Tag Archives: Medici

San Lorenzo Church and Crypts…kinda creepy!

For any of you who are worried that I am wondering around getting lost (hi mom), let me clarify, I had a map and was following one of the tourist office’s walks around Fiesole. I just took the wrong tour and missed a closer look at the swanky Villa San Michele. Despite the climbs, heat and misstep, I highly recommend Fiesole.

Next up was San Lorenzo Basilica which was stunning on the inside despite the incomplete facade. The ticket also included entry to the tombs under the church which was full of surprises. First, there was the tomb of Cosimo Medici which was an enormous square shaped marble crypt build into the central column of the church, literally and metaphorically placing Cosimo in a position to hold up the church. Then, a few feet away was the tomb of Donatello. In a separate room, still underground, was a display of relics. Despite reading about relics in art history, I was still taken aback when I realized what I was seeing in the temp controlled glass cases. I thought the oval shaped, silver encrusted frames, with little circular windows were displaying some type of family tree. But upon closer inspection, I realized there were little objects in each window…little pieces of bone, hair, teeth…corporal souvenirs for people to worship for hundreds and hundreds of years! And that they do. The Forentines speak of the Medici, a family that died out many generations ago, with reverence and gratitude.

The whole experience makes me consider the intrinsic value of objects, whether it be art, literature, architecture, or relics. (Bear with me, spending is much time alone makes me rather introspective.) The line between animate and inanimate blurs as I come to better understand the power of objects for humanity throughout history. I am reminded of the Tom Robbins novel Still Life with a Woodpecker which will certainly change the reader’s view of the objects in our lives.

Studying the art commissioned by the Medici family, one will notice the frequent image of oranges which were a sign of power and life. As I ascended from the crypts, I arrived in a small beautiful courtyard and immediately noticed an enormous orange tree in the center heavy and fragrant with big bright oranges. Reminders of the Medici are very much alive!image

I then headed to the post office which has so many names, it was hard to find. A kind waiter laughed as he helped me with directions. I was standing right in front of it! Thankfully, I’d read about the Italian post office procedures, or I would have never made it out of there with my tasks completed. It is like a major appointment to go to the PO for business. I needed to mail letters to Paige and Phoebe and needed to exchange American money to Euros which required lots of patience and more Italian than I’ve previously attempted.

imageBy now it was after 7:00 and I was again famished. Thanks to Cathy and Jim Wilkins, I was able to get off the tourist dining circuit and walk to a residential area for dinner. On my way to dinner, I passed a few impressive street artists as well as a store that made me think of my sweet grandmother, Nana. imageimageI was the first to arrive at 7:30 and they even let me in a few minutes early. Still a bit anxious about dining alone, this place could not have been more accommodating and comfortable. The chef trained in NY for 8 years at some hot Italian restaurant and returned home to open Garga with his mother. I got to meet him and the restaurants encourages diners to draw on the table cloths. There were some statues around to serve as models so between the food and the drawing and the welcoming staff, it was pretty heavenly. I’ve never had a saladimage that I ate slowly to postpone the end. And the focaccia bread made me moan like those people who moan when they eat which I’ve found irritating. It was a struggle to be quiet and the perfect way to end a long, adventurous day.


Surprises in Florence Part 2

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:image 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)image

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. imageThen 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.image


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.image

With that, good night!