Thursday, September 4, 2008

Florence I

Yesterday was spent traveling from Cinque Terre to Florence. We stopped off in Pisa along the way to see the so-called "leaning tower." Too bad we don't currently have the capability to post pictures, but let's just say it was worth the stop. The tower is on a campus with a church and baptistry, so we toured these as well. After another freshly made deli sandwich, we continued on our way to Florence. The evening was spent getting settled into our hotel, doing our own walking tour of Florence, and enjoying our first pizza dinner here in Italy - very tasty!

Today was our first FULL day in Florence, and I mean that in every sense of the word. We woke up early for our 9am reservation at the Uffizi Gallery, the largest collection of art in Florence. The gallery is huge and amazing. It begins with primitive-looking religious art from the fourteenth century, and progressing through the almost 45 rooms which wind their way in a horseshoe shape, ends up in the eighteenth century, so you can see the advances in style and technique unfold before your eyes. And of course, there are some big names there as well -- It boasts work by artists such as Botticelli (including the Birth of Venus), Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Rafael and Leonardo Da Vinci. It was a mentally-exhausting, nearly 5 hour tour, but a rewarding experience.

We had lunch at a delightful little wine bar, or "Enoteca" that we happened upon. We sat with our sandwiches and shared glass of wine, then after much debate and some wasted walking, decided to go to the Pitti Palace. Here, we toured a portion of the science museum which is temporarily on display, which details the scientific developments that occurred in Florence under the Medicis, including the rediscovery of Euclid's works on geometry, original discoveries of Galileo obtained using his newly-developed telescope (an original was on display!), and various tools developed during this time used for navigation, astronomy, and engineering. Our ticket also allowed us to tour the palace gardens, which consisted of well-manicured lawns and shubbery, sculptures, fountains, and a terrace with a beautiful view. This was somewhat different from what we expected (no flowers), but was still a nice escape from the bustling, noisy city, and the mental effort required by museums.

Dinner was at La Trattoria Marione. A very charismatic waiter ushered us in, and convinced us to let him surprise us with two pasta dishes. We ended up with ravioli and spaghetti with meatsauce. Both were excellent, as was the €3 wine. We topped off the meal with Tiramisu.

After a short rest at our hotel, we were persuaded to drag our tired feet out one last time to visit a unique-looking exhibit on the Impressionists just a block from our hotel. This turned out to be a terrific complement to our Uffizi tour, as it picked up where the Uffizi left off. Starting from one or two neo-Classical paintings, it walked you through impressionism, with a focus on the techniques and technology used by the impressionists to create their paintings. It also let you in on some of the controversy surrounding their work -- critics said that this new style of painting looked like mere unfinished sketches. By the end, combinded with the Uffizi, it felt like we had received a miniature course in art history.

So all in all, a very long day (three museums!). But it was worth it.

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