A Tale of a Good Day (Complete with mini-tour of Bargello)

Ciao Readers!

I have shared with you many stories of woe and culture shock, so today I thought I’d share a tale of a very good day.  To me, this was yesterday; but since I have already written about 2 weeks worth of blog posts, to you it was probably a couple of weeks ago. (Lucky for you you’re not reading about actual yesterday (Dec. 4), or you’d be reading about my being wet and cold and homesick and about my wait at the post office.)  In any case….

The day started off with a necessary trip to the Questura (where you do most immigration-related things).  Now, you’re probably thinking “that doesn’t sound like the start of a good day” – but the sun was out for the 35 minute walk there and the lines were faster than usual, with the lady who’s helping me already through by the time I got there (yay!).  With so much of the beautiful morning left (this was a Friday; I don’t have school on Fridays), I decided to just stroll.

Somewhere during my leisurely stroll I came upon the Bargello (lesser known museum); with my Uffizi card in hand, I walked right in (love this card!).  While I’ll provide the educational tour part below, the Bargello was also cool for two reasons other than the art – 1) it was almost empty and soooooo quiet and peaceful – I sat in the courtyard and relaxed (and watched the woman pictured below sketching one of the sculptures) and 2) I bumped into one of the women from the charity organization meeting I had attended and it made me feel like this is really my town (bumping into acquaintances has that effect).

After the Bargello I decided to stroll around “my town” some more, soon realizing I was less than a mile from Steve’s school and it was almost his lunch break; we met on the hill and sat in the sun for a bit – nice!   After Steve got home from work we decided to fight the urge to be lazy and go out for (yet another) stroll.  First, to see if a Korean grocery store my new Italian teacher (she’s originally from Mexico and now studying Korean!) told me about really exists (it does – tiny but cool).  At this point Steve needed to find a restroom, and as you may or may not know, this isn’t the easiest task anywhere in Europe and usually involves paying for the privilege.  Since we were close to the Uffizi and I was thinking they might still be open (about 5:30 p.m.) and we have that card that gets us in for free, we checked it out – at first we thought they were closed because it was deserted, but the sign said “aperto” and in we went (good tip for visiting the Uffizi sans crowds)!  So, how amazing/surreal is this – I waited for Steve in front of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”!?!?!   Seriously – taking a bathroom break in the building with some of the world’s masterpieces?!?!?!  Unreal.  In any case, we still had an hour before the museum closed, so we strolled around and appreciated the museum.

By this time we were getting hungry, but being Italy it was still about 1 – 1.5 hours too early to think about dinner…but NOT too early to think about the aperitivo buffet at Serafini (which I wrote about and posted photos of here)!   We had a lovely time at the aperitivo, and not having stuffed ourselves on what was not meant to be dinner, stopped by our favorite pizza place (which opens at 7:30) and got a margherita pizza to go.   All in all, it was a very good day!

As for the Bargello, it is a sculpture museum, which used to be a prison.  As I mentioned, the courtyard (row 1) is very peaceful (I didn’t know until researching later that they used to execute prisoners here – gasp!).  The museum has a few lesser-known pieces by Michelangelo and (almost) an entire room dedicated to Donatello.  There are also lots of tiny sculpted works such as vessels and combs and more.  Photos are prohibited, but now I’ve learned in the less-populated rooms, if you ask nicely they sometimes let you take a no-flash shot (much better approach than when I did so without permission in a different gallery and promptly got yelled at and kicked out of that room).   So, below, following the courtyard shots, are a few more shots throughout the upper rooms (notice the cool grotesques on the plate), ending with Donatello’s “David” as well as another artist’s (Verrocchio’s) version of David (seems like they had a contest as to who could make David look the “least intimidating,” no?).

It was a lovely stroll (I google-mapped as much of it as I can remember and in total I walked about 10 miles) – thanks for coming along!

The Duomo Museum (“Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo”)

Ciao Readers!

Today I am taking you on another (semi) educational tour, following the (more) educational tour I took with my school.  First, a confession.  When I read on the school’s activity sheet that there was an excursion to the “Museo dell’ Opera,” I thought to myself “hmmm…I’m really not that into opera…but what the heck, a tour’s a tour!”  But, as I learned when we arrived at our destination, “opera” means “works” – so what we were actually going to see was the museum of the works of the Duomo (yay!).

I know I have shown you pics of the Duomo before, but to put the museum’s contents in context, below are a few more shots I took after the museum visit (they don’t even begin to capture how amazing it looks, especially at dusk when I took them).  One of the things I found out in the museum was that (like many things here) the amazing artwork on the facade of the Duomo (started at the end of the 1200’s, complete with Brunelleschi’s dome in the 1400’s) was added during the Renaissance (you can see tiles from the old version inside the museum) (pictured below).  (In the museum were also sketches and models of various architects’ and artists’ ideas for how the Duomo should look, as well as parts removed at some point, like Donatello’s balcony) (ditto).  Here are a few of the highlights of what’s inside…

Wait.  Before we get inside I need to show you one more thing – the outside doors to the Baptistry (this is not actually part of the Duomo, but across from it, and is actually a couple of hundred years older)(row 3, 1st photo).  These doors (created by Ghiberti in the 1400’s) are known as “La Porta del Paradiso” because when Michelangelo saw them he thought they were so beautiful that they must truly be the doors to Paradise.  Notice the crowds staring and taking photos?  Well, ya know what?  They’re fake (the doors, not the people)! (Well, not so much fake as very careful replicas that were installed when the real doors were moved inside in the 1980’s).  I had no idea.  But there inside the museum are the real doors – and without the huge throngs of tourists in front blocking my view (pictured next).  Check out the amazing detail of the figures (last pic in row)!

There are two more pieces inside the museum that specifically caught my interest.  The first (pics 1/2 on last row) is yet another “unfinished” piece by Michelangelo (a Pietà).  He created this when he was 80 years old!  (In fact, the face of Nicodemus is a self-portrait).  If you notice the side view of the right, you can see where the stone looks rough (just like the statue in my post from Palazzo Vecchio and like the “prisoners” in L’Accademia you’re not allowed to photograph).  On the other hand, apparently some student of Michelangelo went and “ruined” the figure on the left by finishing it!  I just really dig Michelangelo’s philosophy of “freeing” the art already in existence (why can’t I “free” the already existing masterpieces in my pad of paper?!?!?).

Finally, we have Donatello’s haunting “Penitent Mary Magdelene” (1457).   The figure is shocking, meant to convey how worn down she became by fasting and through true penitence.  You can read more about it here.  The weird thing is, I could swear I’ve seen this statue somewhere else before (it’s kinda hard to forget), but I can’t find any record of it leaving this museum (if you know more, please let me know).  By the way, this is made of wood!

Well, that was my tour of the “opera” museum.  Thank you, as always, for coming along!

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