Italy – Artistic Florence

The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum quite close to the Piazza Della Signoria. Uffizi Gallery is almost 10 times bigger than Villa Borghese. We paid premium price to avoid huge line. Even after paying premium price, we still had to wait for an hour to finally get into the line. We would have ended up spending a whole day there, had we got into the regular line.

The weather was fantastic and we decided to take a stroll around, as there was some time for our specified entry time into Uffizi. We happened to bump into a volunteering lady carrying a placard at Piazza Vecchio. She was campaigning against drugs and asked us to sign on a placard to support her cause. She was a drug addict in her past and now had devoted herself for the cause and gave us some idea on how drugs have affected today’s youth and  how it has become a major issue for the society. Looked quite paradoxical, for a country like Italy having a great culture and lot to inspire, why would the youth require drugs?

It was time to meet Caravaggio, Baccio Bandinelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and some of the most famous figures in the history of art and architecture. Apart from Galleria Academia this museum is the oldest and hosts number of famous paintings and statues.
Vasari should be thanked for originally coming up with an idea of this museum and preserving some of the most valuable art work of artists during renaissance. It’s true that there has been considerable amount of art work lost due to human negligence, we still have some of these islands of beauty inspiring and motivating us.

In today’s age of technology, fast food and commercialization of every aspect of life, it would make you wonder, how societies could exists where people spent year’s together working on art work. While we spend our lives making a living, very little importance is given to understanding your calling irrespective of the material value. This was very different then.

Although wave of renaissance swept all across Europe, Italy saw some of the most coveted masters and each one had their unique identity. While Leonardo jumped from art to science and vice versa and had many of his works left unfinished, simply because he would want to explore and understand every aspect of life.

Michelangelo was much more focused. The frescos on the ceiling of Sistine chapel is one of his master pieces. People like Caravaggio were of completely different breed who lead a tumultuous life. His painting reflected different emotions in life, which were more realistic. Some of his work was under dispute by scholars due to the intense realism. Bernini on the other hand created his place as an architect and was creator of art work for St Peter’s Basilica.

Ufizzi takes you to a different world full of mythology and human emotions. The beauty of human body and events of everyday life seem to be depicted in many of these paintings and sculptures. And at the same time it’s interesting to see the perceptions of human life as seen from different angles by these artists. There was considerable importance given to human emotions and everyday events. And at the same time the biblical stories, Jesus and Merry have been the topic of many of these paintings. Some of the famous paintings in Uffizi are Venus of Urbino by Titian, The birth of Venus by Botticelli, Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio, Doni Tondo by Michelangelo

The rulers like Medici Family, also patronized these artists and promoted art and architecture by spending a considerable part of their wealth. But the society as a whole had accepted these artistic creations and art had become part of everyday life. Later they became part of religious art in basilicas and churches.

Some of the art of Titian and Botticelli also portray beauty of female body and the nude paintings in those days must have been quite an adventure. The expression on face Venus are considered erotic and vulgar by many of the art connoisseurs, while few regard it as a Masterpiece of Titian.

After being zapped by artistic treat from Uffizi and a wonderful journey into the history and art it was time for a proper Italian lunch. The cafes were quite inviting and after settling in one of the cafes we sent order for Meat Lasagna, Mushroom pizza and a desert. It was a fantastic mouthwatering treat.

Presence of vendors especially coming from neighboring African countries can be bothersome at times and it’s better to keep away from them.

Now it was time visit the second attraction of the day, the Duomo. While constructing these time immortal structures of religious as well as artistic significance,  care was taken that people visiting them connect themselves spiritually and that is what you experience as you spend some time sitting there, feeling peaceful at mind. Climbing up the dome and looking at those frescos from close and taking a bird’s eye view of the city was my favourite part of visiting these basilicas. In last couple of weeks I had seen Paris from Eiffel tower, Rome from St. Peter’s basilica and now we were watching Florence from the dome of the Duomo.

The view from the Duomo is amazing and gives the feel of uniqueness of this city. The red roof tops spread all across horizon, on the backdrop of surrounding mountain range, is the most panoramic scene to watch. The buildings are quite unique and form a kind of a facade along the narrow roads and alleyways. Personally I felt that some parts of Duomo have been influenced from Arabic architecture as well. Especially the domes and Minarets are quite close to those of Mosques.

Duomo as it is popularly known, is the most artistic structure in Florence, constructed in Gothic style with elaborate artwork using shades of green, pink and white marble. Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers was constructed between 1296 and 1436 AC with the design of the cathedral from Arnolfo di Cambio and the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The cathedral complex houses a church, baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile.

Florence is a great place for shopping and we were at San Lorenzo Market. The market was full of very stylish hats, scarfs and hand bags. Letting my wife and daughter loose would have meant compromising our schedule and so we made sure they buy their favourite scarfs and rush from the market. After all we did not have a lot of time there.

Our final point in today’s itinerary was Piazzale Michael Angelo which was a hilltop on the outskirts of the city. This Piazza was constructed during 1869, when Florence was the capital of city and was undergoing massive changes in terms of architecture and design of the city. Florentine Piazza is dedicated to Michelangelo and is blesses with a spectacular view of the entire city from the south of river Arno.

We met Michelangelo’s David again and now we were friends forever. A thought would definitely touch your mind that, after all David is just one more sculpture among the several by many of the renowned artists of those times. But then there is this subtle simplicity, balance and expression which makes this sculpture stand out. The nudity does not obstruct the beauty here and David stands there as not a superhuman not a religious symbol or any angel, he is just one of us and I guess that is what attracted many people

The view from this Piazza is again worth the visit. It gives you another opportunity to look at Florence from distance. The quintessential look of red roof houses, prominent structure of Duomo, the winding flow of the narrow Arno River dotted with bridges across its span, evening atmosphere, it was a view of the lifetime. Yesterday we were in the middle of this town enjoying the buzz on the river and today before we leave we were looking at it from this hill, getting soaked into the beauty and ambience

We finally made to the 6:09 train to Assisi. The traffic on the way while returning from Piazzale Michael Angelo by bus number 12 had put our return journey in jeopardy. We had to get down in the mid-way to make our way to the Stazione Firenze SMN (Santa Maria Novella).

As expected and told by information center guy in Assisi, Florence turned out to be a much compact version of Rome, much reachable and most of the spots could be covered on feet.

There were this cute villages of Cinque Terra, wine culture of Tuscany, world’s classical city like Venice, fashion capital of the world Milan, Sicily and many more such places, which we did not visit and yet were utterly satisfied and happy.

Although the initial impression about Italy was not so wonderful, we had gotten to know this place slowly, like an old man with rough exterior but soft and loving interior, as you get to know more.

After spending 7 days in Italy in exploring Assisi, Rome, Pisa and Florence and also observing parts of Tuscany and Umbria from the train window, the feeling was, there is still lot to see and explore. We had probably touched the tip of the iceberg. As Francis mayor says, it would require few lifetimes to explore and understand Italy. But what we had seen and experienced was marvelous. Italy was weaved into our consciousness and we had somehow fallen in love with not only the art and culture but accepted their being a bit different than rest of the Europe.

Having read Meena Prabhu’s “Romrajya” earlier, I could appreciate her quest and thirst for knowledge and experiences. Her grip on the subject was enormous and passion unparalleled. I would say that “Marathi” reader is fortunate to find a writer like her.

Although in today’s world, we are more career oriented and technology savvy, each one of us do have some craving for art, beauty, history and people behind all our beautiful human heritage. The Michelangelo’s and Leonardo’s of those days did not read books like “Think and Grow Rich” or “Success Mantra”, they just were fanatically savvy about their craft and curious about the world around them. They did not travel to the different corners of the world or had all the information at their fingertips and yet they had depth in their thoughts and passion for their work.

Even the people living around this islands of art might be ignorant of all this heritage and busy in their schedule to make a living. It all depends on your inner calling, but at the same time when it comes to learning there are no boundaries and that is where the scientists might learn from these artists and vice versa.


References and Image Source


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