Today is Thursday and it started with a delicious breakfast included with the hotel. Fruit, cheese, yogurt, coffee. Then off to the Art Viva tours. The Australian guide, Kane, was superb and provided lots of detail without droning on.
Though I can’t say I found Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King to be riveting exactly (though I would still recommend it as long as you’re ready for extreme detail), it was the perfect reading for the plane and train rides here and I felt like quite the expert as Kane described the history and construction of the Dome. When he asked about the new brick shape Brunelleschi invented and the pattern he used which allowed the bricks to lock into a pattern and hold the weight above them I wanted to yell “ooo, pick me pick me, it’s herringbone!” And when he said that the architect used a trick to get hired for the job, I wanted to squeal, “he cracked an egg in front of the commission and said he could not disclose his secrets but his plan was like the self supporting egg which he made stand.” But I stayed quiet, no one wants the annoying answer nerd on the tour. At any rate, there is such a tremendous amount of history which I don’t know, it was nice feeling knowledgable about something in Florence, it might as well be the Duomo.
We walked all over the city center while Kane filled us in on facts about the various piazzas and buildings. For example, he showed us a sculpture – the first time an artist – Donatello – used perspective to improve the presentation of the figure for audiences by sculpting oversized hands and head.
He also showed us where Savaronola preached fire and brimstone style and encouraged Floretines to turn away from all earthly indulgences including books, wine, and art. He was an enemy of Michelangelo and the Medici family, of course. In burning materials that were considered indulgent, we stood in the same location as the “bonfire of the vanities.” (Which is where Savaronola was later burned at the stake). We also learned the origination of the term “patsy” when assigning blame to someone. The Pazzi family, rivals of the Medici family, tried to assassinate the Medici bothers….in church of all places! During Easter Sunday of all times! With help from a bribed friar of all hypocrisy! One brother, Giuliano, was stabbed to death but Lorenzo escaped and his supporters killed something like 30 members of the rival Pazzi family, including brothers, uncles, nephews etc. If your name was Pazzi, you were gonna take the blame!
All right, a little interjection as a break from all the tour talk. I have to tell you about my rookie mistake of the trip (there will be more, I’m certain). Based on the photo: can you understand the size of this gelato? It was almost the size of the Duomo for crying out loud. I accidentally ordered a grande which I think could have served three people easily. It was 15 euros!!! Whoops! There went my dinner money as well as my appetite. And while I’m revealing indulgences… I know they call everyone Bella Donna but I must say my knees went a bit weak when a coffee server called to me in a low husky voice. “Arrivederci Bella Donna.” I almost decided to pull up a chair and stay for a few minutes but I had an appointment to keep with Art Viva. (I did decide to be bold and ask him if I could take his photo – see below)
Anyway, moving right along with the tour review, after the 3 hour morning walk which ended inside the Duomo, I took a quick lunch break of fruit and water (which is why I was later in the mood for a larger gelato serving) and rested for about 10 minutes. Then, off to the Uffizi tour, again with ArtViva but with Brenda as the guide this time. Adorable, gesticulating little woman who was as passionate about the subject matter as one can be. She told us about many connections between various pieces and about the artists and the families such as the history of this circular painting which was a Michelangelo commission. Then on to the Accedemia where we met David. And I mean THE DAVID. He was absolutely breathtaking and after reading The Agony and the Ecstasy, I was even more riveted. I could clearly remember Michelangelo visiting the marble quarries in Carrara trying to select the marble for his commissions. And the agony over finding so many fissures in this block, but designing David to avoid the most serious flaws in the marble.
It was so nice being able to tour with a mother and her grown twin daughters who were from NJ – they kindly invited me to dinner but unfortunately mine was ruined by the gelato and I declined so I could have a salad in a Piazza and finally get out a sketchbook. Plus, they dine here so late and I’m about to drop form exhaustion.
With that, good night!