Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Florence Part Three: The Office

Wednesday began with a walk to The Uffizi, the largest art gallery in Florence, formerly an administrative government building hence its name Uffizi - "offices". As with The Accademia we had been able to pre-book our tickets through the hotel weeks in advance. We had been strongly advised to do this by the hotel staff and the reason for this became abundantly clear as we approached. There were two queues. One had about thirty people in it and was for those with pre-booked tickets and the other queue stretched, as far as I could tell, over the curvature of the earth and was for those without a reservation. It had been pretty much the same story on the Tuesday at the Accademia. In classic Italian retailing style one had to collect ones tickets, using a reservation form from a completely different building than the actual entrance to the gallery and in further typical manner the notice that informed you of this was only visible once you'd reached the head of the queue and you had to lose your place as you scoot off to track down the reserved ticket collection office. Anyway, once all that had been sorted out we were allowed in.

I'm not going to write a review of The Uffizi as it would be a) impossible and b) redundant. The Uffizi is huge, absolutely massive and every wall is covered with masterpieces from the renaissance (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael) and onwards, Titian, Caravaggio, Botticelli, and on and on. There are even representations from those outside Italy with a couple of beautiful Rembrandts and Dürers mixing in a Flemish influence. T and I had agreed that the only way, realistically, to get round the gallery is to take it a quite a speed and only really stop and look at something if it really grabbed us. If you tried to give every painting five or ten minutes you'd die in the attempt. The highlights for me was The Leonardo and the rooms of Raphael and Titian, both of which were extraordinary.

We retreated with our heads buzzing from a severe case of Sterndahl Syndrome to a trattoria for lunch where I had Crespelle alla Fiorentina, something I intend to have a go at making myself. The dish consists of a pancake (as in a crêpe style pancake) covered with a mixture of spinach and ricotta, rolled up, cut into three sections, arranged in a dish and then covered in a bechamel sauce. Sometimes some tomato would be added on top of that. Come winter I think this classic will prove a winner at dinner time.

In the afternoon we felt we'd recovered enough to take on another gallery and so we made our way to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo which had been recommended by my chum S who is an art historian and whose opinion is to be trusted in matters such as these. The gallery itself is a modern spacious building with a clever arrangement of the rooms to allow daylight to illuminate most of the exhibits. The gallery features most of the works considered to important to remain outdoors on the exterior of the cathedral itself. These masterpieces have been replaced by copies, if we're being polite, fakes if we're being honest in their original locations and these are what the tourists wandering past are taking photos with their camera phones and probably know no different.


The range and quality of work in the gallery is quite staggering. There is a large number of statues by Donatello who is the Ninja Turtle whose work I knew least about before arriving in Florence. He is rapidly rising up the list of my favourite artists. While much renaissance sculpture is beautifully executed, it can often seem to be lacking in human spark, the figures seem too perfect, the poses too contrived. Donatello really manages to capture humanity, even in his more allegorical pieces. The faces seem to have lived a life and to have a story etched into them. He seems to do in sculpture what Rembrandt does in paint, that is capture the human experience and distill it to a powerful form. Really quite incredible stuff.

After this we really were cultured out and spent a quiet day mooching around the city and being astonished by the numbers of tourists barging around in huge groups like migrating wildebeest on the veldt. This, we felt, was too much so we retreated to our hotel room and read.

Florence is a Series of Corridors and Passageways



Blogger Churlita said...

I love the Ninja Turtles reference.

8:05 pm  
Blogger booda baby said...

Donatello and not Bernini? NOT Bernini? That Florentine steak must've given you a wee dose of mad cow. NOT BERNINI?!?!?

I hope someone googling the Uffizi takes your advice to book those tickets. Jeeze and louise.

I love that joint. Big sigh. It's one of my favorite things to do, to let myself get sucked into the orbit of any good passing tour group. It's hard to tell sometimes, but if you hang at the edges, you'll get some mighty excellent education. The Uffizi's one of those joints.

On to day four.

12:15 am  
Blogger Mr Atrocity said...

Churlita, turns out those turtles did more than fight crime. Some of them could paint too. Who knew?

Booda Baby, I love Bernini, but Florence isn't his city and the only work by him there is the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence which wasn't on display when we were there. T and I are planning a trip to Rome at some point pretty much exclusively so we can go to the Galleria Borghese for the Bernini.

10:30 am  

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