One day to try to fully explore Florence and understand the Renaissance period. Can’t be done. So we are going to see what we can do in the time we have without killing ourselves. We began the day pretty early because we had an appointment to see the Uffizi Gallery where many works of the Renaissance are housed. We walked to the Piazza della Signoria again and met with our guide Michael Cianci outside the gallery. We were not allowed to take pictures inside except out the windows to the outside, so no photos of the pictures and statues and frescos that we saw.
We were very lucky because there were very few people in the gallery—our guide Michael repeatedly commented on how nice it was not to battle crowds as we viewed the various works of masters such as Giotti (14th century artist who introduced the idea of perspective and is credited with starting the Renaissance in art), Botticelli, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, and others too numerous to remember.
When we finished we had a cappuccino and fruit drink in the new cafeteria located in a new section of the gallery, then discovered a whole section of “foreign artists” out of the collection of the Medici family that had just been in storage. There were works by El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, and others thatwould have been centerpieces in some museums but we like an afterthought here. The Medici were great collectors, and we are all the richer for their decision to accumulate art from masters throughout Europe during their time in power.
When we finished the tour we walked around the square a bit, then had some lunch to do some people watching. When we finished we went to the Museo Galileo, which was just around the corner from the Uffizi. This is largely a gallery of scientific instruments that chronicles the work of Galileo and others in developing ways to understand and measure the world. It had some of Galileo’s original telescopes, a few of his fingers (yes, his fingers and one thumb), globes, maps, numerous astrolabes, glass equipment, measuring devices, and the like collected over the years. One particularly interesting feature was a giant articulating depiction of the universe as described and explained by Ptolemy, who placed the Earth at the center of the universe. This was created in the early 1500s, so the Copernican idea of the Earth as rotating around the sun was still a radical, unaccepted idea of how the universe worked. Thr factthat the Earth was round was an accepted fact even then, but the way the sky and the stars worked was still being worked out. It was Galileo’s discovery of moons around Jupiter that started tilting the field toward Copernicus.
We spent a good deal of time in the Museo Galileo given the fascinating wealth of material. But at one point I started having cultural overload, so it was time for a gelato. We decided to make our way over to Santa Croce, which is the oldest church in the city and one of the biggest next to the Duomo. We ate our gelato as we planned out next move.
This church—Santa Croce—is huge! It contains tombs of many famous Italians—Michelangelo, Marconi, Fermi, Machiavelli, Donatello, and many others. It also houses the bones of the Blessed Umiliana, a woman born in 1219 to a wealthy family who became the first nun of a Franciscan order in Santa Croce. She died at 27 years old, and her bones and skull are interred in this church.
We left there and made our way to Ponte Vecchio, the covered bridge over the Arno, which hosues many gold shops. The bridge contains a covered walkway that was used by the Grand Duke to walk from his Pitti Palace on the south side of the Arno to work at the Palazzo Vecchio. We walked across the bridge to the Golden Door restaurant on the other side that had been recommended by our tour guide to make a reservation for tonight.
Ponte Vecchio is noted for its gold and jewelry shops. We looked, and we stopped, but we didn’t buy anything. Susan did look at a huge sapphire, but it was not priced right or, to my eyes, pretty enough to make the collection.
We made reservations for 7:30, walked back to the hotel, changed clothes, then walked back to the restaurant. This was a fancier restaurant than many we had been in, and we had an excellent meal. We had a nice view of the Ponte Vecchio both during the daylight and when it got dark. The walk back was just as enchanting as our day.
At the Ponte Vecchio two guys were set up and singing so we stopped and enjoyed them for awhile. We stopped again at Piazza della Repubblica to listen to the opera-like street singer, and then we took a ride on the carousel. I even managed to stay on the horse. Then it was home to pack for tomorrow.