Florence: Uffizi and Vertigo

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start: six and a half hours is way too long to spend in any museum. Our little brains just aren’t meant to handle that much beauty for such a sustained period of time.

What am I talking about, you may ask? We arrived at the Uffizi museum this morning at 10:00 and we didn’t leave until after 4:30. Yeah. That’s a long time. I began to feel like we worked there. After all that stimulation my brain felt like tapioca pudding”¦not that I’m complaining. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to view priceless works of art, but I can only take so much.

We saw original works by artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. And I’m sure if you know me at all you can already guess that I couldn’t see those names without walking around singing the Ninja Turtle song:

Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello
Make up the team with one other fellow
Raphael. He’s the leader of the group
Transformed from the norm by the nuclear goop.
Pizza’s the food that’s sure to please
These ninjas are into pepperoni and cheese.

Damn my inner child. This picture to the left is the view from inside the Uffizi looking out toward the Palazzo Vecchio. The Uffizi’s been serving as a public museum since 1765, and according to our tour book even two centuries before the official opening the public could visit to view the collections by making a simple request. Leonardo and Michelangelo (the artists not the turtles) frequently visited the museum for inspiration, and even on our visit today I saw hopeful artists hunched over sketch pads attempting to emulate the masters of the past through their scribblings.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you about the Uffizi. I know I could never adequately describe the emotions you would feel gazing at works by the classical masters. I also know that I could never sufficiently relate to you the scope and size of the physical building. So basically what I’m telling you is that you have to visit it for yourself.

I can tell you this: normal people turn into pretentious know-it-alls when they visit art museums. Now, I’m fully aware of my ignorance as far as the world of art goes. That’s why I make sure I buy a guide book on the way through the door. If I didn’t have the guide book I’d have no idea of the significance of the works in the museum. I mean, my entire repertoire of artistic knowledge comes from comic books. So I usually look at the paintings for a few moments, try to get a grasp on what I’m looking at, open my guide book and read the description, and then look at the painting again and try to synthesize what I’ve read with what I’m seeing.

Sounds logical right? I think so too, but apparently others do not. You have no idea the number of times today I heard some pretentious sounding nitwit providing commentary about a painting to their friends and getting the most basic facts of it wrong. For example? Well, for starters facts such as who the painter is depicting in their painting. Several times while I was reading the description in my tour book I overheard people standing behind me saying things like “Okay, now you see that guy? That’s John the Baptist because John always wore that kind of outfit.” And I look down and the description of the painting said that the figure was the patron who commissioned the painting, who was most certainly not John the Baptist. Ugh. The threat of a foreign jail was the only thing that stood between my foot and that guy’s crotch.

After the Uffizi Leigh and I both felt like we needed some physical exercise to clear our heads, so we decided to visit the Piazzale Michelangiolo which sits atop a steep hill on the south end of Florence. We climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed, and were finally rewarded with a magnificent view of the city. I bought a gelato at the café in the Piazzale, and we sat on a little stone bench surrounded by sweet-smelling flowers and simply decompressed high above Florence.

Even after visiting the Piazzale we still felt a little overwhelmed intellectually and emotionally from the Uffizi, so we decided to stroll down to the Piazza dei Duormo and climb to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower.

Andrea Pisano finished building the ornate Tower according the deceased Giotto di Bondone’s designs in 1359, and even today it still represents amazing architectural ingenuity, beauty, and craftsmanship. It is an awesome structure that can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. I should add that the Tower stands an amazing 274 feet tall, and to reach the top you have to climb 414 steep, stone steps. That’s right”¦there’s no elevator. You have to climb. I’m gonna be honest here: I was a little scared when we got to the top. Okay”¦kind of a lot scared. I’ve never gotten vertigo before, but when we walked into the bright sun on the top of that tower a dizzy feeling overtook me, and I latched onto the railing and held it so tightly that my knuckles turned white and my forearms began to shake. Look how happy Leigh looks”¦I’m not even posting my embarrassing photo.

We’re visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia tomorrow before we head out for Rome. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to view Michelanglo’s “David.” If we have internet in Rome I’ll let you know how it went.

Just a quick aside: While looking at a several paintings illustrating Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden, Leigh and I began to talk about the creation accounts in the book of Genesis. I mentioned that I had read an article which stated that a large percentage of people actually believe that males have one less rib than females because in Genesis God removed a rib from Adam to make Eve. Leigh asked what I thought those people would say if she took a couple of X-Rays from the hospital and showed them the truth. I told her I didn’t think it would matter”¦there are some people who think that Genesis give us a literal account of creation, and accordingly that the Earth is only two thousand years old despite an overwhelming abundance of scientific data which disputes the Bible. Leigh said she thought it might be easier to simply decide to stop believing in things because it must make life much easier.

Truth or repose”¦take your pick.

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3 thoughts on “Florence: Uffizi and Vertigo

  1. Yeah, I agree, it is too much — just like the Louvre, after hours of paintings, all you see is “just another painting.” What’d you think of the Botticelli room?

    And on Vertigo, hell, I know exactly how you feel. Wait till you climb to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Vatican – I felt physically nauseated. But the views, ahh the views!

    You’re my kinda tourist – gelato at every opportunity. While Florence created the gelato, Rome is no shabby gelato-town either. I’ll post on Rome and the Vatican pronto, so I get it in before you guys leave 🙂


  2. OMG, St. Peter’s, dagnabbit, not Paul’s – wrong city 😛


  3. I know. I started to feel a little guilty about it, but after a while you just cant look at another piece of art.

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