Continued from my last post “Fascinating Florence “
There are two must- see museums in Florence – The Uffizi which is the largest and first of the modern museums in the world. The other great museum is the Gallery Academia which hosts Michelangelo’s David.The Uffizi museum housed the private collection of the Medici family who were great patrons of art and opened as a museum in 1765. The Uffizi has the best collection of art works by the Italian renaissance masters of the 14th and 15th century. Entrance to the Uffizi is by way of the Piazza Della Signoria , one of the many beautiful squares of Florence which is also bounded by the largest palace -Palazo Vecchio recognizable by its signature tower. We paid a princely sum for entry into the museum and a small fee to the hotel who arranged for our break the line tickets . After climbing two flights of huge stairs we were inside the gallery of sculptures . We spent a thrilling four hours in the museum and could have stayed longer but for the closing hours . The paintings are remarkably well preserved despite the age of the art works and I saw paintings dating back to 1400s .They are mounted between transparent panels and the viewing experience was enhanced by the lighting . The experience of viewing the exquisite master pieces was further heightened by a hand held audio guide provided by the museum which succinctly explained the paintings and sculptures and the history behind them. The museum is divided into seventy three rooms dedicated to masters or periods .Most of the paintings that caught the eye were different visitations of Madonna and Child. We saw paintings of the masters – Sandro Botticelli , Raphael,Michelangelo, da Vinci , Fra Angelico and many more greats. I will pick out just three which still remain imprinted in my mind many days after our visit.
The first one is “Spring” By Sandro Botticelli -The audio guide explained that there 500 identified types of plants and 138 types of flowers and plants painted to the finest detail in this picture .The painting was commissioned by Medici and depicts six male and two females besides Cupid .
One sculpture that captivated us was the “Hercules and Nessus” almost at the entrance of the gallery in the Hall of sculptures .It dates back to the early Roman times and only a small part of it was intact. It has been has been restored with the original fragments by Giovanni Coccini in 1595 and in the Uffizi since then. The sculpture depicts the killing of the centaur Nessus by Hercules
And the showpiece of the Museum when we were there was the “Adoration of the Magi” by Leonardo Da Vinci. He was commissioned to do this painting but left it unfinished till it was completed by others 15 years later based on the charcoal sketches prepared by him. It has been in the Uffizi since in 1670.The painting depicts Virgin Mary and child in the foreground with Magi adoring the baby Christ in the background. A lot of space in the Leonardo Room has been devoted to the process of restoration at the Uffizi including this one . Documentary Films on Da Vinci and restoration techniques held us in awe through the viewing . The Audio guide was a great boon for us to understand the magnificent artworks of the masters in the Uffizi gallery. Most of attractions in Italy have this feature and I recommend you subscribe to this facility even if at extra cost . No amount of time spent in the Uffizi is enough as each and every painting not only has a fascinating story to tell but also needs to be marveled and absorbed at leisure. And so after nearly four hours we left the Uffizi museum with tired legs and a feeling that we had not done adequate justice to the great works of art work on display. And also that we had missed visiting the Academia Galleria .Here are some of the great masterpieces displayed in the Uffizi museum.Don’t miss the painting of the roof in the centre piece which is commonplace in all Italian churches and monuments.
We came out of the Uffizi with a feeling that we had experienced very little of the Italian Renaissance art and absorbed even less .We simply had to make another visit to the museum to feel satisfied but that would mean compromising our itinerary . And that is the essence of Florence – beautiful, fascinating and you can never get enough . Makes you want to come back again !
One snippet of statistics I picked up was that over two million people visit the Museum each year . Which led me to a a simple question – What is it like for the Taj Mahal ? For the rest of our Italian trip I kept an eye on tourism statistics and did some research when I got back home to India. The results startled me – Shall discuss my findings on tourism statistics with and comparisons with Italy in a subsequent post
After a long haul at the Uffizi museum we walked out of the exit almost straight into the Sun Cafe on Via de Castellani. The price list made us wince but our aching legs took the decision for us .I had the most amazing Tiramisu which I would easily rate as the best on my Italian trip . Malati had a croissant which was freshly baked and nothing really to complain .(check out my review of the Sun Cafe on Trip Advisor ). Surprisingly 80 percent of the reviews of this cafe gave it the lowest rating of “Terrible” which was quite the opposite of mine! But then most of the reviews complained more of the high prices-
Got back to the hotel a short distance away and wasn’t too happy paying 14 euros for the trip. Most of the meter ticked in the slow moving evening traffic and to top it one of us did a double click on the AppTaxi and got double billed on my card – To the credit of the taxi company all that it took for the charge to be reversed almost instantaneously was one tweet to them. In sharp contrast my UBER account got compromised last year in London and it took me over a month to get the matter settled after repeated follow up .
We hadn’t so far eaten in a Michelin restaurant and the desire remained unfulfilled . even in Florence – We made a similar unsuccessful attempt in Positano as well. We learnt that such restaurants need prior reservation and they are generally sold out as much as two weeks in advance . We made do that evening with the Florentine version of Sea bass in the Hotel and were told by the Maitre and I don’t vouch for the veracity of this – When Sonia Gandhi visits Italy and meets the Prime Minister and other dignitaries she does not speak in Italian but in Hindi out of respect for her adopted Country ! Apocryphal at best.
My readers have given feedback that my earlier posts were too lengthy and hence I close this post at about 1200 words – So much more in Florence to do and see – Its not for nothing that it is called the most beautiful city in the world . More in my next post