Three Swiss in Florence – enjoying more museums and palaces

Again to recapitulate: The architecture timeline  of Florence from Proto-Renaissance to Baroque


Let us now look at more museums, namely the Palazzo Pitti, the Uffizi and the Accademia.

Palazzo Pitti – Palace of the Pitti, then of the Medici, then of the king of Italy – and now a museum

With Leni, I crossed Ponte Vecchio admiring the Vasari Gallery that leads from Palazzo Pitti to the Uffizi. Vasari built this Gallery in 1564, after the Medici (now dukes reporting into Spanish Habsburg) had moved from the Palazzo Vecchio into the larger Palazzo Pitti. Using the Gallery they could walk from their new home to their offices and – at his point – even attend the service in Santa Felicita.


The Medici named the Palazzo Vecchio “Palazzo Vecchio” after having moved to their new Palazzo Pitti, and they enlarged their new residence.


1813 – 1821, Napoleon had a bathroom here.


And from 1860-1865 the king of newly founded Italy resided in this palace, for five years, until Rome became the capital of Italy.

The gardens behind the palace are called Boboli gardens. They are huge. We climb the stairs and reach the fountain with hercules.


We climb farther up and look back to the fountain, the palace and the town.


The Palazzo Pitti includes the Gallery Palatina that extends over several halls that are decorated with frescos by Pietro de Cortona (17th century). This is the allegory of war on the ceiling of the hall of Mars: It praises the Medici, as their emblem shows.


The halls are decorated with silk wallpapers. The paintings are arranged on them according to esthetical considerations – as if the Medici would like to come back any time and live in these rooms. In each hall, there is a panel pointing out the outstanding oeuvres. And there are outstanding oeuvres such as this painting by Raffael (the “Mother with Child and St. John the Baptist”)…


.. and this is “La Bella” by Titiano. I am impressed with her sleeves – not very practical, but she obviously did not have to do a lot of housework.


The Palazzo Pitti is also playing a role in Magdalen Nabb’s Marshal Guarnaccia Investigation stories. Guarnaccia works in the police station of the Palace and from here he uncovers the crimes that happen in the small streets around Santo Spirito. I have read “Death of an Englishman” and “Death of a Dutchman” – two great criminal stories with a lot of humor.


Stunning and not digestable in one visit: The Uffizi

The dukes of Medici had the Uffizi built as an administration center. I feel like in a dream when walking up the large stairs to the top floor. There is a long corridor with many, many doors.  For citizens, this maze must have been terrrifying. I remember Mani Matter and his song about such governmental corridors: “Är isch vom Amt ufbotte gsy, am Fritig vor de Nüne, by Schtraf, im Unterlassigsfall, im Houptgebäud, Block zwo, Im Büro 146 persönlich go z’erschiine, Und isch zum Houptiigang am Halbi Nüüni inecho.” – “He has been asked by the government to appear in the main building of block two in office 146, on Friday before nine and risking punishment, when not coming.”  The poor guy gets lost in the corridors with all the many doors and never finds a way back. Perhaps, Mani Matter was in the Uffizi, when he invented that song.



Fortunately the Uffizi are now a museum and panels clearly show the way. Behind the first door I say hello to the duke and duchess of Urbino, portrayed by Francesco (ca 1470). Why are you so pale, Lady?


In one of the next rooms there is this highlight of Botticelli, called “the Birth of Venus”. A lady enters the room, walks directly to her Botticelli, opens her chair, sits down and just looks at the painting. Via email I share this foto with the godfather of my Ernst. He is also called Ernst and was a priest. Now he his 90 years old. He guides cultural tours to Florence and Rome. Enthusiastically he writes back: “Look at Botticelli’s wonderful painting. The name is wrong… it is not ‘The birth of Venus’, but it should be called ‘Arrival of Venus onshore’. Look at Zephir. He is blowing to push Venus to the shore and he makes flowers follow her.” Uncle Ernst plans his next tour to Florence in spring. I am sure that his guests will enjoy his lively explanations!


One of my favorite artists is Leonardo da Vinci. Well, I know, he was not just an artist, but also a scientist. Dumont says that both paintings in the Uffizi have been completed in the workshop of Verocchio and that Leonardo took part in them. In the “Annunciation” Leonardo must have participated in painting the angel and Maria.


And in the “Baptism of Christ”, Leonardo painted the left angel that is much softer than the other angel.


We looked at more paintings of Botticelli,  of Ghirlandaio… and then there was also Michelangelo Buonarotti: “the Tondo of the Holy Family”.


This painting by Lippi is very charming: “Madonna with Child and St. John.”


After a coffee we take the next level of the Uffizi, until we feel dizzy. I think I will have to come back. It is not possible to see and digest the Uffizi in one visit of half a day.


Also stunning and not digestable in one visit: The Galleria dell’Accademia

There is one highlight in the Galleria dell’Accademia that all tourists look for – the original sculpture of David by Michelangelo. The copy stands in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, where a committee of town representatives had decided to place it, after Michelangelo had completed it. Originally the statue of David was planned to be raised to the roof of the Duomo. Michelangelo cut  his David out of one block of marmor and it weighs 6 tons. It was impossible to lift David up to the Duomo. And this is why he ended up in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. This is also why his hands are oversized – seen from the ground below the Duomo the hands would have been perfectly in perspective. But on the same level they look huge. Florence knows what their David is worth. Rome wanted to take it (if not kidnap it), but Matteo Renzi, then mayor of Florence, could convince the Italian government that David belongs to Florence.


There is much more to be seen in the Accademia. Here is another example, the crucification of Bonaguida in 1310: Each fruit on the twelve branches is said to be a gift to mankind.


And I also liked this crucification of Bernardo Daddi, 1340, which shows so much suffering in the face of Christ.



 So much for the culture in Florence

With the Accademia, I am rounding off the cultural highlights that we visited in Florence. Fortunately, we did not end up in a hospital with the diagnosis “overdosis of literature”. We took our time in the churches and museums and we also relished the atmosphere in this lively town – in markets, restaurants, coffee houses and shops or just strolling through the streets.

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