on December 17, 2009
The sun was out today in Florence turning the waters of the Arno emerald green. These contrasted with the coffee brown of the medieval buildings flanking the river and the hills around which are green with pines. Small renaissance churches poke their way over rows of houses and small copses. It’s as if time has stood still and the city hasn’t burst out of its medieval boundaries – more like the Tuscan countryside has invaded Florence.The best view of the Arno is from the medieval windows of ‘The Uffizi. This world famous art gallery was my excuse to come into the city. I missed it out on my previous visit to the city and promised myself that I would see it this year. ‘The Uffizi’ is notorious for queues and everyone told me to get there as soon as possible. It is possible to reserve your place in online but I decided to get there as soon as I can so I caught the 8.30am train from Pisa. The double-decker trains only take an hour and it is a ten minute walk from the Fascist era station down to Piazza della Signoria. ‘The Uffizi’ itself is the upper storey of a medieval cul-de-sac and much to my chagrin there was a hundred people ahead of me in the queue.The verbal underbrush within the queue said it would be an hour wait and we slowly inched forward. It wasn’t such a bad wait – the weather was nice, the pigeons amusing and I got talking to those around me. It never fails to amuse me that Europeans, contrary to reputation, do get on when their paths cross each other on holiday. They let us in at 10.45am. Then airport style security and more queues – and just as I thought I was over the worst – another haul up four flights of stairs to the top storey. On those last few steps I looked at my fellow tourists and I could see them think "it had better be worth it after this climb."And it was.The building is unique and was the epitome of high tech in its day and was the administrative centre for 16th Century Florence. The entire thing is a great U with windows overlooking the Arno and the small cul-de-sac. It felt as if it was once a working ‘Office’ and you can imagine the Medici’s and their cohorts striding the long corridors. Busts of this famous family lined the walls. They were the first art collectors and first off were the religious art. I find altarpieces and one-dimensional paintings of the virgin rather dry and boring and the gallery featured room after room of these. More interesting was the Renaissance galleries.The most famous work in The Uffizi was Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. It shows a beautiful naked girl in classic pose rising out of a giant conch shell on a beach. My personal interest in this painting was the Ian Fleming described Honey Ryder walking ashore in Jamaica in the novel Dr No as ‘Botticelli’s Venus’. Ursula Andress and Renaissance art? Who would have thought it?I also enjoyed Julius II by Michelangelo. This grizzled grey bearded old pope was Michelangelo’s sparring partner when he painted the Sistine Chapel. I was pleased to put a face to the legend. A nearby octagonal room showed works from Agnola Bronzino including a beautiful one of a Spanish lady and Michelangelo’s Moses defends his daughters. The lower galleries had some beautiful watercolours of 17th Century Florence where I enjoyed spotting the landmarks back then which are still there today.Is the ‘The Uffizi’ worth the queue and climb? Yes, the wealth of art is staggering. But if you compare it with the other great galleries of the world they seem to cope with the same amount of visitors without the same amount of queuing. Perhaps they need a drastic solution for the Uffizi. But it was the height of summer and the view of the Arno from the windows was worth all the waiting.
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