One of the greatest art collections is housed in Florence at the Uffizi gallery. It's a horseshoe-shaped gallery with three floors, the third of which is lined with windows and at one point runs parallel to the Arno river.
As the gallery sits directly adjacent to the Palazzo Vecchio, a walk of merely minutes from our apartment, we had no trouble keeping our 10:30 reservation. If ever you visit the Uffizi, please do yourself a favor and make a reservation. We collected our tickets at the number 3 door, and literally walked inside while, as so many times before, those who failed to plan ahead stood wasting their time in line while we headed on to the art. Checking our bags was required, though they told me to keep my camera with me, which was quite an unfair thing to ask due to the no-photo policy.
The main hall of the gallery is lined with windows, between which on either side stand ancient sculptures, usually Roman copies of Greek originals. The sculptures here are in my opinion the weakest aspect of the collection, as the quality of the paintings completely overshadows all else. The main hall opens into a myriad of rooms which house specific eras or artists' work within. First, one will tour the Byzantine rooms, then essentially, section by section, view the Renaissance's evolution throughout the gallery. The number of artistic gurus whose work is displayed here is staggering. I'll list the ones who come to mind immediately: Giotto, Duccio, Cimabue, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Durer, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Tintoretto, Raphael, Artemesia... And that's the short list. Such works as Botticelli's Primavera and Birth of Venus hang here. Short of the Louvre, the Uffizi is possibly the most concentrated collection of talent housed in a single museum.
We spent 3 or 4 hours soaking in the glory of the greats. The lunch we ate was fit for a dog, but the weather and location- atop the town hall, across from the Palazzo Vecchio, was grand.
With the juice from a fresh fruit cup quenching our thirst, we sat on the side of the town hall which faces the intersection between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi. Counterfeit art vendors attempted to sell their wares to no avail, and even once the wind blew one poster beneath the feet of an innocent passerby, who effectively creased the poster in half in mid-stride. The vendor was furious, but could do nothing, as the tourist was innocent.
After taking in the music from a live guitarist and the bustle of the crowd among the ancient structures surrounding us, we made our way to Santa Croce. This church has fascinated me since I took a peek into its courtyard three years ago. Since then, it has become increasingly intriguing for reasons I will explain shortly.
The facade is impressive, sheer white marble with ornate patterns of inlaid green and pink. It is a rather large church, more like a monastery, as its grounds spread horizontally for almost an entire block. Other than the facade, it is a very medieval-looking structure, made of dark stone. Despite the steep entrance fee, we were eager to get inside. (Everything is expensive in Florence) Again, it seems a very medieval church. Probably gothic in style. Dim inside, though beautifully lit in places by stained glass. Toward the altar and on the side aisles lie tombs in the floor. It is rather unsettling and one instinctively avoids stepping there. As beautiful and sobering as the church itself is, the draw for us were the tombs of none other than Michelangelo, Galileo, and , to name a few. Michelangelo's tomb was one of the most modest, considering his status, though still regal, and adorned with high quality marble sculptures representing each of his crafts: painting, sculpting, and poetry. A bust of his likeness stands above the tomb. Through all the busts we have seen of the great man, I can finally visualize what he once looked like. It was a great experience to pay our respects to arguably the greatest artist to ever live. The halls and side chapels are tranquil and interesting, and the courtyard outside is beauifully well kept. A truly enjoyable experience.
We headed farther north directly from Santa Croce to find Michelangelo's house. It was closed, so we stopped into an Internet point to email the family and transfer some of my photos to a flash drive.
Our dinner that night was a bit unorthodox, but unforgettable. On our way back to the apartment, we stopped by the grocery store to stock up on sustenance for the next day, and realized they carried a top ramen equivalent. We grabbed a few bags of ramen, some chips, salsa, and salami, and went home to prepare our impromptu meal. The stove was an electric, and kept turning itself off and on, but ultimately, after a half hour, we had our dinner laid out on our circular table on the terrace with a nice table cloth and drinks. Again we watched the sun sink below the horizon together and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Firenze.