Thursday, July 9, 2009

Renaissance Revisited - Florence, Italy


Destination: Florence, Italy

Number of Days Spent: 1 day

Where we stayed: Hotel Azzi - 50 Euros/night on (including breakfast & wifi)

Best restaurant: We found a great sandwich shop called Casa del Vino where they served excellent homemade panini sandwiches! They will make them to order. It's one of the oldest wine shops in the city and every day they have several bottles of wine opened that you can sample by the glass with your panini. It was the best panini we had in Italy and very affordable - 3.50 Euro!

Best of: Florence is known for its art and it certainly lives up to its reputation!

Worst of: Donatello's David (the one portraying him as a fanciful, elf like, boy with a feathered cap) was out on loan so we missed it. At least we asked before paying admission to an otherwise ordinary art collection. The people working at the Uffizi are a bunch of disorganized jerks and that's all I am going to say on that...for now!

Most Memorable: We met up with friends RJ & Kristi while we were in Florence and swapped travel stories over dinner. If you guys are reading this I hope you had a great time in France!

Useful tip: It is strongly advised to book ahead for the Uffizi and the Academia. For 2 euros extra you can skip the over an hour long wait at the Academia, and at the Uffizi you probably won't be getting in without it. It's easy to do online with a CC. Lastly, as mentioned in our post from Rome, go to ITunes and download the Rick Steves guides to both the Uffizi & Accadamia (FREE)!

After passing once more through Pisa (that makes 5 times now!) we got into Florence and checked in just in time to make it to our appointment at the Academia to see David & the Prisoners by Michelangelo. Few works of art are as recognizable as this stunning figure rising over 13 feet high. Carved from one single piece of marble, Michelangelo believed that the figures were in the stone all along and it was his job with God's help to free them from the stone. In his left had lies the sling and the oversized right emphasizes his strength. From the front angle, David's eyes stare up at his enemy, Goliath as if you say in a cocky manner "I can take this guy". As you spin around to the right, his face changes and a glimpse of "Oh, crap what I just get myself into" appears. In true Michelangelo style, every blood vein, bulging muscle and rib bone is visible revealing the master's attention to detail and his mastery of the human anatomy. Equally as impressive as David and leading up to him are the so-called prisoners. They pieces were never actually finished. In various stages of completion, the figures give a glimpse into how Michelangelo "freed" the pieces from the marble.

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Florence also has a lively street atmosphere. The square, anchored by the massive Church in the center, is surrounded by several pedestrian only streets making the city a joy to wander around (though the crowds do take it down a notch). Down to the river, just past the Uffizi lies the city's most famous bridge, Ponte Vecchio. Stretching across the river, the bridge now serves as a meeting place and houses tons of jewelry shops that just simply built onto the side of the bridge.

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After taking a stroll through town from the Academia, we arrived at the Uffizi. Ordering the tickets online was the easy part. Arriving and picking them up turned out to be a bit frustrating. After standing in line to get in, get past the metal detectors, we find out that our reservation is not good enough, we have to physically pick up a ticket. Fair enough; we go to the ticket counter - "no, not here" - across the street you pick them up. Back outside and across the street - "What do you mean you already paid for them, where's your reservation?" Back inside, after waiting in line again - "You have to check that bag over there!" There was an "information" desk that the lady seemed more intent on finishing her crossword puzzle before helping us, and when she did look up, she pointed us to the ticket counter...thanks for the help! I think a little sign and at least a half smile would go a long ways. We were not the only ones a little ticked at the situation, but hey the gallery was worth it.

Inside, you find one of the greatest collections of Renaissance Art in the world. Built by Florence's ruling family the Medici's, the Uffizi was fittingly the place they brought visitors to visit their personal art collection. Some of the highlights include the Birth of Venus (you might know it as Venus on a halfshell), the famous German painter Crannoch has a few here, along with other notables like Rembrandt, Leonardo, and Donatello. Florence truly was the birthplace of the Renaissance and it is only fitting that the city houses a large portion of their works till this day.

After the Uffizi, we met RJ and Kristis for dinner and a glass of wine and then got ready to head to Venice!

You know the drill, for more photos of Florence click here!

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