Art a GoGoArt Over Easy


Art a GoGo's Art Pilgrimage
Part II: Florence

by  Kathleen and Doug Lang


Neither of us slept well during the overnight train trip from Paris to Florence. Perhaps we had more romantic notions of an Orient Express-like experience, but we both found our private room onboard the train to be loud, hot, and uncomfortable. Carefree world travelers we are not.


Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Florence is unbelievably beautiful. Everywhere we look there is some sort of familiar site or monument to explore--it is a genuine "Art Disneyland" for art lovers! There is so much Italian Renaissance art to see here that it is virtually impossible to make just a few recommendations. Our best advice is to be sure that you allow at least three days to see as much as possible.

Once you get familiar with your surroundings, you will find that getting around Florence is pretty easy. It is much smaller than Paris, so it is possible to walk everywhere you would like to go. But be careful, streets and sidewalks are extremely narrow and maneuvering around other tourists can be difficult.


Santa Maria Novella
Florence, Italy
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Getting Started

The first thing you need to do (before leaving home) is to get advance tickets for the two most popular museums in Florence: the Galleria degli Uffizi and Galleria dell'Accademia. A simple search on the Internet will provide you with several online reservation service options. We used the Weekend a Firenze web site.

You will be glad you did as soon as you see how many hundreds of tourists stand in line for hours just to get in. A word of caution, however: be as punctual as possible. Yes, you do get to choose your entrance time, but for crowd control purposes the museum staff expects you to be there on time. We were about 25 minutes late and received a brusque scolding from a museum official.


Galleria degli Uffizi
Florence, Italy
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Galleria degli Uffizi

After visiting the Louvre in Paris, the first thing you might notice about this museum is that the security and crowd control is much tighter at the Uffizi Museum. Policies regarding flash photography are strictly enforced and in order to control the amount of people in the museum there are absolutely no "in and out" privileges in the galleries. So make sure you linger as long as possible in front of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" because once you leave the gallery space you are prohibited from entering again.

Just a few recommendations for must-sees here are: Botticellei's, "Birth of Venus," 1485, Gentile da Fabriano's, "Adoration of the Magi," 1423, and Hugo van der Goes,' "Portinari Triptych," 1476-79.

Remember, there is a lot of art to see here so pace yourself and plan ahead in order to see as much as possible.


Michelangelo, David, 1504
Galleria dell'Accademia
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Galleria dell'Accademia

Although this museum contains other works of art, the real star here is the icon of statues-- "David." Sculpted by Michelangelo in 1504, this massive statue should be seen by everyone at some point in their lifetime. No matter how familiar this image may be to most of us, I promise you that you will not be fully prepared for its impact. The setting is beautiful and the statue is perfection itself-the only difficulty is not feeling rushed by fellow tourists who flock to see this incredibly important work of art. Despite the crowds, the elevation and height of this statue makes it easy to see and well worth your visit.


Michelangelo, Pietà, 1550
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

This museum was a delightful place to visit: few tourists, large rooms, and air conditioning! Lorenzo Ghiberti's relief sculptures made for the Baptistery doors in 1425-52, dazzles every tourist who visits Florence. But did you know that the sculpture on the doors is really a reproduction? Ghiberti's original work can be found in this museum; under protective glass, but still readily available for you to examine.

Another noteworthy sculpture is the "Cantoria" (or singer's gallery) made by Donatello in 1433-39 for the Florence Cathedral. Rather than seen at eye level, this sculpture is mounted high above the viewer, just as it would have been seen in the cathedral. And even though you have to look closely to see the details, you will be charmed by the antics of Donatello's abundant playful cherubs.

Perhaps the most surprising and moving sculpture to be seen here is Michelangelo's "Pietà." No, this is not the same statue that was made for St. Peter's in 1499; this work was made in 1550 by Michelangelo for his tomb, but was later destroyed by the artist. The sculpture is placed in its own niche and is sensitively lit, which further enhances your experience. And because there are not many tourists here, you are free to study this magnificent sculpture without jockeying for position or feeling rushed.


Out and About in Tuscany

View from the town of San Gimignano
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Aside from the marvelous sights to see in Florence, it would be a mistake not to take a break from all the art and explore the beauty of Tuscany. Simply put, there are no bad views to be found here. Our favorite day trip was to the medieval hill town of San Gimignano.


Street in San Gimignano
Photo: Kathleen Lang


We spent a wonderful day in this small town; the views were spectacular, there were abundant restaurants to tempt us and many ceramic shops and contemporary art galleries to discover.

As we planned our trip, we were repeatedly frustrated by the difficulty of securing the hotel reservations we wanted. Even though we planned four months in advance, we discovered that if you have your heart set on a specific hotel, you must start planning as far ahead as possible.



Roman Ruins in the town of Fiesole
Photo: Kathleen Lang


Following up on a tip from a friend, we decided to take a chance and make reservations at a small hotel just outside of Florence in the town of Fiesole. The town itself is worthy of a day trip if you're staying in Florence-there is a lovely piazza and a Roman amphitheatre to explore. The townspeople are incredibly friendly and the restaurants offered very reasonable and delicious meals with courteous and efficient service.

We were very happy with our decision to stay at Hotel Villa Fiesole. It was the perfect antidote to the often frenzied atmosphere of Florence. Our room was clean, comfortable and blissfully quiet with a fabulous view of Duomo. Included with your stay is a continental breakfast and dinner is also available on the hotel's terrace. On our final night we enjoyed an intimate meal with an equally spectacular view of Florence below.


A Final Note

Even though we rented a car to travel around Tuscany, we always took the city bus on our trips into Florence. It's convenient, inexpensive, and the bus stop is located directly across the street from the hotel. In fact, the hotel will even sell you your ticket.

If you insist on using your own rental car to drive into Florence, be careful; street signs and directions can be quite difficult to navigate. We know this only too well. The day we tried it, we kept missing the street we were looking for and had to shoot back into traffic again and make another interminable loop around town. At times we felt like members of the Apollo 13 crew, who, if they missed their point of entry, were doomed to orbit the moon yet again!

So, what are you waiting for? Why not get started and begin planning your own art pilgrimage.

Hmmm, I wonder what the weather is like in Amsterdam in the spring…………..



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