Thursday, September 25, 2008

Part Four: The Prettiest Prison and Torture Dungeon in the World


Day Four was the first day where we had nothing pre-planned or booked. Since we were totally in control of our own destinies we decided to visit another museum. We had walked past the Barghello several times on our various journeys around Florence and had marvelled at its imposing facade rising vertically with little in the way of ornament save a few iron hoops and the occasional solid, studded wooden door. It shouldn't really surprise you to learn that the lack of standard Italianate architectural frippery has much to do with the fact that the Barghello started out out as a prison, police station, magistrates and torture chamber. Delightful. I actually rather like the building, if for no other reason than it made a change from the relentless fancy window grilled, shuttered, cloistered, terracotta-tiled standard that makes up much of the rest of the city. I am a simple soul and Italian architecture and I don't really get along. It's not that I'm anti-pattern but I do believe that there is such a thing as moderation and that it can be a virtue. After the opulence of the Uffizi, the Barghello was a refreshing, though not exactly spartan change.

Once you've paid to enter you go through the wall you find that the whole structure is very much like a castle. There is a central courtyard with a large, deep well at the centre. Some kind and public spirited individuals had entertained themselves by throwing plastic bottles down it so the bottom isn't as medieval looking as it might be but the rest of the building seems to have remained unscathed. These days the Barghello's primary draw for tourists is that it houses much of the Uffizi's sculpture collection, featuring many works by Mr Atrocity's current favourite Ninja Turtle, Dontello. There are also pieces by Michelangelo, Danti, Giambolgna and Cellini. Of the bunch Michelangelo disappointed most for me with stand out works by Cellini, the base for his statue of Perseus being particularly good and Danti's triple sculpture of the beheading of John The Baptist.

All of these works were arrayed around this spectacular armoured palace. In addition to the sculpture there was also a great deal of ceramic, textile and metal work. In a few rooms items of furniture from the Renaissance were also on display. Though the Barghello was very quiet compared to the Uffizi and the Accademia there were still a few coach tours of retards who somehow found it. My jaw actually dropped open involuntarily when I saw a small party of obese, late middle-age philistines loudly stamp into a room and then dump all their bags on a fifteenth century table. The table was roped off but that clearly wasn't enough of a clue that it was an exhibit not a cloakroom. Unbelievable. I know I too was a tourist and I am sounding like snob because I am one but it really beggars belief when someone would take the effort to travel all the way to Florence and then not show any respect for the art it contains.

After another three course lunch we walked off some of the pasta course at least by pottering around Santa Croce which is a beautiful building in its own right but also has the tombs of Michelangelo (against his wishes apparently; he wanted to be buried in Rome), Machiavelli, Rossini and Galileo. There is also a monument to Dante though he isn't buried there as the city kicked him out in 1315 and then later regretted it when he became the founding father of Italian literature.

Looking Down the Arno

The evening saw us eat at another recommendation of the hotel, The Quattro Lione and though it was not as good as Natalino on Tuesday it did have some fantastic grilled chicken served with delicious local lemons. Once again we rolled ourselves back over the Arno and back to our digs to sleep it off.



Blogger Churlita said...

That last photo is really cool.

8:00 pm  
Blogger booda baby said...

Quit talking about all the good food. (That's probably my hangover from excellent ... hell, I can't even remember what they're called. Rum, mint. Psht. Very boutiquey versions were had last night.)

ANYWAY. I'm very glad you made it to Santa Croce. (Not that you'd miss it, but ... time WAS getting on). Where are my pictures? Please. It's so dark in there that people like me get photos that are dark. Ha. I thought people like you would change all that. :)

12:20 am  

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