Christmas in Italy – The Uffizi gallery, and a quick walking tour of the city

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Christmas in Italy – The Uffizi gallery, and a quick walking tour of the city

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.

 

 

Friday, December 29th

The Uffizi gallery. I hadn’t heard of it before, but from the horrified looks that Sarah and her Dad gave me when I admitted as much, I assume that it’s a pretty famous museum. Sort of like the MFA in Boston… except older, and roughly a bajillion and a half times as famous, and full of the kind of paintings that people spend entire weeks studying in Art History classes.

So, I was excited.

 

What I learned is that the Uffizi is, unsurprisingly, that it’s a whole experience. From the minute we first saw the building through ’till we walked out the exit, we were marinated in peerless artwork.

The building itself is nestled inside the canyons of the city, butting up against the river that runs through town. So, similar to Rome, it was a bit like being ambushed when we turned a corner and were suddenly in a plaza full of statues of famous renaissance personalities.

And I mean a plaza FULL. Every column was fronted with a statue of someone, people like Galileo, Rafael, and Michelangelo. All of the Ninja Turtles were here, in famous artist form. Looking out on the plaza, acting half as guardians and half as docents.

Past the statuary were more outdoor works, mostly recreations of famous sculptures seen elsewhere in the Uffizi and other galleries. But since they were outdoors, there was something different about them… having the moving light play across the stone, something about it was really interesting and made it seem like we were seeing completely new statues.

 

Inside, it was honestly like any other art museum, except somehow a bit more so. Everything was beautiful – the curation was amazing, with the art progressing from the oldest examples to the newest works as we walked through. The pieces were spread out too, much more so than in the Vatican museums – there, it seemed like we were walking through a storage facility… but here, we were obviously in a museum dedicated to showcasing everything about the art on display.

For the art itself – Baby Jesus was, unsurprisingly, a pretty popular subject for painting. Lots of annunciation scenes (I learned from Sarah that an “Annunciation Scene” is when Mary was impregnated by the holy spirit. The common themes were, as I was told, Mary looking sceptical as a space lazer blasts down at her, while an equally skeptical angel looks on), but also some really beautiful late-Renaissance works too.

My personal favorites were a few pieces by Van Honthorst near the end, showing a wedding feast. Most of the pieces in the Uffizi were staged paintings – paintings commissioned to show a specific famous scene from history or the bible. As such, they were pretty rigid and unrealistic, more instructional than decorative. Van Honthorst’s pieces were happy though, showing a slice of Renaissance life full of songs and smiling people.

While the museum was huge, we didn’t stay forever. Something else I’d noticed: Museums in Italy aren’t quite as large as those back in the States. They’re more focused, but so don’t need a full day (or two or three…) to walk through. The Uffizi could have lasted longer, if we’d forced it, but as it was we were pretty well done by lunchtime.

So, after a lunch in the cafe, we moseyed onto the town. The group had split up in the museum, as everyone had their own pace, so Sarah and I were left to our own devices for a bit. Which, clearly, meant walking around and looking for gelato.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Florence is beautiful. It’s stately, and walking around was truly an enjoyable experience. It’s a trade off – I would have loved to spend more time wandering aimlessly, looking in random shops and secret courtyards, but at the same time I’m super thankful that we hit so many famous sites, and wouldn’t want to have missed a single one of them.

 

And yes, don’t worry. We did find gelato. It was exactly as glorious as one would expect.

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