Friday, November 6, 2015

Italy Day 7 (part 1) - Florence - Art, Pizza, and Adorable Little Toilets.

We were up early to look at naked bums today. Not our own bums, mind you, as that would be weird, but the bums of other people which, now that I consider it, seems equally weird.
Tori has decided to take pictures of as many nude statue bums as she can on this trip.
It's good for young people to have goals.
Today was a day devoted to art. Lots of art. Viewed at a very high rate of speed.
We rose early and headed down to breakfast at the hotel. The previous night's hotel dinner had left its terrible lingering taste in our mouths and we were wary of what gustatory assaults might be committed on us this morning.
The buffet spread before us included such traditional Italian delicacies as homemade Tuscan bread (which, by tradition, has no salt in it), an assortment of pastries, and, inexplicably, a chafing dish of hot dogs beside a chilled bottle of champagne.
Shuddering in horror, I made my way to the complex coffee machine, and, after a series of experimental button pushes, was rewarded with a thick, rich shot of espresso dark enough to form its own localized black hole.
It sizzled slightly in the cup and a wavy halo surrounded it as light rays bent toward it and were absorbed into its inky, black endlessness.
I carried it carefully back to the table and drank juice instead.
Kerri risked a sip of the espresso and spent the rest of the day jumpy, paranoid, and twitching slightly.
We piled onto the bus to meet today's local guide, Giovanni. She would be showing us around the historic downtown area and giving us a guided tour of The Academy, home of Michelangelo's David.
We arrived before the biggest crowds and were able to get up close and personal with David.

David is housed in a part of the art school called The Academy. The building he lives in was actually designed and built just for him. He used to live just outside the Medici's Palace, but in 1527, a slight altercation broke out inside the palace and a bench, hurled through a window, fell on poor David and broke his left arm off, shattering it into 7 pieces.

He was also subject to an attack by a hammer-wielding art critic that left his left foot badly damaged. Now, he lives in climate controlled comfort, which is good because he isn't wearing much.

The passageway that leads you to see him is lined with a series of Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures. They have been dubbed "The Prisoners" because they seem to be figures trying to escape from blocks of marble.

Oooh! There's David!

One of The Prisoners.
The unfinished parts give you an amazing glimpse into how Michelangelo worked.

The Atlas prisoner seems to carry the weight of the world on his shoulder.

Interesting fact: Michelangelo did not finish carving The Prisoners because he was called to The Vatican by the Pope in order to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He did not want to paint that ceiling, but in the day, The Pope was not one to be refused. He went to Rome, leaving his sculptures unfinished. He got his revenge on The Pope, though. While painting the ceiling of the chapel, he used a huge amount of Lapis Lazuli paint - a brilliant blue paint made from precious gems and, therefor, extremely expensive. He also added a huge number of scandalous nudes - enough so that the Vatican saw fit to hire another painter, many years later, to paint clothing over all the exposed naughty bits. He also added The Pope's Master of Ceremonies (an outspoken critic of all the nudity) in the ceiling's depiction of Hell. He painted him as Minos, in fairly uncomfortable propinquity to a hungry snake.

Moral of the Story - don't anger painters.

Soon we were able to see Mr. David up close. He's a towering 15 feet tall and is more stunning in person than any picture can possibly hope to convey.

There is some thought that Michelangelo was gay and that David was an idealized representation of one of his partners.
Here is Tori's picture of his bum. This is actually just one of the many, many photos she took of his bum. Many, many, many photos...
Alex was impressed.
The space he is in is brilliantly designed to show him off.

It's a bit difficult to see, but his pupils are hear-shaped, not round. This gives the effect of highlights in the eyes when light shines on him from above. That Michelangelo was a smart one, huh?
His left foot, badly damaged in a hammer attack. What is it about Michelanglo's work that makes people want to whack it with a hammer?

The Academy also houses an amazing collection of plaster casts that art teachers use to help teach students how to draw. Many of them are covered wit black pins or marks that are used to help students gauge proportions by looking from point to point on a figure.

We said our goodbyes to David and continued on our tour of Florence.

Doors of the famous Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as The Duomo).

Amazing sculptures of Mary and the Apostles. Or some saints. I can't remember which.

It took over 200 years for this church to be finished, It is unimaginably huge. The exterior is covered with thousands of slabs of pink, white, and green marble. Locals used to call it "the church in pajamas" because of its festive colors.

Brunelleschi's famous bronze Doors to Paradise.

The Duomo. The people at the bottom might give you some sense of the size of this thing.

We also traveled to the old Palace. It was the home of the Medici family, with their 11 children, until they decided that this tiny hovel was too small for them. It was cramping their style. They built a much larger palace on the other side of the river.

The lowest windows of the Medicis's palace were strategically placed to be out of the reach of thrown stones when there were riots in the streets. That's planning!

A brief word about the Medici family. They were, without question, one of the richest, most powerful families ever to have existed. They ruled Florence for a long time and their interest in art was a crucial component in the Renaissance. More on them later.

A statue of Lorenzo the Magnificent. I have tried, without success, to get my family to start calling me Marty the Magnificent, but it appears that I don't wield the same sort of power as a Medici. Yet.

This sculpture of Poseidon, about 50 yards from the statue of Lorenzo has exactly the same face as Lorenzo. Coincidence? No.
The Loggia, one of the first public sculpture gardens anywhere. It still houses several masterpieces of Renaissance art and is still free and open to anyone.
Giambologna's stunning Rape of the Sabine Women shows the motion through spiral torsion that was used so effectively through the Renaissance.

This bronze cast of Perseus and Medusa was intentionally graphic and gory. It was displayed just outside the palace as a not-so-subtle warning to any who might wish to tangle with the Medicis.

Even the base of that statue is a spectacular work of art.

When the tour ended, our guide suggested that people might want to check out the Bargello Museum, an often overlooked museum housing brilliant masterpieces. "It's only 4 Euros to get in and there's almost nobody there!"

I ask you - Could you resist an offer like that?

I could not. Today was MY day. I gathered up my family and frogmarched them off to The Bargello so we could get all cultured up.

Our Evil Tour Overlord, Beatrice, had explained that Italians are, by nature, argumentative. Not wanting to offend the locals, I saw fit to argue with the hostile, angry lady that was selling tickets.

A sign on the wall listed tickets at 4 Euros each (very cheap) but went on to say that children under 18 are free (even cheaper, for those of you who struggle with math). I asked for two adult tickets and two kids tickets.
She raised an eyebrow and subjected the kids to a withering glare. Fortunately, they did not wither.
"Under 18 is free, right?" I asked.
"Where are their papers?" she snarled.
I wondered for a moment if we had been teleported through some wormhole to Arizona or some such place.
"Their papers?" I asked.
She glared.
"He's 16 and she's 14," I said.
She glared.
"That's under 18," I helpfully explained.
"I can't tell how old they are by looking at them," she growled.
"That's why I'm telling you how old they are," I said.
"I need to see their paperwork."
"They don't have it with them."
There were a few curious onlookers gathering up behind us at this point and a supervisor pulled herself away from her smart phone and sauntered over.
The angry ticket lady hissed a few words in Italian at her and they supervisor looked the kids up and down.
"16 and 14," I sighed.
The supervisor spat a few words at the ticket lady who spit a few more back.
There was a brief, heated exchange and the supervisor walked away, telling me that the kids should really bring theor paperwork next time.
I thanked her and turned back to the ticket lady who was giving me a look that could set rocks on fire from 100 yards away.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head to make certain that I understood how much she hated me - not as a faceless tourist, but as a human. She slapped 4 tickets on the counter in front of me and snatched my 8 Euros without uttering a word.
I tanked her brightly and we trotted off into the museum - me strutting like a warrior and my family skulking behind me in abject humiliation.

The Bargello is almost exclusively statuary. The building had been a palace, then a prison where prisoners were tortured and executed on a fairly regular basis, then it was a museum. Most of the statues were from the Medici family's personal collection.

I tried very hard to convince Kerri that this would look great in our yard.
It's classy AND functional. She would not let me buy it.

The inside of the museum is an open courtyard.

I loved this intricate ivory carving of St. George slaying a rather inconsequential dragon. This was so tiny and so detailed. It was really amazing work.
I helpfully lectured my family for hours and hours and hours.

They were captivated and enthralled.

I responded maturely and intelligently when they asked me to shove a sock in it.

Probably the greatest piece in the Bargello's collection is Donatello's David. A far cry from the towering giant that Michelangelo created, Donatello's is a small, almost effeminate David with a killer sense of style.

A characteristic of every museum guard we saw in Italy was an overwhelming disinterest in anything that wasn't displayed on their smart phones. They chatted. They texted, They played games.
They did not stop me from slipping over and touching David on the toe. Please don't tell Italy on me.

Yup. I touched him. You jelly, bro?

When my family finally dragged me from the museum, we got lunch at a tiny trattoria that served wood-fired pizza. Yes, it was delicious.
Gnocci with blue cheese.
The pizzas in Italy are always uncut for some reason. Tori struggled to slice hers but eventually was able to subdue it and eat it. We are proud of her.
I hate to keep bringing up the toilet thing, but this one was such a little charmer. I loved this guy. Please note the conspicuous lack of a seat and any paper. If you go to Italy - be prepared. this has been a public service announcement.
 After our delicious lunch. we had some free time before our guided tour of The Uffizzi Museum, something I'd been looking forward to for months. We spent it watching the police and the illegal art sellers dance.

(To be continued...)

No comments: