Europe | Italy | Central | Florence – In pursuit of art in Florence
When I was admiring Michelangelo’s statue of David here in Florence, I overheard two elderly American gents joking amongst themselves. One of them said “Ya know, he’s sculpted in perfect proportion and all, but he isn’t exactly impressive in, ya know, that department.” And the other replied “Well we haven’t exactly seen him in his excited state have we…”
Ahh, retired geriatric American tourists.
I caught an early Eurostar Italia train from Venezia Santa Lucia, which was sleek and fast, and new and comfy on the inside. I didn’t have time for breakfast so I had purchased about six pastry items from the nearby pasticceria to eat on the train. I could tell the old lady sitting next to me had some objection to me eating them, because with each bite I took she gathered her newspaper closer around her with a derisive snort.
The direction prays to all clients
Florence is Italy’s busiest tourism city. When I arrived late in the morning I wasn’t overly surprised to find that all the beds in the hostels had been booked. So I took a cheap hotel room for the night, intending to move to a hostel early the next morning. In the room under the television remote control was a most curious sign which read:
“The direction prays to all clients, to delivery the remote control of the tv, the day of the departure at the caretaker’s lodge.”
I’m assuming by “direction” they meant “management”, and I know that Italy is a religious country and all but praying to clients is one hotel service I haven’t come across before. Perhaps they’d like to think that they treat their guests like gods, but the one star service of the hotel doesn’t exactly convey that intention.
To be honest I found Florence to be quite overrated. A lot of people have told me that it is a beautiful city. However I found the streets around the central area none too indifferent than any other large city, although there is a hint of the medieval city it once was. There are a few cathedrals scattered around the place, and the river Arno divides the city into northern and southern halves. Several bridges span the river, the main one being the 14th century Ponte Vecchio, which is lined with jewellers and goldsmiths on both sides.
What I came to realise is that most of Florence’s treasures are seen inside its world class array of museums and galleries. The Galleria Uffizi is the most famous of all, which I visited early one morning to beat the crowds. Inside was a large collection of artwork by masters such as Boticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo and many others. The gallery is also considerably smaller than the Louvre in Paris, and I actually got to see everything which was nice for a change. This is certainly the most popular gallery with tourists though, and later in the day long queues are not uncommon.
Michelangelo the master
I also checked out the Galleria dell’Accademia, whose most famous resident is Michelangelo’s David. Okay, I’ve seen numerous copies at various places around the world, but there’s nothing like the original. Standing more than five metres tall, it really is hard to imagine Michelangelo sculpting this from a block of marble five hundred years ago. In my humble opinion, it is the perfect sculpture, with everything in perfect proportion and detail. The intricate details on the hands and feet, the ripples on the back muscles, the veins on the arms. I spent quite some time indeed looking from different angles, admiring the work of this unparalleled master.
Pisa and some tower
I took a quick trip over to Pisa when I got bored with Florence one afternoon. There’s only one thing to see in Pisa, and dare I say it, if it wasn’t leaning it wouldn’t have been as big an attraction as it is today. The tower is actually part of a trio of buildings in the so called Field of Miracles, the others being the cathedral and baptistry. You rarely ever see its companions in postcards though. Construction of the tower began in 1173 and the architect fled when it began to lean at ten metres in height.
On the road in front of the tower were numerous tourists taking the obligatory photos. Most of them were doing the cheesy pose where they hold out their hands as if they were supporting the leaning tower, which I never did understand because it doesn’t fool anybody. The road in front of the tower is also lined entirely with souvenir stalls selling tower merchandise. You name it: key rings, statues, lamps, plates, ties, candles, calendars, posters, pencils, mugs, T-shirts, umbrellas, and other questionable items. The Leaning Tower alone must account for the majority in business of some cheap trinket production factory in China.
Having seen the tower, I left for Florence like the other tourists who turned up for a few hours or so. I’m sure Pisa has a lot more to offer but I’m afraid everyone only comes here to see one thing.