So Long, Firenze

2 May

Apologies for all the automation and lack of attention to bloggy goodness these past weeks. I’m back, and now that my time is my own again, I’m back on it. Red Penny Papers, Fae Awareness prep, fundraising, and certain submissions that have left me feeling like I ripped my own heart out–more on that next time–demanded immediate attention upon my return. And apart from that last thing, they were all rather delicious, so there are no complaints here. Hell, that fundraiser actually restored some of my faith in humanity. Props, humanity.

Italy was, of course, wonderful. I say Italy, I should say Florence, because that’s all we saw. We had vague intentions of taking a side trip to Rome, but failed to tear ourselves away. There are a million and one reasons I chose Florence as my very first time ever Europe trip. (Yes. I have been to Tibet, but never set foot on the European continent–which is, incidentally, much easier to get to. Who knew?) I’d be lying if I said an affection for Tuscan wine wasn’t one of them, but we all know I drank my way through the vino della casas of Florence, I’m sure.

Honestly, though, it was the art and the Medici. I took a class on early Italian renaissance when I was an undergrad and sort of scoffed at the idea. God, Italian ren, it’s all been done, change the fuckin’ record. Yeah, obviously I fell in love with it, in spite of it being rather an early class and my professor having a low, soothing radio announcer’s voice that made me want to fall asleep in the dark of the museum auditorium. Convention says that the renaissance was initiated with the contest to decorate the Baptistery doors in Piazza del Duomo, just before the big old cathedral.

Ghiberti's Baptistery Doors, Florence

Ghiberti's Baptistery Doors, Piazza del Duomo, Florence. Click to embiggen.

Yeah, that’s B in the yellow jacket. He was following along with the little guidebook, reading the panels like a comic. (Life of John the Baptist. Of course.)

Extra cool points: two panels from the competition survive, those submitted by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi (who famously designed–well, everything, but the cathedral’s dome is a big one) for the honor of decorating these doors are in the Bargello, so we saw those a few days later. I remember writing an essay comparing and contrasting them in class and talking about why Ghiberti’s was so important from a compositional point of view. Ah, memories.

We also got to compare Michelangelo’s powerful David, famously ensconced in the Accademia gallery, but once placed before the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Awesome of Firenze, with Donatello’s smaller, sweeter one, which is considered to be the first nude figure of the renaissance. I thought I knew these two sculptures. Okay, I thought everyone did. But I gotta say, even knowing how huge Michelangelo’s was, I was still extremely O.o and way more impressed than I thought I’d be with how perfect the thing is. That said, I prefer Donatello’s, which B considered blasphemous.

Palazzo Veccio

Entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria. Copies of Michelangelo's David and Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus.

Fun fact: this is also the piazza where the Bonfire of the Vanities was held. I found a good book about Savonarola last year on the sale table at the National Gallery, which is the only reason I know this. I’m sitting there staring at this after a long ass day at the Uffizi (in which I saw every awesome painting ever, kinda) and suddenly thought of that and was like, “Holy fuck, I’m in FLORENCE.”

Anyhow, I was never much of a sculpture person when it comes to western art, more into paintings. But all the gorgeous Donatello was a highlight, and I consider myself a convert.

(And yes, I was singing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme a lot. “Leonardo leads, Donatello does machiiiiines… Raphael is cool, but rude, Michelangelo is a party dude!” I so so much stuff by all of them omg. Er, not the turtles, I mean–oh, nevermind.)

The other big highlight for me was the whole area around San Lorenzo–which was my favorite church of the whole visit, but it also helps that this spot, moreso than the rest of the city, is super heavy in Medici awesome. And yes, another historical obsession of mine, the Medici family, because they were fucking boss. The Medici Chapels are really popular and groovy, but there’s also  the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana on the second storey of the cloister at San Lorenzo, which is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been, or ever will be. It’d be hard for any book person not to get excited over a 500 year old research library with manuscripts of  The Divine Comedy (Dante being a favorite son of Florence) and Horace as annotated by Petrarch (another favorite son).

Desk label from the Laurentian Library

Desk label with Petrarch and Alighieri mentions. Yes, I searched them all for this. I admit it.

And there was much more Medici awesome to be had, but the thing I think people probably miss out on if they only have a day or two is the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. The supposed improvements committed there by the Riccardi family, who owned it later, are super florid and uninteresting to me (B: “It looks like the conference room at the Hilton…”), but it’s right across the square and totally worth the entrance fee just to see Gozzoli’s frescoes in the Magi Chapel. It’s this wonderfully intimate little room, somehow preserved through all the meddling in the centuries after the Medici moved to the Palazzo Vecchio.

I admit that I did a lot of amusing myself by reconstructing historical events in the courtyards and crap like that–hell, the whole time I was in the duomo all I could think of was Giuliano de Medici getting stabbed to death during high mass and  bleeding out on the floor. But that’s what I get for reading a book about the Pazzi conspiracy on the plane, I reckon. What can I say, that ugly bastard Lorenzo is another of my historical boyfriends.

Me and Il Magnifico

Me chillin with Lorenzo de Medici "Il Magnifico" outside the Uffizi.

In spite of being there for eleven days and ten nights, we didn’t get to see everything. But the souvenirs are nice. If you’ve ever had a letter from me, you might know I’m obsessed with Italian paper, particularly that popularly exported from Florence, so I had a field day there. Also, I now smell like Catherine de Medici. Otherwise, most of my souvenirs consist of guidebooks from various museums and churches… and a bunch of AC Fiorentina stuff. See the above picture for me with my scarf.

Also, I am not sure I can ever eat pizza again. Florence spoiled me utterly. God, the food. THE FOOD.

We did have one night in Milan–we got there early enough in the afternoon to walk down to the cathedral, passing La Scala and walking through the Gallery on the way, all of which were magnificent. But the highlight there was totally getting to have dinner with Zoe Whitten and husband.

And now back to your regularly scheduled diet of mean fairies, thirsty vampires, and similar nonsense.

One Response to “So Long, Firenze”

  1. Carole Lanham May 3, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Sounds wonderful! And now you smell like a badass and have all those wonderful memories under your skin! How fantastic is that?! Hope you’ll put up a pic of some of your Italian paper. Curious about this.

    Thanks for sharing!

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