Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Learning Stuff in Florence

Today was a day of museums and history. We had reservations for the Accademia to see David that afternoon, so we had the morning free to go to the Science Museum to see Galileo’s telescope and his finger.

We stopped by the courtyard of the Uffizi on the way to enjoy the statues of the greats of Italian invention, science and art. I didn’t request tickets for the museum early enough, so the statues outside were all we were going to see. So at risk of repeating myself yet again, reserve tickets for the Uffizi the minute you know where you’ll be there because it maybe a month before they have an opening.

The Science Museum (Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza) was a real find. It’s not usually crowded and is just around the corner from the Uffizi. It’s easy to get caught up in the art and opera of Italy, but there were amazing strides in science, too. This museum presents it’s case for those strides with it’s collections of clocks, telescopes, medical tools, maps, globes, and gadgets. It was fascinating. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures inside.

The main draw for us was Galileo’s telescope and his finger. As usual, I was expecting a real flesh and blood, well flesh anyway, finger kept in some kind of formaldehyde, but it was just the bones. And it was the middle finger at that, so imagine knowing that you get to spend eternity flipping off the world.

There were many telescopes and diaries and notes from different scientists. What an exciting time it must have been. We speculate now on what’s beyond our world, imagine what speculations must have been like during the Renaissance.

The other exhibits were just as interesting and just as amazing. There were beautiful clocks and tools for mapping and some of the most gorgeous and complex globes I’ve ever seen, especially the one with all the planets in orbit of the earth that is just as much an art piece as it is a study. It's called the Armillary sphere and was made by Antonio Santucci. I didn't get a picture in the museum, but I did find this photo online here.

And here's a close up from the museum's website

There were also rooms devoted to chemistry and medicine, and except for the casts of every stage of pregnancy with all the different positions of a full-term baby in the womb that lined the wall, it was pretty fascinating. Actually the casts were fascinating too because they were speculating on every problem that might occur during birth.

We only had a couple of hours to spend before we had to get lunch and get to the Accademia, so I had to shoo the guys along. They could have stayed there all day, reading every index card with every exhibit.

After a so-so lunch, we got in line with all the other people for our reserved tickets at the Accademia. We were a little early, so we got in line a little before our reservations time. They were more concerned with how many people were in the museum at one time than the actual time of our reservation.

If you think, “Oh, I’ve seen the David statue thousands of times in pictures and travel shows, so I can skip this one,” you are so very mistaken. You can’t experience the size, the importance, and the beauty of this sculpture until you see it in person. It’s stunning. The model of Renaissance man is over 13 feet tall, not including the base he stands on (making it over 17 feet tall), so he dominates the center of the museum. Michelangelo wasn’t yet 30 when he sculpted David, and it was this work of art that led the pope to ask him to paint the Sistine Chapel.

I could tell you the importance of David, but I would just be repeating what you can read on websites and in text books. I’m not an art historian, or any kind of historian for that matter, but I can tell you that it took my breath away when I saw it and I chided myself for even thinking of missing this. Again, we didn't get any pictures inside, but I found this on the web here. This gives you a good idea of what you would see.

There are other things to see. Just as amazing are Michelangelo’s unfinished Prisoners (which I have also seen called “Captives”). They are just as realistic with even more emotion as the human forms are trying to break out of the stone. Michelangelo said he was “freeing them," thus the name. You walk by them on your way to David. I got this photo from here.

However, I must admit that after seeing the sculptures, my interest waned. There’s a room of plaster casts used to teach sculpture, including the plaster of The Rape of the Sabine Women. There are also many paintings, most of which depicting the ascension in all it’s religious glory and symbolism, prompting me to lean over to Al and whisper, “I’m sensing a theme.”

It was still early enough in the day when we left the Accademia that we decided to go to the Ponte Vecchio.

This famous bridge is lined with jewelry shops, traditionally selling silver and gold. No bargains here—this is the real stuff and the prices reflect that.We looked through window after window of sparklies. It’s also a beautiful spot to see the city bordering the river.

On the way the way back towards the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner, we stopped at the open air market. Now this was where to find a bargain, and I found it in the form of a lovely leather purse. They expect you to barter, which I’m terrible at and didn’t really try. They loved me there.

This was also where the famous brass boar is, or at least one of the famous boars. You are supposed to rub it for good luck, so it has a very shiny nose, although the rest of it was gray from years of weathering. All of us followed the tradition except K, who for some reason refused. So I said, “You’re the only one who’s not going to have good luck. Now, go rub that pig!” He didn’t, and he had bad luck the rest of the day. OK, maybe not, but he was disappointed with his dinner while the rest of us loved ours, so you be the judge.

After getting cleaned up and having a light dinner at Gusto Leo, we spent the rest of the cool evening sitting in the square outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, once home to the Medici family.

The square is called Piazza della Signoria. The entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio is where David originally resided, and there is a copy standing in the very location now.

I love this shot that Al got:

The other side of the entrance is Hercules and Cacus.

Across from David are several statues making up Loggia dei Lanzi. The most famous original is Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus Holding the head of Medusa.

Originals stand next to copies, and it’s amazing to be sitting at dusk, looking over the square at the people mingling among these works of myth and art. Some of the other statues are The Rape of the Sabine Women (a copy)

Hercules Beating the Centaur Nessus (the original) and Menelaus Supporting the body of Patroclus (could be original, just don’t know for sure). (Sorry, didn't get pictures of those for some reason.)

Neptune, riding out of the water on horses.

The lion is a popular sculpture.

So, it was another wonderful day of history and art. I’ve learned so much in such a short time, and we’re not done yet. Tomorrow will be a light day of seeing the cathedral and resting up for our Tuscany tour.

Street Chalk Artists


Peggy said...

Ok, I'm going to Italy RIGHT NOW!

her indoors said...

Wonderful, fantastic photos, dont you just love Italy

Chelle Y. said...

That chalk drawing is amazing! All that art work, including sculptures are incredible! Thanks for sharing those pictures with us!

Betty said...

Oooooooooo, I do love sparklies!

Queen of Dysfunction said...

I love the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa. Ok, I love all of them, but that one in particular.

Newt said...

Very cool. Sounds so wonderful. Sigh. I guess, stupid me, I never realized how big David is. I mean, I should know, but I don't think I've seen a picture with people in the image for perspective. Wow. So So beautiful. One of these years.....