Day 10 (Sat, May 12): Florence - The Uffizi, Mercato Nuovo, Santa Maria Novella

We went to Florence for our final visit (of this tour anyway). Began the day with a 10:45 appointment at the Uffizi Gallery. Once inside we were on our own, as we would be for the rest of the day. What a treasure trove! Everywhere one turns there's a priceless masterpiece. It would take a lifetime to fully appreciate it all. The gallery is really the Medici family art collection, bequeathed to the city upon the death of Palatine Electress Anna Maria Ludovica de' Medici, known as "the last of the Medicis", on condition that none of the donations may ever leave Florence.

The Uffizi was begun by Giorgio Vasari (Lives of the Artists) in 1560 for Cosimo I de' Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates -- hence the name "uffizi" (ufficio = office). Grand Duke Cosimo envisioned the upper floor - which connected by a sky bridge to the Palazzo Vecchio - as an art gallery, through which one could walk to the River Arno, cross the Ponte Vecchio and arrive the Pitti Palace and its Boboli Gardens. For the individual rooms of the Uffizi, refer back to the floor plan of the gallery. The corridors are lined with hundreds of Roman statues and busts. The tiny shelves just below the ceilings, running the full length of all corridors, contain painted portaits of friends, guests and Medici family members (sort of like a modern photo album).

As the wikipedia article says, here is just a small sampling of the contents of the Uffizi:

note: the four tondi are Botticelli's Magnificat, Caravaggio's Medusa, Ghirlandaio's Adoration of the Magi, and Michelangelo's Holy Family (apparently at the YMCA), all from the Uffizi Gallery

Karen especially liked Rembrandt's juvenile Self-portrait. She noted what a relief it was to see such portraits after all those Madonnas-with-child (though those were lovely, too). We did take the Stendahl syndrome advice Christine and Sabrina gave us us: a little past half-way we went to the terrace bar and sat down to enjoy a cappucino and some biscotti. We also enjoyed the view of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio from up there, as well as a closeup view of the upper floors of the Palazzo Vecchio. And we ran into other Edlerhostelers.

Ponte Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio

Karen and Edward

Joyce and Dick Hall

Sue Degan, Dick Flower, Joan Rearich

Sam and Maggie Kniffen

il Porcellino

the scarf seller
Just behind the Uffizi we sat in the shade for a while with Sam and Maggie Kniffen for a much-needed rest. Then we went to the Mercato Nuovo (new market) to find a copy of "il Porcelino". The original boar was carved from marble by a BC Greek. In the 17th century the Italians made a marble copy 'Cinghiale' now in the Uffizi Gallery. A Bronze casting was made by Pietro Tacca in 1612 who changed the base of the simple Greek statue by adding a pool surrounded by plants, snakes, frogs and turtles. It is a fountain with water coming out of the mouth. You put coins in his mouth, which fall into the drain grate, and then you make a wish. Rubbing his snout guarantees a return to Florence (we hope so). We found a scarf for Karen, one for Karen's sister Chris and another for our neighbor Raylene (who was watering our houseplants).

We had lunch at a Florence insitution, the nice ristorante Gilli, indoor/outdoor caffé dating back to 1733 and located on the Piazza della Repubblica. Incidentally, here is a typical caffé menu with translations; more information here. I had excellent tagliatele (egg noodles) in lemon sauce (yummy) and Karen had ravioli in butter and sage (also yummy). It was only partially full, and no one rushed our leisurely "unwind" after all the day's art. We finished off our final trip to Florence by dropping into Santa Maria Novella to see Masaccio's "Holy Trinity", which Kirk had discussed earlier.

We rested before dinner. Our dining room was invaded by yet another group of German travellers - not such an overwhelming number this time, however, and better behaved. Finished off the evening in the courtyard.