Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Travelogue – museum hopping

Tuesday, July 17

I bought the Florence card last night to give me access to lots of the museums in the city for 3 days. It's pricy ($62) and there are only so many museums that can fit in that time. The big reason for getting it is that it allows me to bypass the line – and for a few of the big ones this is very important.

So today I went museum hopping. I saw all the biggies north of the Duoma. They're all small, taking 90 minutes, tops. Only one allowed photos, so I didn't bother taking the camera (so no photos). Several didn't allow backpacks, so I didn't take that either. Just a guidebook, a novel (for reading when I ate), and a map.

First stop was the Galleria dell' Accademia. This is one of the biggies (with long line to prove it), because Michelangelo's David is here. And, yes, in the flesh it lives up to its reputation. Alas, not much else in the museum is all that interesting (and my guidebook agrees).

On to Museum of San Marco The place used to be a monastery. As the Renaissance started influencing even the monasteries, a Brother Angelico came to this particular place. He had a talent for frescoes and did many for the place. He began to incorporate Renaissance art practices into his own work. The second floor of the cloister has all the monk's cells, each one with an image for the monk to contemplate while waiting for sleep. More than half of them are scenes of the Crucifixion and in most of those St. Dominic is somewhere in the scene. The rest of the frescoes aren't so gloomy or tragic, depicting other events in the life of Jesus. The last room had several illuminated music books. In this case “illuminated” means that designs or pictures were included on the page. Since I had recently read The Swerve (alas, I can't dig up the link of my review), which included descriptions of how monks create these books I was pleased to see the materials the monks used and several examples of finished product. Alas this was the old style of music I don't know how to read.

The next stop was the Medici Chapels. The big room is where the most important half-dozen rulers of the family are entombed. There isn't a whole lot of actual Christian symbolism. However, the place reeks of money and power. The smaller room is the reason why people visit – it was designed by Michelangelo and contains a few of his statues, though in quite unusual poses. The big room is topped by a dome that from the outside looks like a smaller version of the Duomo dome.

Santa Maria Novella was next. The church isn't included in the Florence Card though the museum next door is (but was closed and will be for the rest of my stay). The Church has some pretty cool frescoes behind the altar and in one of the chapels. In spite of the beauty or artistic merit, I've had enough images of The Last Judgment and depictions of sending souls to hell.

The last stop this afternoon was the Medici-Riccardi Palace. The Medici's built the place (and even invited a teenage Michelangelo to live with them). When their fortunes ran out they sold it to the Riccardi family, who added a few things of their own. The building now houses several city government offices. The big attraction is the family chapel with outstanding frescoes. The title is The Three Kings, but we're not talking about the birth of Jesus. These kings are members of the Medici family. Yup, the chapel is a place to show off the family's power.

Dinner tonight was at a Chinese restaurant. I ordered roast chicken with spice, which turned out to be rather unspicy. I also had a bowl of vapor rice (think about it for a moment). When I lived in Germany I found Chinese food there to be rather bland. I wonder if that taste extends to Italy.

Last night the large group of kids spilled into the hotel at midnight, after some evening event. They weren't quiet about it. The desk clerk said they will be here all this week and next. Knowing how noisy they are he proposed a room swap. Out of this large group of kids, most were on the 1st and 2nd floors with one room on the 3rd floor. He proposed I trade rooms with the kids on the 3rd floor. I agreed. It is much quieter up here.

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