Florence : The genius of Michelangelo amongst other things...

Florence Travel Blog

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"It's like yeah, peace man. Peace an' love"

“O-o-oh MAN!” that’s got to be the first uninterrupted refreshing nights sleep I’ve had in a week!  “Phew!”  I needed it though, I can’t deny my slightly negative, well not negative but non-committal response to Florence so far is slightly shaded by small forms of exhaustion.  I’m still up early this mornin’ don’t get me wrong but it was a good snooze nevertheless.  The breakfast hall is absolutely rammed with young French people.  Barely a seat in the house even at 7.30am.  Can’t begrudge it them though as they’re all musicians on some kinda concert tour and instead of (or rather accompanying) the usual YHA cacophony of slamming doors, shouting and drunken chatter there’s been the constant pleasant background harmonies of their classical music recitals and practice sessions whilst I’ve been here.

Yuko & hubby have their wedding snaps against the Florentine backdrop.


My Michelin Star quality breakfast consumed in the blink of an eye (yep, same fare whichever HI I’ve been in in Italy - one stale(ish) bread roll, 1 butter, 1 jam pot and 1 coffee or tea) it’s the number 17 bus into town and straight into Florentine queue number two!  This time for the Galleria del Accademia the repository of a fine (if modest) collection of 13th - 16th Century religious art masterpieces and most famously of all Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Michelangelo having been the patron who established the art academy back in the day.


This queue’s not so bad (at this time of day anyway).

  No more than half an hour.  When you get in it’s 10 Euros to see David… I mean… to enter the Gallery… nope it is 10 Euros to see David ok!  Despite some extra points of cultural interest within its walls I would guestimate that about 99.99% of visitors here (and I must count myself among that figure) pretty much ONLY come here and cough up the cash so they can say to themselves and others “I have finally laid my eyes upon David” and his various other… err?… artistic… anatomical… umm?… attributes.  And very well endowed with these he is too.  I have to say, in the flesh (as it were) David is a truly remarkable, captivating sculpture.  I’m surprised myself that beyond the reputation, hyperbole and infinite ‘humorous’ postcards of his genitalia and butt to be found in Florence and all over Italy this work of art does actually strike the mind as a moment of sheer, clear perfection in human genius and creativity.
Further replica of David in Piazzale Michelangelo.
  David, naked in near totality (excepting the leather sling clutched nonchalantly over his left shoulder) was carved by Michelangelo from a single block of marble at the age of just 29!!! Truly amazing. Writing for you today as a venerable 29 year old myself I must express how lame this makes you feel knowing that most all you’ve achieved thus far in life is a few hundred doodles for kids and 30 of the most overwrought and impenetrably convoluted blog entries of all time.  It’s a bit of a downer
J  I better get cracking on the ‘genius’ thing.  I’ve got some catching up to do!


Cameras as usual are flashing away but curiously before I can really even get going I am prohibited all of a sudden from adding to the ensuing photographic barrage of David’s b***ocks and other points of cultural interest by a stern looking woman.

My friend says this particularly sculpted pair of buns have "justifiable fame".
  Turns out, despite no signage to this effect at all in the Gallery that as usual in Italy no photography is actually permitted within the Academia either.  So aside from a few “sneakies” before I was told off these snaps are all you or I have on this occasion of the ‘real’ David.  Shame too as my rather puritanical take on the ‘tackle shot’ yesterday was actually only a joke, saving my lens for the real deal today.  So again “Sorry ladies!” no gratuitous close-ups of the buns as hard as rocks or the one man and his parts who are always firm for you :)


Aside from Davey-boy it should be mentioned that the HUGE religious paintings;  historical commissions on display here are all fabulous and at last (following the Uffizi’s complete lack of effort yesterday!) there is a little more work put into the pieces of textual and visual information on hand to explain in some detail the content and themes of the paintings as well as giving fascinating insights into the process of restoration that the paintings have undergone.

  A Painstaking process of releasing the vibrant colours and complex compositions from centuries worth of grime, spattered votive candle wax and often moments of drastic cultural and religious censorship.  Eves and Madonnas restored to original states of dress and occasionally partial nudity, carefully chemically disrobed of large fur coats or blocking-over layers of paint later laid over their original forms.  There’s also an interesting room principally containing a large collection of plaster and stone maquettes (small to-scale practice models) for the marble sculpted works of the Italian maestro of this art form Lorenzo Bartolini.


Beyond the Academia today I am happy just to driftin the sun around the city.  As I stated yesterday I am currently firmly hitting a brick wall of cultural over-saturation.

  That old “too much of a good thing” feeling is settling bone deep within me at the moment.  Today this condition has left me in a pretty trance-like state of disengagement and care freeness I have to say.


Florence is clearly an amazing city.  One that is at its most beautiful to me when viewed not necessarily through the prism of its mind-bogglingly rich cultural history but rather from high vantage points with the beautiful,  painting-like Tuscan hills, vineyards and gardens surrounding the central composition of the city on all sides.  The brown-tiled cupola of the Duomo cathedral standing proud at the heart of the majestically picture set before you accompanied by a myriad more church towers and spires in all directions.


Such views whilst observed by myself from one point atop the Duomo bell tower yesterday are only improved upon by crossing the Arno river and ascending high(ish) to Piazzale Michelangelo.  This spacious viewing terrace sat up on the hillside offers dreamy views back over the whole city and along a significant length of the Arno in both directions of its course.  I think the finest scenic photographic opportunities in Florence are probably offered up here.  An Italian-Japanese couple and their attendant photographer seem to agree and have picked the perfect day to take advantage of this magical scenery for their wedding snaps.  All eyes are on the bride Yuko for quite sometime.  In the middle of the Piazza named after his creator stands tall and proud (once again) David here stood high upon a monument plinth and surrounded by other statuary.

  This is the third ‘David’ I have now encountered in the city.  This one must be forged from copper or bronze as is almost exclusively green as a result of verdagree and weathering.  Frankly it makes him look, naked and vulnerable as he is, like he’s caught something rather nasty with those famous love-muscles of his J


I stroll around these south-westerly hillside areas of the city away from all the tourist chaos and buzz below.  Just ambling along.  Picking up and playing catch with freshly fallen, beautifully coloured conkers.

Oh yeah! Sorry TB gang... ya went an' missed out on this one! Whoa, it was a reeeeal doozie of a conference too! Never fear, by popular demand I am sure the 12th Convention will occur same time, same place next year ;D
  It’s nice to be far away from the buzz and bustle of the crowded streets below.  Florence, sat nowadays quite tightly packed into it’s valley basin lacks open spaces at its heart.  Whilst it has the occasional piazzas for breathing space almost all streets are cast in shadow by the tall (not often attractive or interesting) buildings that surround them and the streets are quite dirty, noisy and rammed all day long with almost mystifyingly large amounts of traffic.  Points of cultural interest, even to some extent the biggies like Piazza della Signoria seem caught, trapped between too much masonry, narrow retail-drenched streets and perpetual shade.  Swamped by the historical city, or the city that Florence has become.  Even the fabulous Duomo too feels slightly suffocated to me, not free to let its magnificence radiate outwards imposingly (as is the point with churches and cathedrals architecturally) like say the Duomo in Milan.
  What spaces there are for light and breathing quickly are overrun by endless guided-tour zombies.  The Living Well-Fed, if not in many cases seemingly The Living Dead with no reason to keep moving (perhaps even breathing) until the voice of the guide chirruping into their brightly coloured ear-piece audio guides tells them it’s ok to do it, they hang on their words so.  My soul only escapes in Florence - this time anyways - when staring at the hills or the somnambulant waters of the Arno whose company I am very grateful for in my time in the city.


I have a walk around the interior of the Duomo.  I was too late yesterday and this morning ducked out of the queue noticing that shorts were not permitted as being ‘immodest’ dress but I’m bored so enquire and the security guides say it’s just fine to go in anyway.

'Ain't nothin' but the Real Thing!' - approaching David in the Galleria del Academia.
  The Duomo has quite an austere, almost unwelcoming interior I feel.  Quite at odds with its colourful, almost fanciful sugar-plum, icing-covered decorated cake like exterior.


Back to the hostel to relax.  I’ve bought a better pad and pens for my continued scribblings.  I feel the need to have a cold beer and collect my thoughts as the burning sun descends behind the line of vineyards again accompanied by the pretty classical strains of music that still emanate mysteriously from within the walls of the hostel.  An early days end.  A pleasant chat with a fellow Brit traveller also by the name of Steve, and a quiet evening.  The perfect medicine to a noticeable case not of ‘Stendhalismo’ but pure cultural overload induced catatonia.

One shot of Davey-bot before I got in trouble :(


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Its like yeah, peace man.  Peace…
"It's like yeah, peace man. Peac…
Yuko & hubby have their wedding sn…
Yuko & hubby have their wedding s…
Further replica of David in Piazza…
Further replica of David in Piazz…
My friend says this particularly s…
My friend says this particularly …
Oh yeah!  Sorry TB gang... ya went…
Oh yeah! Sorry TB gang... ya wen…
Aint nothin but the Real Thing!…
'Ain't nothin' but the Real Thing…
One shot of Davey-bot before I got…
One shot of Davey-bot before I go…
This solitary contemporary sculptu…
This solitary contemporary sculpt…
The Baptistry opposite the Duomo.
The Baptistry opposite the Duomo.
Baptistry in Florence.
Baptistry in Florence.
Basilica di Santa Croce
Basilica di Santa Croce
Tuscan countryside
Tuscan countryside
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
The Campanile di Giotto
The Campanile di Giotto
The golden (not gold!) doors to Th…
The golden (not gold!) doors to T…
A clock that apparently counts the…
A clock that apparently counts th…
Duomo nave.
Duomo nave.
Cupola fresco within Duomo.
Cupola fresco within Duomo.
Duomo fresco (detail)
Duomo fresco (detail)
photo by: spocklogic