Written by Stella on 17 Sep, 2001
If you were interested in moving to Florence, and thereby renting an apartment, I’d recommend getting here first, then looking. Any search done from home will yield the more expensive options, as Florentines are well aware of the fact that you aren’t familiar with…Read More
If you were interested in moving to Florence, and thereby renting an apartment, I’d recommend getting here first, then looking. Any search done from home will yield the more expensive options, as Florentines are well aware of the fact that you aren’t familiar with their real estate market. If you can spill 1,000 USD and up per month, by all means go online and call the advertised house agencies. If saving your money to spend on clothes, food or travel is more your style, stay in an inexpensive hotel upon arrival. You should be able to find something within two weeks, depending on your expectations.
What will you find? It varies. The main options are the usual apartments, studios, and then shared rooms either with a family or university students. Prices range from 600.000 lire to 3 million lire. I found an apartment on Via Ricasoli, with windows overlooking the duomo’s sculped pink and green walls, for 300 USD a month- a shared space with six Italian girls studying at the local university.
Be sure to ask whether spese (water, electricity and heat) are included or not. If living with a family, discuss things like use of the kitchen, washing machine, keys, visitors and curfews.
Local Real Estate Agencies
Via De¡¯ Pucci, 4
055-289-947 or 055-219191
Florence Real Estate Agency of Luca Gandelli
Piazza G. Salvemini, 7
Filaci Real Estate
Piazza Salvemini, 16r
055 23 44 447
Miet Wohn Zentrale Florence
Via Orti Oricellari, 10
Written by jwagner on 22 Aug, 2000
Good food abounds in Florence but ignore street food and pizza stands (these are better in Rome) and eat plenty of Gelatto. The best course to find inexpensive, authentic, and delicious Tuscan food is to ask a local who speaks English where he goes for…Read More
Good food abounds in Florence but ignore street food and pizza stands (these are better in Rome) and eat plenty of Gelatto. The best course to find inexpensive, authentic, and delicious Tuscan food is to ask a local who speaks English where he goes for lunch or dinner (be sure to mention that you aren't interested in where the tourists go.).
Leather is a great bargain in Florence but be careful of shoddy workmanship on street stands. Have fun haggling for something; it's part of the great experience of Florence. Leather briefcases are often a good buy here. Shop around for the best price. Learn to say no and watch the prices drop.
The nightlife in Florence is active, what with the many universities and the presence of young tourists from around the world. One of the best scenes is near Uffizi gallery, where an impromptu night market sets up, at least until the police arrive. Lots of lound World Beat music and lots of fun. Nothing is as breathtaking is happening upon the statue garden near Uffizi late at night.
For meat lovers, the best steaks in the world can be found in Florence, the Tuscan cut--perhaps a little leatherier than in the U.S.--but seasoned with a delicious blend of spices. In most places you will buy a huge slab and have it delivered to the table where diners can carve off as much as they want.
If you are daring, you can bargain for your hotel rooms once you arrive in Florence, especially if you go by train. We spent about $18 a night for so-so rooms with common bathrooms (shared). OK to collapse into but not a place if you want to spend extra time sleeping. In most European cities, it is customary to look over your room before agreeing to check in for the night. Do it. It will save you much heartache. Close
Written by jaydub1948 on 14 Jun, 2007
Saturday, 17 March 2007
The Eurostar train to Florence from Roma Termini was really nice. There were complimentary snacks and coffee as well as newspapers in first class. We found our hotel in Florence, Grand Hotel Adriatico, with no problem as it is near Santa Maria…Read More
Saturday, 17 March 2007
The Eurostar train to Florence from Roma Termini was really nice. There were complimentary snacks and coffee as well as newspapers in first class. We found our hotel in Florence, Grand Hotel Adriatico, with no problem as it is near Santa Maria Novella Rail Station.
As it was only noon and our rooms were not ready, we deposited our bags and went out to explore. We had a wonderful outdoor lunch at La Madia near the Duomo. They had their own label house red wine which was superb. We had pasta and salad while sitting outside on that brilliant spring afternoon.
We saw the Duomo as well as the Museo dell’Opera dell Duomo. The key piece there, to me, is Donatello’s Mary Magdalene carved in wood. Upon returning to our hotel, we got our luggage and moved into our rooms. There was a great view of the city from the window and of the hills beyond. The Grand Adriatico is a nice, larger hotel. It is seven stories and has full services. We could find no fault with it during our four-night stay.
We had planned to go out for dinner, stopping first at Bar Amerini, a nice, post-modern place. We were the only non-Italians as nearly as I could tell. Tam and I had beers and we filled up on nice little finger foods which came with the drinks. We were having such a great time, we decided to stay there. We split up some panini which we ordered. It was more than enough after a big lunch. We stayed until 9pm. It was a fun evening. We started exchanging quotes from Firesign Theater albums, which dates us, I know, and couldn’t stop laughing.
On the way back, we stopped at an Internet place next to the hotel where it is €2 for an hour's use. The time does not have to be continuous so we were able to use our password for the whole time we were in Florence. They also sell beer and snacks. Moretti beer was only €1.50 for a large bottle. One thing to keep in mind is that Internet point operators are required to have verifiable ID of all customers, so you will need to have your passport with you. Only one place we went to failed to ask for ID.
Sunday, 18 March 2007
There was a great buffet breakfast at the hotel which was included in the room price. They even had bacon and eggs, though I didn’t eat any. Why do that when there is fresh fruit salad, yogurt, croissants, cheeses, cold cuts and so on? They also had cappuccino and regular coffee for those who insist, as well as fruit juices. I had a nice chat in Italian with one of the waiters, an older fellow, who was most attentive and charming.
We saw the Accademia later in the morning. We got timed tickets for both it and the Uffizi through the hotel. Naturally, David was the highlight of L’Accademia and seemed just as imposing as when I saw it in 1972. At the Uffizi we concentrated on Botticelli and Caravaggio and the other major works. We were nearing Stendhal Syndrome by the end. I thought I saw myself in one of the paintings, or myself as a young man. Tam verified that the resemblance was uncanny. I’m just glad it wasn’t a hallucination. Of course maybe she was just humoring me.
All of that museum-going requires one to fuel up so we had cappuccinos and panini at a bar on Piazza del Duomo in between galleries and had beers at a bar on the way back to the hotel. They had very long glasses of Moretti on tap which really hit the spot.
We had dinner at Trattoria La Burrasca which is north of Santa Maria Novella. It is in the 2007 Rick Steves Guide. It was a great, family-run place. Tam and I had bistecca alla fiorentina and patate fritte. I had a salad with mozzarella and prosciutto. Everything was excellent.
We took a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano, booked through Viator on Monday. The buses were easy to find at Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia across from Santa Maria Novella and the operators were efficiently organized.
The trip through the countryside was nice though, unfortunately, it was a rainy day. Our guide in Siena, Roberta, was wonderful. She imparted a wealth of knowledge about her native city which she obviously loves. It is a great place. We had an architectural orientation, saw the interior of the Duomo and had an explanation of the various contrade, or quarters, of the city and the fierce rivalries between them centering on the Palio horse race every summer. I talked with her some in Italiano about my student days in Siena in 1972.
We had lunch at a pizzeria on the Campo. It was quite good and is a change from 1972. Then there was only one pizza place that I can recall and it was not good at all. Now it seems you can get good pizza everywhere. I know that sounds odd, but pizza in Italy was not the national food that it is now, or certainly not the ubiquitous one of today at any rate.
Everyone split up after eating to spend the 45 minutes or so of free time we had left. I went to the Museo della Tortura which is just off the Campo because they had some wax figures and, yes, I am a fan of wax museums. Everyone has a secret. The admission also entitled one to enter the Museo della Pena di Morte (Museum of Capital Punishment) in San Gimignano so I went there as well. I spent most of my time at the latter talking with the girl at the desk about languages and how I came to speak Italian.
Tam and I each had gelato while waiting to meet up in the Campo for the walk back to the bus. By then it had started to pour again. When we got to San Gimignano, we went to a bar for cappuccinos then shopped some. The town reminded us some of Quebec City as it has a long street lined with shops descending from a height. San Gimignano seems a pleasant place. We were sorry it was a rainy day, but enjoyed the stop nonetheless.
We ate dinner at Trattoria Masò which is across the street from the hotel. Tam and I both had rigatoni with a spicy salsa and pork pizzaiola. It was yet another good dining experience. The outdoor patio was covered and there were heaters so we ate outside which was quite pleasant.
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
This was the day dedicated to shopping as all the previous ones were spent sightseeing and museum-going. We got household items at La Gioia della Casa (www.gioiadellacasa.it) which is on via Sant’Antonio near Santa Maria Novella.
Despite the rain and chill we squeezed in a visit to the Museo della Scienza and the Bargello Museum, mainly to see Donatello’s David. We had lunch at Eat and Go, a tavola calda, on via Vecchereccia. You pick what you want and they heat it and bring it to your table. It was surprisingly good. We had salads and pasta dishes and some of the red wine I bought.
We decided to have one last memorable dinner, and that it was. We ate at La Buca dell’Orafo near Ponte Vecchio. Reservations are a must as it is a small family-run place. For primo piatto I had ribollita, which was exquisite, and Tam had pasta e fagioli. I had filetto di manzo (beef filet) for a main course. It was indescribably delicious for any carnivore. Tam had lamb, also delicious. Everything they have is a local product and the restaurant is an adherent to the Slow Food movement which started in Italy. Close
Written by Angus McCoy on 14 Mar, 2005
Having read Ozzy-Dave's "Vallombrosa - Benedictine Beauty and Home Brew" in these forums before visiting Florence, I knew this adventure would be the perfect antidote to the crowds and jetlag that wearied me in Rome, Siena, and Florence.
Vallombrosa is a small hermitage in the hills…Read More
Having read Ozzy-Dave's "Vallombrosa - Benedictine Beauty and Home Brew" in these forums before visiting Florence, I knew this adventure would be the perfect antidote to the crowds and jetlag that wearied me in Rome, Siena, and Florence.
Vallombrosa is a small hermitage in the hills outside of Florence. I rose early and made my customary coffee in the chilly Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
Finding the bus to Vallombrosa was easy enough, once I found the station. (It was only across the Santa Maria square, but I had a devil of a time finding it--a portent of things to come.) Just as in Ozzy-Dave's account, I shared the beautiful ride through the valley with only one other passenger and the driver.
The hills that enveloped Vallombrosa were off to the left and stayed that way for an (eventually) alarming amount of time. Neither my fellow traveler nor the driver spoke English, but eventually I communicated my concerns and realized I was on the wrong bus.
Worst-case scenario, I would have to get off and get on the next bus heading back -- not so terrible, but a little disappointing.
I still held out hope that I might find another bus in the next town that headed into the hills, but the gist of my 'conversation' with the driver seemed to indicate this was unlikely.
When I disembarked, I did what I always try to do when confronted by a traveling peccadillo -- I looked for an outdoor cafe, where I enjoyed a cheap half-liter of wine. The weather was fine, the German tourists rowdy, and another half-liter cheered my disappointment.
Somewhat tipsy, I made my way back to the station and noticed a road sign to Vallombrosa pointing toward the hills. Clearly no bus traveled this way, but before too long, I had hitched a ride with a native basketball-playing Springsteen fan who related (in Italian) his own adventure of having traveled to New York to play on its most famous hard courts, and despite not being able to speak a word of English, rented a car and made his pilgrimage to the Stone Pony.
He dropped me in Vallombrosa, which was all and more that Ozzy-Dave described. I walked on wonderful paths through a beautiful forest. Although very few people were around, and I did not meet any monks or experience the coveted 'home-brew,' I did spend a few hours in peace and beauty.
In time, I made my way back to the bus stop to wait for a ride back to Florence. My lonely reveries were eventually interrupted by a lovely hiker, who, after asking if I was waiting for the bus, commented that I must be a very patient fellow. She then walked on around the bend, disappearing about as fast as she appeared.
What with having made it to this wonderful place, the wine, and the favorable compliment from this hiking beauty, I was feeling pretty satisfied with my day. It is true I'm a bit slow (who doesn't have a foible or two?), but at some point it occurred to me that "being patient" might infer more than just admiration.
The schedule above my head confirmed the last bus to Florence, in fact to anywhere, left at noon. It now being almost twilight, I shouldered my pack and headed off in the same direction as my (former) admirer.
Not too long down the deserted road, I came across a very interesting sign. It pointed to a path in the woods and had the name of what looked like a town on it. It stood to reason the road would have to wind back and forth down this steep hillside, but the path probably would shorten the walk. I took the road less trodden.
What's the worst that could happen? What did happen was that I walked through an entrancing twilight with no one around and every so often came across an altar or a devotional bench.
This path must have been laid out by monks or pilgrims (perhaps before there was a road?) making their way from the valley up to the hermitage.
After 3 miles or so, I came to a small town and spied a woman with a couple of suitcases standing on a street corner. She didn't speak English, but after much gesticulation I understood we could catch a bus from here to a larger town, where I could change to a bus to Firenze.
Soon enough, I was on the bus and pulling into the larger town. Now tired from my day, I didn't want to get off the bus too soon -- better to wait until the bus reached the station, where I could transfer.
Before I knew it, we were out of town and barreling down the mountainside! Ah, me, why didn't my acquaintance tell me to get off? I didn't understand these Italians, their language or their seeming reticence to engage tourists.
Somewhat huffily, I determined to get off at the next stop, catch a bus back, and get the bus to Florence. The next stop was a long way...
It was now dark, my optimism shot, and the next stop was in the middle of nowhere. I decided it was better to be on this bus to who-new-where rather than to have to camp in the country with no equipment. I wasn't sure the buses would run this late.
I decided to wait until I reached a town where I might spend the night and then make my way back to Firenze as best I could in the morning. After an hour or so, we did finally pull into a town.
As I was about to get off, I noticed a sign to Firenze! I sat back down. Now my plan changed to getting as close to Firenze as possible. As long as the kilometers decreased, I would stay on the bus. Once they increased or the signs ceased, I would get off and try to hitchhike 'home.'
Rather suddenly we were pulling into Florence. It all became clear; I misunderstood my Italian-speaking director, who hadn't told me to get off because this was the bus to Florence.
I got off directly in front of my pensione, and within the hour I had sat down to my second liter and a fine dinner.
Written by legohead on 09 Apr, 2004
One of the weirdest, most memorable experiences of my life came one night when staying at the Archi Rossi Youth Hostel in Florence (I can’t seem to recommend this place enough, well, apart from the mozzies, but you get them everywhere). I met some nice…Read More
One of the weirdest, most memorable experiences of my life came one night when staying at the Archi Rossi Youth Hostel in Florence (I can’t seem to recommend this place enough, well, apart from the mozzies, but you get them everywhere). I met some nice travelers who suggested I come out with them since I was all by myself.
We tried to look for a nightclub and ended up wandering into the Festa d'Unita, a socialist festival that had been set up temporarily. There were loads of ethnic food stalls, folk music, and, bizarrely, a small dance floor, where children of 5 to 8 years old were line dancing to "Mambo No. 5". We left, not being particularly interested in Italian politics or listening to accordion music and rambled on through the hot night.
After much confusion and getting lost down small dark back streets, we found a club called 'Space' and rejoiced. Sadly, although it was a lot of fun, noisy, sweaty, and full of life, it was also full of tourists -- the DJ shouted out for all the Americans, Australians, and Brits to cheer in turn. We had a great time, despite the predominance of Justin Timberlake tunes, but I was left wondering, "Where do the Italians kids go for a good night out?" Does any one know this? I traveled around Italy all summer and couldn’t find an answer to this anywhere. Maybe they just don’t go clubbing, leaving that to the tourists. Oh well, it was still a great night.
Written by Wondersboy on 02 Jul, 2003
After a the final day of meetings and some last minute panic shopping, we decided to catch the 6:13pm Eurostar to Milan. Our flight left Milan the next day at noon and spending the night in Milan would be easier than having to leave Florence…Read More
After a the final day of meetings and some last minute panic shopping, we decided to catch the 6:13pm Eurostar to Milan. Our flight left Milan the next day at noon and spending the night in Milan would be easier than having to leave Florence at 6am.
The Eurostar is a fast train with only one stop at Bologna between Florence and Milan. It arrives at Central Station in Milan. From there, you take a bus or taxi to Cordona Station where you can catch the Malpensa Express train. The station in Florence is a busy hub with trains departing to cities around Italy and to international destinations. Announcements are made in Italian and English and there are several large "flip boards" that give the destination city departure time and track number. The Eurostar leaves on the dot at the stated departure time.
We took the first non-smoking compartment we could find. Each compartment had six seats, although even my skinny butt amply filled one of them. My colleague's larger derriere took up two seats. The seats were made of some worn leatherine. We couldn't fit our luggage into the racks provided, so we piled some on the floor between us. As the train pulled out, I excused myself to take a walk through the cars to see what facilities for food, restrooms, etc. were on board. 75% of the compartments were empty and those that were occupied seemed, in my surreal state to be filled with sinister characters. Suddenly, the train entered a tunnel. The air compressed by the movement of the train into the tunnel flowed into the cabins through the open windows and everyone simultaneously clamped their hands over their ears as our ears all painfully popped at the same time. I headed back to my compartment as we entered what would be the second of approximately 15 tunnels of various sizes that the train would pass through during the night.
"No food that I could see," I reported to my colleague.
It was nearly 11:30PM. I took off my shoes, lifted the armrests, took some clothes out of a suitcase for a pillow and lay down. Somehow, we both fell into fitful sleep. Around 1am, the lights in the cabin were thrown on. The conductor curled his nose when he read the hand-written scrawl on the backs of our tickets as if they smelled bad. He looked at us, looked at the tickets, and, after a dramatic pause, stamped them and turned off the light. I got up to hang out the aisle window for a while only to realize that we were just entering a city. Florence. A cart with some drinks was coming down the aisle and I was able to get something to drink. A Pepsi.
Written by jaybroek on 21 Nov, 2003
My first pass at the Uffizi was on a Monday and discovered that this wasn’t a good day to tackle Florence’s museums and galleries – most being decidedly shut. The Blonde looked rather pleased; more time for cafés and people watching, less of this ghastly…Read More
My first pass at the Uffizi was on a Monday and discovered that this wasn’t a good day to tackle Florence’s museums and galleries – most being decidedly shut. The Blonde looked rather pleased; more time for cafés and people watching, less of this ghastly being inside nonsense. She does despair of me sometimes.
So up at the crack of sparrows on Tuesday morning for me (a lazy late espresso in the Piazza della Signoria for the Blonde) and down to the banks of the Arno to join the pre-opening queues. The Uffizi tries to regulate visitors to a steady 600 at a time, which means long waits most of the day (even for the variety of pre-booked tickets on offer). I had to wait a mere half an hour and it’s not such a bad place to wait on line.
The gallery is arranged around the top floor of the Uffizi, a stern, two winged building built to house the Florentine government in the days of the Medici (Uffizi meaning ‘offices’). The majority of the collection is a testament to the wealth of the powerful Medici clan. They commissioned a large chunk of the output of Florence’s Renaissance masters and many exciting pieces are on show here.
The art work is arranged chronologically in a series of rooms linked by a grand ‘U’ shaped corridor which links the wings via a raised gallery next to the Arno. You are sternly encouraged to follow the time line – going back on yourself to revisit is met with severe opposition from the curators.
The sequence begins with serious Gothic art from the Tuscan school of the 13th and 14th centuries; mainly altarpieces and invariably displaying devotional scenes. Being something of a heathen, I hurried through much of this, only pausing to note an interesting tendency to portray biblical figures in contemporary clothing and locations. The Tuscan school clearly didn’t have ‘perspective’ on its syllabus, which must have been something of a frustration to its pupils.
The birth of the Renaissance in Florence is represented in the next set of rooms as artists got to grips with geometry and the paintings begin to become more ‘natural’. Of course, they didn’t give up on the religious stuff (I guess the artists knew which side their bread was butter on) and you pass a steady stream of ‘Madonna con bambinos’ (with bambino being of varying degrees of blondeness and chubbiness) interspersed with the odd pieta, annunciation and adoration of the magi thrown in for good measure.
I’m being flippant here – there are some incredible pieces of art here. I could barely get in the same room as della Francesca’s famous portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino but I did manage to get ahead of the decidedly impolite tour groups and enjoy some precious minutes with Botticelli’s glorious ‘Birth of Venus’ and slightly edgy ‘Primavera’. These rooms (10-15) house most of the highlights – in da Vinci’s unfinished ‘Adoration of the Magi’ one can see how the artist constructed the work and the facial expressions depicted resonate.
And so it goes on. There is a sumptuous octagonal room given over to Medici family portraits and works from further afield mapping the spread of the renaissance across Europe. It is well worth dwelling on the Arno corridor for a short while; it affords great views of the hills outside Florence and the Ponte Vecchio below and to the right. The second corridor kicks off with a classic from Michelangelo – Madonna con bambino with a twist! A rare appearance by Joseph means the bambino is daringly lifted onto a shoulder. I scoff but the vibrancy of this painting will catch your breath.
The final run is through the Medici’s later acquisitions, taking in Caravaggio, van Dyck, Rubens and Rembrandt. I found this section very interesting; subjects broadened out somewhat – you can have too much Renaissance. After a couple of hours I broke and made for the café at the end of the second corridor. Spend a few euros and enjoy the views across the city.
Like any gallery, the Uffizi has its ‘dry’ sections between the highlights but this was the centre of one of the most significant artistic periods in history and it is, overall, well worth the time and effort.
I found the Blonde sitting in the sun with her shades on, a slightly bemused look on her face. She tried to be grateful for the souvenir postcards, but I could tell her heart wasn’t in it. "Time for a glass of vino?"
Written by evanslyke on 18 Mar, 2003
There are countless places to begin a tour of art in Florence. In fact, at almost every turn one encounters an overwhelming sense of the Renaissance. The Galleria Degli Uffizi, however, is a great place to start and is amongst the most important artistic collections…Read More
There are countless places to begin a tour of art in Florence. In fact, at almost every turn one encounters an overwhelming sense of the Renaissance. The Galleria Degli Uffizi, however, is a great place to start and is amongst the most important artistic collections in the world. It was begun by Francis I de’ Medici, according to the plans of Cosimo I, to house together all the family’s collections on the second floor of the palace. While you will find sculpture and tapestries in the Entrance Hall, Vestibule, and Hall I of the First Gallery, it is almost exclusively paintings. Our Renaissance tour begins in Hall II.
Hall II - Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned
Hall II is dedicated to Giotto and to the Tuscan Primitives - Lucchese, Pisan, Sienese and Florentine schools of the 13th century. The most important works are by Cimabue and Giotto.
Begin your tour in front of Cimabue’s Madonna Enthroned with Angels. This is a wonderful example of Gothic transition (transition to Renaissance) painting of the Sienese school. The Sienese school is characterized by the use of gold and gold leaf in the work. The figures appear almost weightless, flat, and two-dimensional. They seem to float spiritually in the air. Mary does not appear as if she is sitting, but rather suspended where a throne should be. The figure’s toes are pointed downward, further enhancing the effect of weightlessness - they are rising to heaven. You can begin to see the transition in that some parts of this painting are two-dimensional, while others, like the arches, are three-dimensional. The bottom, or earthly portion, is three-dimensional. The top, or spiritual, is two-dimensional.
Now look at Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned with Angels. Though Giotto is seen as pre-Renaissance, he was one of the most important influences to the coming era. Giotto’s work was a major leap into the new world. It broke with tradition and began an new pictorial system. Before Giotto, one painted not for self-expression, but for the greater glory of God. This is evident by the fact we know few names of artists prior to the Renaissance.
In Giotto’s Madonna we see a new sense of space and mass. Mary appears to be carved rather than painted. Her body is folded as if really sitting - you see her knees pushing through the fabric of her robe. The painting also uses light, not line, to show the knee and how the cloth behaves. The light makes the knee look real and heavy as if velvet. For the first time, there is a body underneath the robes with an assertive human figure that has weight. The angels don’t hover, they occupy space. The Madonna looks less like the Queen of Heaven and more like the peasant woman she was. In this painting, Giotto brings heaven down to earth. He shows us the world that is seen, the actual, the visible. We see what is beautiful and sober: humanity in its essence; its mass; its dignity.
Giotto was heavily influenced (as were all Renaissance thinkers) by the teachings of St. Francis. The theology of St. Francis proclaimed all of creation as worthy of God’s praise, not just that which was "holy." Because people, plants, and animals are of God’s beauty, they should be held up as examples of God’s love. St. Francis also taught that the relation among humans is the most holy thing we have. The world human, or God come down to earth, is sacred.
Hall III has some great examples of the Sienese School. Martini’s Annunciation is quite elegant as are the works of Lorenzetti. Hall IV has more works from the Giotto School. Hall VII contains many works of Tuscan painters of the early 15th Century. I especially like the works of Masaccio and Piero della Francesca.
Masaccio brought the inventions of Giotto into a modern configuration. People look more like people and contain realistic weight. Light is used in a more realistic way in that it comes from a specific direction rather than just appearing. If you have time, visit Santa Maria Novella (church) to see The Holy Trinity. It really demonstrates how Masaccio brings together everything about the Renaissance into a world of mathematical order. You will begin to see in his works how the trinity is represented in the painting construction. Many Renaissance paintings contain a triangle of figures. This represents Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - the connection between the material and the holy. It also represents art’s growing understanding and use of math.
Piero della Francesca is interesting because he was more than just a painter. He was also a mathematician. He was not interested in beauty in the traditional sense. He believed that a painting must appear to be three dimensional if it was to be of any artistic value. Francesca used the triangle arrangement as a way to draw the eye up to the center of the picture and to enhance the sense of perspective. To Francesca, mathematics outweighed human empathy because mathematics was proof of truth. Gothic art was about what we know, not what we see. The Renaissance said, what we see is how we know.
Halls X-XIV contain the work of Sandro Botticelli, the artist who represented the highest ideas of the Florence of the Medicis. He created a new sense of beauty in the La Primavera. It represented an elaborate mythological allegory of the burgeoning fertility of the world.
The Birth of Venus, his most famous piece, is allegorically as well as metaphorically about the creation of an ideal human form. In fact, the face of Venus can be seen in other paintings (Botticelli and others) since she was considered "beauty." It was the attempt to arouse both physical love and spiritual meditation. It took its inspiration from the classical Venus pudica statue (in the Medici house) and made something new of it. While the technical concerns of the Renaissance are met - weighty, heavy form; triangles, etc. - they are changed somewhat. We see in Venus not a portrayal of a particular woman, but of the essential ideal of female beauty.
While you are in these halls, notice the difference between Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance styles. You will notice that the Northern pieces are painted with much greater precision and detail, while the Italian pieces are more structurally ideal.
The Northern culture was different from Italy. Dukes, not merchants, were in power, therefore the Gothic concepts of nobility and higher powers were still prevalent. There were no remnants from Classical Antiquity in people’s backyards, but there was the grandeur of the Alps. In the North, the walls of churches were not for frescos, but for brilliant stained glass that depicted with complexity the stories of the bible. When painting began in this period, it sought to emulate the glass by including as many details of a story as possible. Many of those details were hidden - disguised symbolism. Often everyday objects functioned on two levels. For example, a vase with a lily represented virginity, or a candle just blown out represented the presence of God. Another prominent artistic form of the North were the miniature forms in the margins of books. As a result of these influences, a Northerner learned that God was in the details.
To the Italians, God was in the whole. God lay in the overall structure represented by proportion and balance. Simplicity, a common theme of St. Francis, is for the same reasons much more important than complex detail.
Hall XV contains some work of Leonardo da Vinci, most notably the Adoration of the Magi. While this work of the young Leonardo remained incomplete, it is considered his first great masterpiece. Leonardo was a painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, writer, engineer, poet, musician, and philosopher - a true embodiment of the Renaissance.
Don’t miss Hall XXV. It contains the work of Michelangelo and is very High Renaissance (1500-1600). In painting of this period, the figures really come to life. Light, especially, is used dramatically to give power, majesty, and electricity to the work. Hall XXVI contains work of Raphael. Raphael made the High Renaissance accessible. The tones are warmer, the lines are softer, the pieces are very symmetrical, and the characters more tender. This contrasts with the power in Michelangelo’s work and the mystery and perfection of Leonardo. Of the three great masters, Raphael had more pupils because his style is much more easily communicated.
Hall XXVIII is dedicated to Titian, the greatest Venetian painter. The rest of the Uffizi is dedicated to other artists that take you through the Baroque Era (also very interesting, but not as relevant to Florence). If you have time, my two favorite Baroque artists, Rembrandt (Northern) and Caravaggio (Italian) are in Hall XLIV. Rembrandt is the master of light while Caravaggio (another master of light) is the Renaissance plugged into 220 volts.
Written by P L Byrne on 02 Jan, 2005
For some kids, like one of mine, churches and monuments in Italy are a real bust. My son lit up, however, when he spotted a Lamborghini or a Maserati. The funny, three-wheeled delivery vehicles were a novelty. He was amazed at the ratio of motor…Read More
For some kids, like one of mine, churches and monuments in Italy are a real bust. My son lit up, however, when he spotted a Lamborghini or a Maserati. The funny, three-wheeled delivery vehicles were a novelty. He was amazed at the ratio of motor scooters to cars. So if you take a "car kid" to Italy, here are some ideas to keep him or her excited:
1. Make a list of car types. Some people may even collect different models!
2. Make a list of fast, expensive car types like Maseratis and Lamborghinis. Then keep a tally of the number you see during your trip.
3. While relaxing at a café near a busy street, keep count of different kinds of vehicles: cars, trucks, motor scooters, motorcycles, and three-wheeled vehicles you see in a certain period of time—say, 15 minutes. You can have each member of the family count one type and then make a graph of the proportions. If you like this exercise, do it in different places.
4. In large cities, regular commuters, all dressed up, drive motor scooters. Try to guess what their jobs are.
5. Italian license plates carry the code of the province they are from. If you are driving, you can collect as many different provinces as possible (the Italy Discovery Journal has a checklist).
6. You will also see cars from different countries sporting oval country decals. Collect as many as you can (also listed and decoded in the Italy Discovery Journal).
7. Why do you think a brand of motorcycle is called Vespa (Wasp)? Or, why is a tiny delivery vehicle is called an Ape (Bee)?
8. Parking can be very creative in Italian cities. Have a contest with your family to find the wildest parking space.
9. Instead of parking meters, you will see several different parking systems—some involve tickets, while others have little clocks on the dashboard. Figure out how they work and explain to your puzzled parents.
10. Two men can actually lift little cars. That is how some parking attendants get the most number of cars into their lots. Watch to see them literally juggle the cars.
11. Italian drivers are quite fearless; watch out. And watch for some amazing driving. Tell someone about it or write a description in your journal.
12. Italians seems to have a naturally dramatic character, and low-speed accidents do happen in cities. You may witness some high drama as the drivers confront each other verbally. Physical violence is extremely rare.
13. A kilometer is 5/8 of a mile. When you are driving, convert distances in your head and tell your family how far a place is in miles.
P L Byrne
Author of Italy Discover Journal
500+ Ideas for Kids Traveling in Italy
Written by ruggero on 10 Aug, 2004
I could happily live in Florence without ever leaving this vibrant neighbourhood. Busy, often chaotic, the daytime population is swelled by thousands of tourists, most searching for bargains, some seeking to explore part of Florence's political and cultural history, others seeking food and drink. Large…Read More
I could happily live in Florence without ever leaving this vibrant neighbourhood. Busy, often chaotic, the daytime population is swelled by thousands of tourists, most searching for bargains, some seeking to explore part of Florence's political and cultural history, others seeking food and drink. Large numbers of students add to the lively milieu in these narrow cobbled streets squeezed between Fortezza da Basso, V.Panzani, V.Cerretani, and VMartelli and V.Cavour.
You can eat, drink, and sleep here. You can shop in Europe's largest indoor food market (Mercato Centrale), which is cosily enclosed by one of Europe's largest outdoor leather goods and clothing markets (Mercato di San Lorenzo). You can shop in dozens of small, family-run businesses. There are bakers and pasticerria selling delicious breads, pizza slices, savoury snacks, biscotti for dipping in wine, dolce made with fresh fruits, cream, mascarpone, and displayed with typical Italian flair.
There's a shop selling exquisite hand-painted ceramics on Via Guelfa and another in Piazza di San Lorenzo specializing in tapestries, brocaded cushions, and wall hangings, many embroidered with the purple Florentine lily, symbol of the city. You can buy notebooks, pens, pencils, postcards, cheap framed pictures, calendars, and prints of Florence at the cartoleria on Via Faenze. You can buy newspapers and magazines, Italian and foreign, at the newsstand close to the Medici chapels or the shop on the corner of Via Nazionale and Via Faenza, which also sells 'phone cards, film, tourist guides, cigarettes, and chocolate bars. There's an excellent shop on Viale Strozzi which meets all your photographic needs. You can get your watch repaired at a tiny shop in Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini and keys cut at the heel bar and key cutting shop on Via Faenze.
Fifty yards away you can take courses in Italian Language, Culture, and Cooking at Centro Lorenzo de Medici. When you leave class, cross the street for a look round Alice's Mask Shop, where Alice and her father practice the ancient craft of moulding papier-mache masks typical of 18th century Venice. Feltrinelli's bookshop on Via Cavour has a collection of English language books.
Buy a corkscrew at the kitchen equipment shop on Via dell'Ariento so you can use it to open the wine you bought at Casa del Vino on the same street. In this attractively simple enoteca with its dark wood and marble furnishings, there are always wines to taste before you buy and you can order a sandwich while you're making your mind up. Gianni, who runs the place with his father, will be happy to share his expertise with you. There's another excellent wine shop adjacent to Palle D'Oro (see above) where there are always a few regulars standing at the bar enjoying a glass of chianti. There's a laundromat on Via Nazionale and a smaller one on Via Faenza. Using the latter you could cross over to the bar on the corner of Faenza and San Antonino for a coffee, beer, or glass of wine while you wait. Or visit the neighbourhood barbiere a little further up Via Faenza and get your hair trimmed. Or drop into Your Virtual Office a few doors from the barbiere and get up to date with your e-mails. Alternatively, you could just sit and watch your underwear swirling round while contemplating the serious matter of where to wine and dine tonight.
There's an inviting array of traditional Tuscan trattorias to choose from and the amount you spend is very much a matter of choice.
For a good start to your evening, head for the Newsbar at the end of Via dell'Amorino. Oddly, since this area is frequented by so many tourists, the clientele is almost exclusively Italian, perhaps because they know something most tourists don't. There's nothing particularly striking about the Newsbar, except that in addition to having open bottles of wine on the bar from which one can choose to order a glass, there are also plates full of small panini and other little appetizers on which you can feast while enjoying your drink. This can save you the cost of an antipasto at the ristorante.
Where to eat? This is not the place for lengthy reviews. Some of these I'll describe more fully elsewhere, but there are some San Lorenzo trattorias I can confidently recommend. Everything in this neighbourhood is minutes away from everything else, so you can check them out first. In no particular order, you can eat well without breaking your budget at Palle D'Oro on Via San Antonino, and on Via Faenza at Antichi Cancelli, Trattoria Enzo e Piero, and Trattoria Antellesi.
On Via Nazionale, La Lampara offers a wide choice within a broad price range, from pizza and pasta to complete four-course meals. Close to the Newsbar, where you've just been indulging in their free nibbles, is Ristorante de'Medici (Via del Giglio). Peering through the windows at the large, high-ceilinged, chandeliered rooms, you may think it stuffy and grand-hotel-ish. Appearances are deceptive, however, and the Medici is another place you can drop into anytime for pizza or a simple pasta dish. If you're determined to have the famous bistecca alla fiorentina before leaving Florence, this is as good a place as any to order it, although your bill will rise considerably.
Over on the other side of the market on Via Guelfa, I'Toscano serves excellent Tuscan fare in two attractive rooms (don't confuse it with the cheap cafe and similar name on the same side of Guelfa), while on the other side of the street, Cafaggi offers a good value menu turistico. Around Piazza San Lorenzo, Trattoria Zaza, with its wooden bench tables, framed film posters, and subdued lighting, is a long-time favourite of mine, and unfortunately of a great many others. Dinner reservations are recommended for all these trattorias, but especially Zaza. Two places on Faenza, neither of which I've been to, have attracted some admiration: Lobs, a fish restaurant adjacent to Centro Lorenzo di Medici; and Maracan, a Brazilian restaurant with Latin dancers to entertain you throughout dinner. At midnight it turns into a disco, open till 4a.m.
For lunch only, don't miss Trattoria Mario on Via Rosina, where you'll mix with market workers and other regulars. It's just outside Mercato Centrale. Just inside the market is Nerbone, which has been serving simple, cheap Tuscan food since 1872.
For slices of pizza, brioche, schiacciata (a rosemary flavoured Tuscan bread baked with olive oil), and a multitude of cakes and fruit tarts, try Il Fornaio di Galli at the intersection of San Antonino and Faenza. On San Antonino, close to the market, is a friggitoria, selling the Italian equivalent of junk food, and where you can buy freshly made donuts and apple fritters.
During the 15th century, this neighbourhood was the political heart of Florence, where the Medici, the city's most enduring dynasty, governed from Palazzo Medici while San Lorenzo was built as their parish church. Most of them are buried in the Medici Chapels, their tombs the work of Michelangelo. It was in the mid-15th century that the tradition of wealthy, ruling families sponsoring art and artists was begun by Cosimo de Medici, named father of the country (the city-state of Florence, not Italy) after his death in 1464.
Two of Florence's greatest Renaissance artists, Donatello and Filippo Lippi, were probably the first ever artists in residence, living in Cosimo's Palazzo. Lippi, a Carmelite monk, had a voracious appetite for wine and women, and Cosimo resorted to locking him in to keep him focused on his painting. Lippi escaped using bedsheets as a rope and eventually Cosimo gave up his attempts at restraint, observing that artistic temperament was uncontrollable.
So when you look at this large, austere Palazzo, now a seat of provincial government as well as a museum, try and imagine one of the Renaissance's greatest religious painters edging down the wall clutching his bedsheets as he headed for a
night of debauchery. Lippi eventually absconded with a nun from Prato who bore him several children, including Filippino, who also became a Medici court artist.
I'll tell you why San Lorenzo is my favourite Florentine church in another section and also about the four neighbourhood hotels where I've stayed.
One final recommendation. Don't just be an extra, another walk-on in this extraordinary theatre. There's a bar on Via Faenze where I sit a couple of times a day watching the constant human parade go by while I write my journal. Nobody bothers me. Find somewhere you're comfortable, a bar, the steps of San Lorenzo or the stone seats built into the walls of Palazzo Medici. And observe, reflect, and write.