Florence, Italy

  • Date
  • 31 October 1999

The Galleria degli Uffizi occupies the top floor of Uffizi Palace. We waited one and a half hours to gain entry, but the artwork inside is worth even the longest queue. This gallery is a true gift to anyone able to visit. We saw Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Leonardo da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi, Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, Michelangelo’s Holy Family, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and many, many more. The vast number of nudes painted during the 15th and 16th centuries made me think about how different things are today when a nude painting is frequently labeled pornography. Five hundred years ago the bare body was admired and completely accepted as art.

Outside the Galleria is Michelangelo’s David in the Piazza della Signoria. (This massive, white marble statue is a copy; the original is in Galleria dell’Accademia.) The Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Works Committee) commissioned the David in 1501. They gave Michelangelo (26 years old at that time) a leftover block of marble – ruined by another artist. His David creation led to such an enthusiastic response from the city that they voted to build him a house and studio.

Another interesting story involving Piazza della Signoria: The original ‘bonfire of the vanities’ occurred here in 1497. Savonarola, a persuasive monk, persuaded his followers to toss all of their worldly possessions into a fire in the piazza. One year later the monk was executed by hanging and then – burned. ‘Heresy’ led to his death.

Florence’s street life is quite amazing – we passed thousands of people who were pushing, prodding, observing and buying. The very warm weather and sunshine perhaps led to the exciting frenzy. On every street around the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) scores of vendors sold fake Prada, Gucci, JP Todd, Fendi and LV bags. Jim and I walked the streets for hours and stopped for a coffee in an outdoor café. Florence is a lovely city.