches, there are several museums in the city that house generations of great art, especially one of the largest and most famous art museum in the world, the Uffizi Gallery. Originally begun by Cosimo de’Medici as offices (‘uffizi’) for the Florentine magistrates, this building eventually housed the private art collection of Cosimo and the Medici Family. Their private collection is what created the base for the museum you visit today.
The Uffizi will bring you up close to such masterpieces like Botticelli’s most famous works: The Birth of Venus, and Primavera (Spring Awakening); daVinci’s Annunciation and The Adoration of the Magi; Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna (Madonna Enthroned); Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (The Holy Family); Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch;Caravaggio’s Bacchus and Medusa; Roman sculpture The Two Wrestlers and the Arrotino (the Blade-Sharpener) just to name a few. Even the museum’s U-shape layout of two long windowed wings looking out over a narrow courtyard gives the illusion of a street with additional views of the River Arno, is a masterpiece of design. It’s not hard to feel the presence of Cosimo’s ghost walking with you every step of the way as you stroll down hallways and into rooms, admiring such colossal artistic beauty on its walls and even ceilings.
The joke among all women is there is no such thing as the perfect man. Well at the Galleria dell’Accademia, you will beproven wrong on all accounts – this is where Michelangelo’s David resides in all his male perfection. Located on the second floor of Europe’s first academy of drawing, this sculpture on its own is an incredible feat of technical skill, scale and detail. Some would say that the proportions of David seem slightly off. His head and hands are unusually large. (Okay, insert joke about large hands!) These enlargements are a sculpting master’s visual trick; it’s believed that the statue was originally intended to be on a cathedral roofline, where the important parts of the sculpture would need to be accentuated in order to be visible from below.
Either way, David’s face looks tense and ready for battle; the tendons of his neck bulge with his stiff posture, a sign he’s intensely waiting for battle with Goliath. Even the muscles between his upper lip and nose are tight; his eyebrows carved in such a way, giving the effect he’s in deep concentration, looking on something in the distance. You can’t help but notice the detail in his hand with a bulging vein in perfect symmetry, while the rest of his body seems relaxed, his sling over his shoulder. (Any for the ladies, yes, there is such think as a perfect butt – it was hard for me not to reach out and grab it!)
Another must visit museum in Florence is the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti). This vast Renaissance Palace originally the town residence of Florentine banker Luca Pitti, was purchased by the Medici family in 1549, and was the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Over its long history, it many residents have contributed a collection of great treasures that include painting, plates, jewelry and other luxurious possessions. The palace was donated to the Italian people by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919 as one of Florence’s largest art galleries, and today it houses several minor collections in addition to those of the Medici family.
Art lovers on all levels of interest will find something to inspire them in any of its principle galleries. The Palantine Gallery contains over 500 Renaissance paintings; The Royal Apartments, a suite of 14 rooms offer a display of period furnishings from its once grand residents; The Gallery of Modern Art covers pre-World War I art between the 18th and 20th centuries; The Silver Museum, often referred to ‘The Medici Treasury,’ houses a collection of priceless silver, cameos, and works in Semi-precious gemstones; The Porcelain Museum, displays a collection comprised from the most notable European porcelain factories; The Costume Gallery contains a collection of theatrical costumes dating back from the 16th century to the present; The Carriages Museum exhibits carriages and other modes of transportation used by the Grand Ducal court, and the Boboli Gardens the once pleasure gardens of the Palace displays a collection of sculptures dating back from the 16th and 18th centuries, along with Roman antiquities.
Finally, make sure after a long day of museums and other cultural activities, you take some time to do a little shopping, especially along thehistoric Ponte Vecchio Bridge. This Medieval stone arch bridge spans over the Arno River connecting the two city shores of Florence as well as the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed passage connecting the government palace and the Pitti Palace. Once occupied by butcher shops, in 1593 the Medici Grand Dukes prohibited butchers from selling there, where it was immediately claimed by the gold merchants. It still houses many jewelers and art dealers, and if you are looking for 18kt gold jewelry (only available in Italy) or other ‘trinkets,’ this is the place to shop – the gold prices are very cheap and reasonable despite being a popular tourist destination.
Florence © Stuart Pinfold
Uffizi Gallery © Margaret Hren
Medusa © ancientartpodcast.org
David © Protoflux
Pitti Palace © Margaret Hren
Ponte Vecchio ©’ Margaret Hren
Juliet Martini is an aspiring romance writer in the contemporary and romantic suspense genres, seeking fame and publication (hopefully), in the near future. Currently, she is working on her second book, the first in a three book series centered on passion, wine and Italy. By day, she hides out as Margaret Hren, a marketing and fundraising consultant, and when time permits, she is building her author website and planning her next exotic travel get away. She also hopes to also launch her travel blog, The Travel Savvy Chick, later this year focusing on travel tips and personally acquired destination information.