Mambo Italiano pt-2

So about Florence.  We stayed 3 days and 3 nights in Florence (Firenze in Italian). Let me tell you 3 days was not enough to see all that there is to see in the renaissance birthplace. However we hit many high points and I’ll give you teasers about the Galleria Uffizi (Italy’s equivalent of Paris’s Louvre) the David sculpture, and of course good food.

Florence has an old-glam vibe.  The entire time we were in Florence Mauricio said REPEATEDLY “Babe, do you realize this is the birthplace of the Renaissance!  The birthplace, the Renaissance!!”  So with Mauricio’s excited chanting in my ear and the whole old-glam vibe, I hated my clothing outfits even more than usual and actually wore lipstick and heels every night for dinner. 🙂  Of course, that’s just me being dramatic about that fact we were walking in the very streets that once upon a time Leonardo Di Vinci, and Michelangelo walked along (!?!?! I mean come on!).

The Galleria degli Uffizi is huge, and could easily require days for a person to actually go through and see everything.  Days we did not have, so we selected our top picks, purchased audio guides and dove right in.  We started out with Italian artist Sandro Botticelli.  You may not know him by name, but perhaps his most famous work “the Birth of Venus” will strike a cord in your memory:

The Birth of Venus year1486 Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus year1486 Sandro Botticelli

One of the things about art that intrigues me is the fact that art historians can actually look at a painting such as this and tell you who the characters are and what they represent.  I look at this painting and think its beautiful but that it’s a girl standing on a seashell surrounded by friends.  Seriously, before the audio guide that would have been my description of it.  But the audio guide told me (so now I’m telling you) that the woman in the middle standing in the shell is in fact the goddess Venus.  The two characters to her left (the viewers right) are the winds Zephyrus and Ora who blew her to Cypress where she is received with a gown by one of the Three Graces.  Her nudity symbolizes birth by the way.   Way more interesting now that it’s explained right?  Next up by Botticelli:

Primavera (Allegory of Spring) year1482 Sandro Botticelli

Primavera (Allegory of Spring) year1482 Sandro Botticelli

Another goddess Venus painting.  Here the goddess Venus is again in the middle.  She is in her garden with friends (according to me).  According to the trusty audio guide (viewers right and moving left) the far right figure that is almost transparent is our wind friend again Zephyrus.  He is grabbing hold of Chlorus the nymph.  If you look closely you can see that her face is turned back to Zephyrus, and along her cheek is a vine.  This represents the transformation of Chlorus the nymph into wife of Zephyrus and goddess of Spring.  The woman standing next to Chlorus is apparently Chlorus after her transformation.  She is clothed in a dress of flowers with rose petals on the ground at her feet.  In the middle is our friend goddess Venus.  The three women in soft flowy white dresses are the Three Graces, and guy to our far left is a guy.  I don’t remember who the audio guide said he is… Anyway, again with that information, doesn’t it make it more interesting?  If I’m being too subtle here on making my point, I’ll make it clear.  When you go to a museum, BUY THE AUDIO GUIDES.  Otherwise you’re just walking by paintings and stopping where the crowd stops.

One other super interesting thing we saw in the Uffizi was the sculpture s of the Niobe Room.  Niobe’s story alone is interesting.  Here’s a quick recap:  Niobe was a human, Queen of Thebes.  She and her king husband had 14 children 7 sons and 7 daughters.  Niobe made the really stupid mistake of publicly mocking a goddess (Leta?)  who had only 2 children.  As revenge, the goddess dispatched her two children Apollo and Artemis to kill all of Niobe’s children.  The Niobe room holds the sculptures of all of the children before their deaths.   Here’s a link to get a good view of the room and the sculptures within:  Niobe Room

Ok, I really could go on about the Uffizi, but really it’s time to move on.  But for the love of all things Italian, if you go to Florence, go.  Go!  Go to the Uffizi.

So the David.  The David is perhaps the most famous sculpture in all the world.  Sculpted by Michelangelo, for those of you who don’t know, the David, is meant to be the David from the bible story of David and Goliath.  You can find him in the Accademia Gallery.  There are other things in this museum, but they are completely ignored by all who enter because seriously, it’s the David.  Who’s looking at anything else?  I feel bad for the other works of art in the museum actually.  Because nobody paid a lick of attention to anything else.  Here he is:

the David by Michaelangelo

the David by Michaelangelo

Also noteworthy, this is an exception to my rule about audio guides.  Here, do NOT buy the audio guide.  It was worthless.  But we did learn an interesting tidbit by secretly listening in on a paid tour guide. It’s probably rubbish but it’s fun to imagine so I’ll share.

The entire time Michelangelo worked on the sculpture (2 years I think?) he kept it completely hidden from view to anyone else.  He allowed the city council to come view it before it’s public unveiling, and they told Big M they thought David’s nose was too big.  Can you imagine they had the nerve to tell Michelangelo that there’s a flaw in his work? Apparently Big M is clever indeed, and picked up a few of his tools and discreetly also a handful of marble powder and climbed back up the scaffolding to ‘fix’ the nose problem.  He made a few noises with this tools while dropping some powder to convince them he altered it a bit and told them to have another look.  Shoot, silly councilmen, nobody tells Michelangelo what to do!

But… I will admit I think David’s right hand size is disproportionate to the rest of his arm.  If you look at the arm that hangs down along his side, the distance from his wrist to his finger is easily the same distance (or longer?!) from his elbow to wrist.  Anybody else see it? Don’t hate me.  Michelangelo is/was awesome, I promise I think he is.

When we travel, we scout grocery stores and most of the time eat fruits and sandwiches which ends up being a huge huge money saver.  But we did hit a few restaurants and the absolute best food we had in Florence was at Il Santo Bevitore.  It was recommended to me by a foodie friend of mine (her foodblog) and really was great.  Mauricio had black ink squid risotto I had a green olive & rabbit rague and as final course we had beef tartare.  FYI beef tartare is raw steak, chopped up into little pieces….Mauricio loved it, I ate it.  There’s a difference 🙂

black squid risotto

black squid risotto

green olive & rabbit rague

green olive & rabbit rague

beef tartare

beef tartare

There are so many other things to tell you about Florence.  Google the Medici family (the godfathers of the renaissance according to PBS), historically one of the most powerful Italian families, EVER.  Maybe they were the mafia of the renaissance.  There’s the street markets, the pizza, Palazzo Vecchio , and tons of other museums but I’ve written plenty already.  Really Florence is a city that I can’t do justice with words.  I mean, ‘it’s the birthplace of the Renaissance’!  Haha, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase….

Stay tuned, part 3 I’ll write about Montepulciano, Elba Island and Cinque Terre!

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