Our second week in Florence was much more low-key than the first week. I was able to organize my life a bit better by repacking my suitcases and doing my laundry. I found my dream boots, which I have been living in since last Sunday. Everyone went to Pisa on Monday and I opted out because apparently “There is nothing to see in Pisa.” I used the time to do my homework and call people and such.
Tuesday was an absolutely gorgeous day, and after school we climbed to the top of the Duomo to see sprawling views of Florence. Grandmama and I climbed up Giotto’s bell tower when she came to visit me, which had a spectacular aerial view of the Duomo. The duomo has 461 steps and no elevator, so it is quite a hike. The first part of the climb goes from the floor up to the base of the dome, where you can walk along the inside and look down at the church which is basically vacant and relatively void of decoration, but is still beautiful and huge. The second half of the climb is through the actual dome and is an incredibly steep hike through very narrow corridors which surprisingly only took about fifteen minutes. The view from the top was breathtaking: there are hardly words to describe it. We could see everything from the Arno to the hills of Fiesole (just outside of Florence) and then some. We were able to make out the gigantic shadow of the Duomo that hovered over the northern part of the city, which seemed act as protection over the small city of Florence.
We descended and went to get gelato at my favorite gelato place in Florence, Gelateria dei Neri before walking over to Piazzale Michaelangelo to see what are supposed to be the most spectacular views of the city. As if we had not had our fill of climbing up stairs already, we trekked up the stairs and consequent hills until we reached the Piazzale with the bronze copy of Michaelangelo’s David. The views of Florence from this perspective were even more amazing than those from the Duomo, if that is even possible. We arrived just in time to see the sun sinking into the western Tuscan hillside, and took this opportunity to attempt to capture this moment with our cameras, which is nearly impossible. From this piazza, it is clear that the Duomo is the heart of Florence. To freeze the grandiose of the Duomo against the humble Florentine neighborhoods in a single snapshot does not do it justice.
Wednesday was a day to rest up before our Thursday we did the Uffizi marathon. We went with our favorite tour guide, Christian, who gave us a 3.5 hour tour of the gallery. Giorgio Vasari both designed and built the Uffizi (which aptly translates to “offices”) in the late 16th century for the Medici family. It then housed the city’s administrators, judiciary, and guilds. It is now probably the most famous art museum in Italy, housing artists such as Cimabue, Giotto, Botticelli, Titian, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, just to name a few. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was one of the first large-scale paintings to be done on canvas, and it is larger than anyone could ever imagine. It was also one of the first paintings to have a non-Christian theme. Although beautiful, Venus is awkwardly proportioned and has seemingly never-ending limbs and no shoulders. Titian’s Venus of Urbino, on the other hand, is a beautiful depiction of Venus personified into what looks like a teenage girl. It is said that the painting is a portrayal of one of the duke’s mistresses: there are portraits of he and his wife on either side of Titian’s Venus.
Apparently Renaissance artist like to paint their subject in disproportion. When looking at DaVinci’s Annunciation head-on, you can see that Mary (on the right side of the painting) is leaning on a desk with her shoulders slightly opened up to the audience. One also notices that her right shoulder is way too elongated to be a functioning part of her body. In fact, DaVinci meant for this painting to be examined while standing off to the right of it. When seen from this angle, you are standing in the same place as Mary is, watching the angel come toward you.
Michaelangelo’s only painting is in the Uffizi. The original gold frame encircles the figures of God, Mary, and Baby Jesus, with a random bunch of naked men in the background—they look like they are there to simply fill space. There is another child-like figure to the right of Baby Jesus that is said to be John the Baptist, the first person to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. It is a striking painting, and the intense muscular detail of each figure is such that can only be attributed to Michaelangelo.
We leave for Venice tomorrow morning.