Day 6 (Tue, May 8): Florence, San Lorenzo, Medici Chapels, Duomo Museum
Neither Karen nor I slept very well. About 2:15 am we received word from Seattle that Karen's Mom had passed away around noon. A memorial service wouldn't be held until we returned after this trip. Her death was not unexpected, but it still took some time to sink in.
We all walked to the Montecatini Centro train station where Christine and Sabrina gave us each a ticket and showed us how to validate it (slide it in the yellow box and move it to the left until it stamps the date/time) and where to board, making sure we knew which direction would take us Florence (to the left, coming out door). They also pointed out the "graffiti wall" we'd need to spot to recognize the station on our return. Trains are not announced; stations have only one tiny sign, so you need to recognize something else. The ride took about an hour and was actually very pleasant.
Rocky rushed us quickly through the Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes), a truly tasteless, gaudy concoction intended to memorialize the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, just behind the main altar (see the picture to the right). Wikipedia describes it thus: The most celebrated and grandest part of San Lorenzo are the Cappelle Medicee (Medici Chapels) in the apse. The Medici were still paying for it when the last member of the family, Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, died in 1743. Almost fifty lesser members of the family are buried in the crypt. The final design (1603-1604) was by Bernardo Buontalenti, based on models of Alessandro Pieroni and Matteo Nigetti. Above is the Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes), a great but awkwardly domed octagonal hall where the grand dukes themselves are buried. The style shows Mannerist eccentricities in its unusual shape, broken cornices, and asymmetrically sized windows. In the interior, the ambitious decoration with colored marbles overwhelms the attempts at novel design. At its centre was supposed to be the Holy Sepulchre itself, although attempts to buy and then steal it from Jerusalem failed.
1 - Basilica di San Lorenzo by Brunelleschi
2 - Sagrestia Vecchia, (Old Sacristy) by Brunelleschi
3 - Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) by Michelangelo
4 - Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes) by who cares?
|Basilica di San Lorenzo||two-domed Sagrestia Vecchia|
|Sagrestia Nuova with the tombs of Giuliano and Lorenzo, and the Madonna between Cosmas and Damian|
|Giuliano with night and day||dusk and dawn with Lorenzo|
The church itself was beautiful. Nicely proportioned, not at all gaudy (if anything understated). How could it be otherwise? Brunelleschi designed and built it. Somewhere it should be noted that the Medici were not royalty ... they were bankers who were more powerful than most royalty. They (prior to the Dukes anyway) knew that regal displays of wealth wouldn't sit well with the Florentines. Still, their nearly noble image of themselves was reflected, for example, in the fact that they used porphyry in the Old Sacristy (also designed by Brunelleschi): note the large purple circle in the middle of the table. Porphyry was a very rare marble traditionally reserved for emperors.
The Accademia and Michelangelo's David
At 12:30 Christine and Sabrina led us to the Accademia, home to Michelangelo's David (1504). The building itself houses many paintings and other sculptures - notably 15th and 16th century Florentine paintings by Paolo Uccello, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli and Andrea del Sarto and, from the High Renaissance, Giambologna's original plaster for the Rape of the Sabine Women - but David, the most recognizable statue in the history of art, dominates it all from the Tribuna that was ultimately built especially to house it. The statue is 517 cm (17 feet) tall, executed by the 26-tear-old Michelangelo from a block of Carrara marble which had been previously rejected for a prone David. It was originally meant to top the dome of the cathedral and, as a result, proportions are a little off when viewed closeup. There is a good, brief description of it in Wikipedia. David was originally placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (there is a copy in that original location today). The Florentines added a gilded wreath to his head and a gilt-bronze belt to cover his nudity. At that time the supporting tree stump was also gilded. In 1873, to protect it from weather, it was moved into the Accademia. I can honestly say that I have never seen a photo which does this statue justice. The look on David's face (whether he has already struck the blow or is about to) is impossible to describe. The place was jammed with people, though David of course towers over everything and everybody. We admitted that we were, at last, "arted out" and left to see about lunch.
We followed Sabrina's advice and found a wonderful little restaurant, the Buca Niccolini, just steps away from the Duomo (see the map, and click "hybrid"). We had an excellent spaghetti carbonara with red wine (Karen's actually had red wine in it, Spaghetti Urbiachi). Cost break down: 2 x Coperto (cover charge) 3,50; Vino (373 cl) 6,00; Carbonara 6,85; Ubriachi 6,85 -- Tot. € 23,20
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