Of all the places we visited, Florence was the most familiar and brought back the most memories from prior visits — once during college and then with friends in the mid-nineties. We arrived late in the evening and took a quick walk to the Piazza del Duomo before walking back to our hotel. To the left is Giotto’s Bell Tower a freestanding tower that is part of the Florence Cathedral.
Pandemic restrictions meant that when we visited the Galleria dell’Academia, we could see the David right up close. No tourists ringed five deep jostling for a view and a photo. What can one say about this magnificent sculpture that hasn’t been said before? I think no words at all. I will simply offer awe and gratitude that Michaelangelo Buonarotti was born and answered an unceasing call to create. That at the age of 26, he turned the world of sculpture on its head when his chisel met a new block of marble. That he lived to the age of 88 and up until nearly his final breath labored to wrench meaning and narrative from stone.
Our three hours in the Uffizi passed quicker than the Arno flows beneath the Ponte Vecchio. The collections have been reorganized in such a way that a visitor can move through the entire museum methodically and easily. It also helped that, as with viewing the David, there were many fewer people than normal. The most poignant moment was watching a docent describe a statue to a sightless man who moved his (archivist gloved) hands over the statue as the docent spoke. There are many ways to appreciate works of art.
I spent a lot of time in the portrait galleries, taking in the reality that the artists’ subjects had all lived once upon a time. I’ll share these two by the Italian artist Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo, 1503 – 1572). Centuries later, the subjects’ faces are still luminous; their clothes look as if they’ve just been taken from the wardrobe.
Little Bia (Bianca) de Medici, the illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de’Medici, died soon after her portrait was painted. The use of the deep blue against her white dress takes my breath away. This shade of blue was often requested by those commissioning portraits and other paintings. The paint, made from crushed lapis lazuli, was quite costly, a detail recognized by the Joneses of the day and those trying to keep up with them.
In contrast to little Bia’s portrait, Bronzino placed his subject, Lucrezia Panciatichi, against a barely discernable background. To my eye, this choice “disembodies” her. She doesn’t seem anchored. But oh those sleeves…
In Florence, as everywhere else, we spent much of our days walking through history, crossing ancient bridges, passing under arches and marveling at how much that was old was also completely contemporary.
Now let’s head to the Amalfi Coast!
Photo of Giotto’s Belltower courtesy of Martin Darvick.
Others on this page courtesy of Debra Darvick.