Art

Entering the Uffizi


Everywhere I went in Florence I was aware of the Medici balls.  Prominent on the family crest and a symbol of the power of the de Medici family, I grew quite fond of them.  No surprise then to find them here at the Uffizi Gallery.  Cosimo 1 de Medici entrusted the task of creating another grandiose building alongside the Palazzo Vecchio to his favourite architect, Giorgio Vasari.  The intention was to house the offices of the Florentine magistrates, the Tribunal and the state archive under one roof, uffizi meaning ‘offices’.

The de Medicis had distinctly magpie tendencies when it came to art works, and the top floor of the Uffizi was used to showcase these.  Viewing, of course, was for the select few.  Today it is an enormous privilege to be able to climb the stairs to see some of their collection, among the finest art in Europe.  It was with excitement and just a little trepidation that I climbed those stairs.

I am in no way a serious appreciator of art.  I like what I like, but still there is the desire to be awed by masterpieces that have world renown.  Who can not have heard of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli?  And all under one quite amazing roof space!  Persuading one foot to follow another was as much as I could do as I gazed upwards at the ceiling, a work of art in itself.

It was early morning and the gallery was filling slowly.   I tried to keep track of the artworks but inevitably I was drawn to some pieces more than others.  The most acclaimed works swiftly attracted a small crowd, but there were pockets of peace in between times, if you were patient.  I began with Giotto and the Gothics.  The Visit Florence website will guide you much better than I can, and there is a detailed itinerary too.

So many very lovely creations, in such opulent surroundings!  Did you recognise many?  At times I did not know whether to look at the art or the ceilings.  And then there was that celebrated view from the windows.  Only the weather disappointed.

An outside terrace looks out on Palazzo Vecchio, and then it’s downstairs to Da Vinci, and some rather engaging characters.

I always did have a soft spot for Musketeers.  The Uffizi has weathered some rough times, including  major flooding in 1966 and a car bomb explosion in 1993.  A fuller history is covered here.    It took a little while to emerge into the real world, but en route I managed to purchase a stamp and send my postcard of Ponte Vecchio winging its way to Viveka in Sweden.  I know she’ll return the favour when she visits next year.

Looking down on the Duomo

My only real disappointment in Florence came with the Duomo.  I arrived too late in the day to be able to climb high into Brunelleschi’s dome to see for myself this amazing construction.  I had to be content with worshipping from the ground, but I knew that there was more than one place to admire from.  Palazzo Vecchio provided a perfect viewing platform, and so much more.

Funny to think of this grandiose building as the town hall of Florence, but so it is. Built in 1299 as Palazzo della Signoria, to house the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, the Signoria, its fortress-like appearance belies the opulence inside. Much of this was added when Duke Cosimo 1 de Medici made it his official residence in 1540.

Intrigue was rife and in 1549 Cosimo moved his family across the River Arno to the security of Palazzo Pitti, renaming his former residence Palazzo Vecchio. The ‘Old Palace’ houses many secrets.  Can you imagine the extreme need for privacy that led to the commissioning of an above-ground ‘hidden’ walkway?  The Vasari Corridor leads from Palazzo Vecchio, through the Uffizzi, and across Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace.

Impossible to orchestrate the full history of this palace, but come with me to whet your appetite a little.

And we’ve barely reached the cloisters!  In the vast ground floor space I was challenged as to which ticket to purchase.  ‘Tower plus Museum’ sent me off in the direction of my first flight of steps, while the other half reclined with a coffee.

A statue beckons from a niche, and in no time I’m on a level with the roofs of Florence.  The 94 metre high tower sits on the solid structure below and contains 2 small cells.  Savonarola was detained here before his trial.  A not too challenging stairwell leads you upwards until you are atop the tower, with sweeping views across Florence, even on a grey day.  I watched the clouds anxiously as I knew the tower is closed if it rains.

The impact of the Salone dei Cinquecento  defies description. Built in the 15th century to house Maggiore Consiglio, Florence’s legislative assembly, the ‘Hall of the 500’ is still used today for ceremonial events.  Folding chairs sit in the hush, while you try to take in the wonder of Michelangelo and his contemporaries, all around you.

Using my Museum ticket I was free to go at my own pace.  A circuit of the palace takes you through a sequence of splendour, each ceiling a work of art, the walls bathed in beauty.  The culmination is a view down into the hall from the second floor. Breathtaking!

Through realms of fantasy, pomp and splendour to Eleanora’s private apartments and chapel. Did ever a family live in such style?

And then the Room of the Elements.  You don’t have to be an art lover to be spellbound by this place.  Not for everybody, the style and eloquence of the de Medici’s.  But you can’t help but be snared by the imagination and sheer daring of these people.

I don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing more.  I can only urge that if you find yourself in Florence, you dedicate a little time to Palazzo Vecchio. You can take a number of tours that delve deeper into the history, or simply do as I did.  And it is a simply splendid place to be Atop Florence.

Six word Saturday

Guess what I did this week?

No, don’t be silly!  Have you SEEN my matchstick men?  I interviewed Alyson Sheldrake, whose “Breakwater- Lighthouse” in acrylic paint appears above.  Lovely isn’t it?  She had previously interviewed me but I only had photos of my native north east coast to trade.

https://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/an-interview-with-alyson-sheldrake/

Alyson Sheldrake

 Are you joining in Cate’s 6WS this week?  Look forward to reading yours.  You can find all of mine by clicking on the button below.