Postcards from Italy

Postcards from Italy

For an Easter break, my mother and I decided to go to Italy. Tuscany, and particularly Florence, has been fairly high on my Wanderlust list for a few years, mostly because lots of people I know have raved about it. We stayed in a quiet neighbourhood outside the mad centre of Florence, in a wee flat with a lovely garden. It was our first experience of using Airbnb, and overall an overwhelmingly positive one. Touching down in Pisa and taking a bus to Florence, we inevitably got lost in finding the apartment, but all was well and our host was super helpful.

Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore
Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore
Giotto's Bell Tower
Giotto’s Bell Tower
Brunelleschi's Dome
Brunelleschi’s Dome

After navigating a treacherous bus system, we eventually made it to the chaotic hub of Florence and went straight to the Piazza del Duomo, home to the imposing and glorious Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore. As the Museum was being renovated, we decided not to fork out money for the extra things and instead took a free walk inside the main Cathedral. It was beautiful, everything my Art History textbooks said it would be! Phrases like ‘groin vault’ and ‘frieze’ bounced around the sanctum, which would have been a meditative spot if it weren’t for all of us tourists raiding the gift shop for postcards.

After this, we had our first experience of a gelateria (which is basically my idea of heaven). Then we headed to the Leonardo Da Vinci Workshop Museum. Consisting of one room, it’s a cute hidden gem of a museum, with working models from Da Vinci’s sketchbooks. The museum’s a lovely testament to his genius, and only explores one aspect of his crazy prolific work.

Automaton
Automaton
From Da Vinci's diary
From Da Vinci’s diary

The next day was dedicated to the Academy Gallery. Upon the advice of others, we reserved tickets, which meant we had a very short wait to get in. I’m going to admit right now that I’m not a fan of artwork from the Italian Renaissance. When I studied Art History, I favoured the Flemish Renaissance works, and most of my knowledge about the Italian Renaissance swiftly evaporated from my mind as soon as I had taken my final exam. That being said, I found it highly amusing playing a game of ‘Ugly Renaissance Babies’; see this blog for further LOLs. The main attraction of the Gallery is Michelangelo’s Statue of David. You know it from the huge crowd of babbling tourists with bum-bags trying to take photos. It is rather nice; a lot larger than I was expecting (no penis jokes) and is gorgeously lit in the middle of the room.

Marble bum
Marble bum
Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo’s David

After we’d seen enough diptychs to make me feel vaguely holy, we stumbled into the quieter parts of the Gallery. I preferred many other things to David, and I think it’s a shame most visitors rush to take a snap of it and then simply leave. I enjoyed looking at the illuminations in old manuscripts and there was a cracking room full of sculptures, although it did awaken my fear of Weeping Angels. An exhibition on the history of Italian musical instruments was fascinating, and it was there I fell in love with a marble Dulcimer, made by some Medici or other.

We took a bus up to Fiesole, which is a quiet wee town on a hill, North of Florence. It’s very easy to get to, and has it’s usual stream of tourists. After climbing some more windy streets, you hit a beautiful panorama of Florence. It’s absolutely stunning, and we were grateful for a cloudless and sunny day.

Favourite spot
Favourite spot
Views of Florence from Fiesole
Views of Florence from Fiesole

Another day was spent wandering around the Uffizi Gallery. The gallery is a bit of a labyrinth, but the architecture is as gorgeous as any of the artwork. There was a fascinating exhibition on Honhorst, as well as collections of foreign painters to break up all the Italian Renaissance stuff. It was pretty overwhelming, but I think we studied the majority of the pieces. I had a policy of walking into a room, choosing two or three works that I either recognised or drew my attention, and moving on. I enjoyed the medieval paintings, for example Giotto’s ‘Ognissanti Madonna’, a lot more than some of the art from the heigh of the Renaissance. I had a moment of pride using terms like ‘chiascuro’ and ‘vanishing point’.

Some of the highlights were particularly famous works, such as Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’, Titan’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ and Gentileschi’s ‘Judith and Holofernes’ (plenty of blood and drama).

Botticcelli's Venus
Botticcelli’s Venus

The Academy Gallery Dulcimer
The Uffizi Dulcimer

We spent a lot of time walking the windy narrow streets of Florence and sitting outside churches. Some that featured heavily as lunchtime backdrops were the Santa Maria Novella and the Santa Croce. Other pretty buildings included the Palazzo Vecchio.

On our final day in Florence we crossed over the River Arno through the famous Ponte Vecchio. We stopped outside the Palazzo Pitti, where tiny people were chasing bubbles ,and one kid kept crying because the bubbles kept bursting before he could catch them (5 year old problems man). From there we walked to Forte Belvedere and the Boboli Gardens, and then made our way through the gorgeous Giardino delle Rose and up to the Piazzalle Michelangelo. After a brisk uphill walk akin to a classic Glasgow saunter, we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream and surveyed the lovely views of the city.

Santa Croce
Santa Croce
Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella
Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo

Our flight departed from Pisa so we left a few hours to explore the city. We took the train from Florence to Pisa; the city is wee and we made our way through the Sunday market to the Field of Miracles. Here we joined the tourists struggling with perspective at the Leaning Tower and had lunch beside the gorgeous marble Cathedral. After one last ice cream, we made our way to the airport and bid Italy adieu.

Perspective fun in Pisa
Perspective fun in Pisa

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