Today we visited the Bargello, the former prison that is now home to three floors of sculptures, along with majolicas and assorted other beauties. The courtyard is lovely and plastered with an assortment of things that have been lying around Florence for the last few centuries – you know, some river gods, most of a fountain, a couple of lions, and so forth.
As usual, we followed Rick Steves through the museum. He really hits the spot for first-time visitors who want to be sure to see the highlights. For us, that included Donatello’s saucy David clad only in boots and cap, and an array of sculpted birds that I foolishly neglected to capture. But I did admire the veining on this marble leg.
Then it was only about 10:00, and we had nothing scheduled until the Uffizi at 2:00. Perfect time for a wander! So wander we did, first to the Ponte Vecchio, looking swell in the morning light, with the Arno clearly feeling the effects of a hot summer. A quick stop for coffee on the other side, the Oltr’arno, then more of a wander past the Pitti Palace and down a little street to a linen shop with beautiful tea towels. We realized that we were close to a garden shop I had hoped to visit – good seeds, otherwise an odd mishmash of cat food, baskets, and pasta – and to the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine.
I was excited to visit the church because of the Brancacci Chapel and its frescoes by Masaccio, Masolini and Lippi. The “Expulsion from Paradise” shows such intense human emotion in such a small space, while “The Fall” wickedly portrays the same human face on Eve and on the snake that entwines the tree she’s holding on to. They did not disappoint. They are both high up on the wall and not very big, but quite wonderful. A great treat, especially because we had thought we wouldn’t have time to fit this into the itinerary.
We finished up our wander with lunch in the Piazza Santa Croce. A beautiful waiter with the curliest eyelashes I have ever seen served us melon with prosciutto and then a beautiful salad of hard boiled eggs, little shrimp, perfectly fresh tomatoes, and tender greens. (The picture is lousy because I didn’t want to be arrested for voyeurism and had to be discreet.)
Back over the Ponte Vecchio with renewed strength to tackle the Uffizi Galleries. Preparing for this is like preparing for battle. First you book your tickets online. Then they email you the voucher. Then you come to the gallery at least 10 minutes ahead of your appointed time to redeem the voucher for tickets, making sure you’re in the correct queue. Then you stand in yet another line to enter the gallery, where you go through security. Finally, after you have tucked away your ticket, you climb four long flights of stairs to the gallery, where the final test is to find your ticket again so that the ticket taker can tear off the top. Whew!
But your work has only begun. Now you are launched on your journey through some of the most amazing work of the Italian Renaissance, and it’s not for the weak. Gorgeous altarpieces by Giotto, annunciations by just about everyone including Leonardo, Madonnas and children, usually with that wild boy John the Baptist, a whole room of Botticellis including the famous ones you’ve seen forever, and the Venus of Urbino by Titian that Mark Twain found so disturbingly erotic.
It’s an astonishing collection, and we had all we could do to see the highlights, determinedly averting our eyes from anything extraneous lest we curl up and die before we’re done. A brief rest on the terrace (our views from our room are actually better!) and then exit through the gift shop. We limped home very slowly and yet again had to lie down and prop our feet on the headboard.