Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Renaissance Men and Women in Florence

We had ambitious plans for day two...Florence in the morning, Siena in the afternoon and San Gimignano in the evening. We held our breath and said a prayer that we would make it everywhere. Especially with our first Florentine stop being the Uffizi Gallery. We heard tales of hours waiting in long ticket lines so we set out early hoping luck would be a lady and get us in sooner than later! Rick's Uffizi description short and sweet was "Greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere. Reserve at least one month in advance" ....oops.And in this case luck was indeed on our side despite horror stories of mile long lines - they only let in 600 at a time! We honestly walked right up and into the Uffizi. I tried not to look too aghast, but we were IN without a moment's hesitation! We pulled ourselves and our disbelief together and started our chronology through Italian art history. Using our Rick Steves' book as our guide I read aloud his Uffizi walking tour to our crew, describing the key paintings in each room. I have never been so diligent about taking in art. I learned about Giotto, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens, and Botticelli. My head was swimming with the different styles and eras of Italian Renaissance. We of course saw Birth of Venus, probably the Uffizi's most famous piece...
The Venus rising pure and perfect from the oyster shell was in stark contrast with Titian's voluptuous Venus of Urbino...
Botticelli's Allegory of Spring (below)
Giovanni's Crucifixion
The Uffizi was incredible. I never thought I was a fan of Italian art - it all looks similar, gold and Madonna-centric to me, but I developed a more refined appreciation for its place in history and more subtle details. Big check on this one!
We wandered across to the Ponte Vecchio. Kirk and I loved watching the sunset here as European backpackers 7 years ago (we were footloose and fancy free!) so seeing the famous bridge lined with the silver, gold, and cameo shops brought back good memories.
We took family pictures to compare to those of our younger days. Hopefully one day we can return to keep a series of Ponte Vecchio portraits alive!
There was something about the kids' feet in their matching strollers that was very touching.
By this time we were growing hungry for some of the world famous gelato! Bring it on!
Connor got "pink"/fragula/strawberry gelato. She liked the new word for ice cream and kept rolling it around. It is a fun word to say! And a fun word to EAT too!
No visit to Florence is complete without paying proper respects to the Duomo.
The pink, green, and white Tuscan marble is smooth and rich from any angle. And oh that magnificent glowing dome! We climbed the bell tower on our previous visit but held off thinking our strollers and the winding stairwells weren't a good match. But if you get the chance do it. The view from the belltower of the Duomo dome overlooking Florence is unparalleled.
The Duomo's inside ain't too shabby either!
We also visited a church new to me (this was my third visit to Florence)....Santa Croce Church. This 14th-century Franciscan church, decorated with centuries of precious art, holds the tombs of great Florentines - including Galileo and Michelangelo.
Santa Croce is located near the train station and definitely shouldn't be missed. The mathematical/scientific elements incorporated into a religious house of worship are quite unique.
We ate a quick but scrumptious lunch near Santa Croce at an Egyptian hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop Adair remembered from her Classics Semester abroad. It was the kind of place that took a few wrong turns to locate, but oh yum. The food was mouth-watering with fresh pitas made from scratch. The perfect spot to roll in, park two large strollers and gorge on tantalizing, low-key, low-cost cuisine --- quickly. The cafe was called Amon and is located at Via Palazzuolo 26-28/r, Santa Maria Novella. I realize eating Egyptian in Tuscany may be blasphemy, but rest assured we had plenty of pizza and pasta!
I would be remiss if I didn't report that this visit to Florence was clouded a little more with maternal responsibility than my last trips; it was good we only had a half day reserved for this city. I remembered Florence as urban, loud, and busy - along with being rich in art, history and culture... But what I did not remember was how manic the motorcycles are! This takes a lot for me to say given I live in Brussels where the bikes are already fast and furious. But honestly there was barely enough room to push a stroller on the narrow sidewalks without feeling the motorcycle wind whip you. It will be a lasting impression of Florence nestled in with the memories of decadent gelato, the feast of art, and the classic churches.


Sues said...

I looooove Firenze!!!!

Stacie B said...

florence, siena, *and* san gimignano all in one day? I don't think I could do that WITHOUT a toddler. you amaze me.