Florence Day 3 – Uffizi Galleries, Palazzo Medici & Duomo Museum

For our final full day, we wanted to make the absolute most of our remaining time in the beautiful city of Florence. So yet again we were up at the crack of sparrows before heading out to the Uffizi Galleries. We’d seen the size of the queues on our first day so it was our aim to get there for opening – we were in the building for about twenty past eight in the morning. And it was wonderful.

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Main corridor of the Uffizi

The galleries lead you around rooms filled with art of some of the best Renaissance painters and beyond. On the second floor you walk through galleries of the early Renaissance, through to Botticelli and Michelangelo – I was honestly in heaven. When you move to the first floor there are works by later Renaissance artists as well as the famous Seventeenth Century artist Caravaggio.

I’ll say it now though – if I ever see another Madonna and Child fresco for as long as I live, I will scream. There were HUNDREDS of them. Literally everywhere. I’ve even started having nightmares about them…okay so that’s an exaggeration, but still.

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The first of many. Photo by me.

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Photo by me

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There were a few rooms that had me squeaking for joy. The moment I saw Federico da Montefeltro’s portrait from afar, I tore off to get a closer look. In the very same room was a portrait of Galeazzo Maria Sforza as well!

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Federico da Montefeltro. He had himself painted this way so people wouldn’t see his missing right eye. Portrait by Piero della Francesca. Photo by me.

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Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who was assassinated in 1476. Portrait by Piero Benci. Photo by me.

And then there were the Botticelli rooms with two of the artist’s most famous works on display. I can’t even begin to describe to you what it was like standing in front of both the Primavera and the Birth of Venus – the only words that really come to mind are ‘awe inspiring’. And whilst up close you could really see how Simonetta Vespucci popped up in his works over and over again.

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Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me

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Birth of Venus detail. Photo by me.

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Man holding a coin by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me.

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Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me.

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Primavera detail. Photo by me.

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Primavera. Photo by me.

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Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by me

Other delights that we saw included statues that looked like they were dancing, a portrait of Martin Luther, Cosimo de’ Medici and Pope Julius II!

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Photo by me

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Photo by me

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Martin Luther. Photo by me

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Cosimo de’ Medici by Jacopo Pontormo. Photo by me.

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Pope Julius II by Raphael. Photo by me.

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Detail of Pope Julius II by Raphael. Photo by me.

After a good three and a half hours or so in the Uffizi, we took a wander back to the apartment for lunch before heading back out to the Palazzo Medici. This Palazzo is somewhere I had wanted to see from the moment I began to read about the Medici family and stepping inside those walls for the first time was amazing. Some of the upper floor was closed off so we didn’t get to see all of it – we did get to have a look around their displays relating to the floods and a few of their other display pieces, as well as the absolutely stunning Chapel of the Magi.

The moment we walked into that little chapel I stopped dead in my tracks. Inside I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful frescoes in the world, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, frescoes which truly show the wealth of the Medici family. In it you see the Magi travelling towards their final destination of the new-born Jesus. The frescoes are full to bursting with the celebrities of the time, noblemen who ruled their various cities including Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta and Galeazzo Maria Sforza. You also have the prominent figures of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici and Cosimo de’ Medici, all of whom are following the three magi. It is said that the face of the Young King, Caspar, is possibly a portrait based upon a young Lorenzo the Magnificent. One of the other Magi is traditionally said to be Joseph of Constantinople.

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Palazzo Medici. Photo by me

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Palazzo Medici. Photo by me

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Palazzo Medici. Photo by me

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Procession of the Magi, Palazzo Medici. Photo by me.

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Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici. Photo by me.

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Detail of the Young King, Procession of the Magi. Photo by me.

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Detail of Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medi & Cosimo de’ Medici in the Procession of the Magi. Photo by me.

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Chandelier in the rooms added by the Riccardi family, Palazzo Medici. Photo by me

Our last stop for the day was the Cathedral museum, located behind Santa Maria del Fiore. Thankfully the tickets we had gotten with our Duomo tour package lasted for 48 hours so we had plenty of time to go and see it – on the way around the Piazza del Duomo we considered going up Giotto’s bell tour…but then we saw the queue so decided to carry on around to the museum. After all those steps the day before, it was definitely for the best!

The museum is located over three floors, with a little terrace at the very top from which you can view the Duomo. And as it says on the tin, it’s a museum of everything to do with the Cathedral – within it you can see original statues from the facade, models of each facade through the ages as well as the sort of building apparatus that would have been used when Brunelleschi built the Duomo. There was also an absolutely stunning silver altar from the Baptistery that shows the life of Saint John the Baptist. I’d definitely recommend swinging into this museum if you visit the Duomo, as there is SO much more to learn about that stunning piece of architecture, some of which can really only be learned within these walls.

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Doors of Paradise by Ghiberti. Photo by me

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Scary looking Jesus, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

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Michelangelo’s Pieta, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

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Brunelleschi’s death mask, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

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Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

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Detail of the Baptistery altar, Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

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Baptistery altar. Photo by me.

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View of the Duomo from Brunelleschi’s terrace at the Cathedral Museum. Photo by me.

Dinner that evening was a lovely affair at the Ristorante Accademia, the very first restaurant that we visited when we arrived in Florence. Yet again I was absolutely amazed at their service and their food was just brilliant. Afterwards, full of great wine and amazing food, we went across the piazza to have one last look at San Marco before heading back to the apartment. The next day we would be homeward bound, but not before squeezing in one last place of historical interest – Santa Maria Novella.

 

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See you soon, San Marco. Photo by me.

Florence Day 1 – Santa Croce & Palazzo Vecchio

We flew out to Pisa on Monday 8 May but after nearly 12 hours travelling, once we reached the apartment that we were staying in for the week, we weren’t really up for going anywhere too much. So a quick trip to the local supermarket was had, followed by a nice meal out in a sweet little restaurant just opposite the Museum of San Marco. The walk to and from the restaurant had me losing my footing on the paving slabs – one of which was in torrential rain after a whole lot of red wine, straight into a massive puddle. And then it was straight to bed, because the next day would be a busy one.

Our original plan had been to start at the Palazzo Vecchio and move on from there. But once we arrived we found that the tower was closed until the afternoon because of the previous nights rain storm, and a whole lot of the museum was closed up because of some big event, talk thing. So we decided that we would spend the morning in Santa Croce before heading back to the Palazzo later on.

On the way out, we decided to stop by Savonarola’s execution monument located in the Piazza della Signoria. Seeing it for the first time was a very emotional moment for me, given the amount of time I have put into researching his life, and the time I still intend to put into researching his life in the future. The monument itself is placed on, or if not directly on then very near to, the spot in which Fra Domenico; Fra Maruffi and Fra Savonarola were executed for their supposed crimes by hanging and burning.

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Mini Savonarola marking the place of his human counterparts execution. Photo by me.

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Me and Savonarola’s plaque. Photo by M. Bryan

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Lion in the loggia. Photo by me.

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The Palazzo Vecchio, before the weather picked up a bit. Photo by me.

The walk to Santa Croce was a short one, actually half way between the Palazzo Vecchio and our apartment, so it didn’t take us all that long to get there. The church itself is an absolutely stunning example of Italian architecture, consecrated in the fifteenth century. Although the outer facade that we see today wasn’t added until much later, being completed in 1865.

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The exterior of Santa Croce. Photo by me.

I was seriously surprised at the lack of any sort of queue when we finally found the entrance to the little basilica – although with our Firenze Card’s we were able to skip the line anyway, there wasn’t even a queue in sight.

But the moment we stepped inside, I was in awe. I stopped, looked around and tears sprung to my eyes at the sheer beauty of the place. Not only the beauty, but the fact that some of my very favourite Renaissance personalities are buried within this beautiful little church including Machiavelli and Michelangelo. I honestly didn’t know where to look first, it was all so beautiful. And there were so many rooms and chambers off the main church – one of which included the apparent robe of St. Francis of Assisi! After we had finished looking around inside and I had finished getting emotional over Machiavelli, we headed outside and had a looks around the Pazzi Chapel and the cloisters.

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Apparent robe worn by Saint Francis of Assisi. Photo by me

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Me standing in front of Machiavelli’s tomb. Photo by M.Bryan

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Michelangelo’s tomb. Photo by me.

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Detail of Michelangelo’s tomb. Photo by me.

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Santa Croce exterior. Photo by me.

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Cloister of Santa Croce. Photo by me.

After a quick lunch we headed back to the Palazzo Vecchio for the rest of the afternoon, using our special cards to get tickets for both the museum and the tower. I was itching to get up the tower, as it was where Girolamo Savonarola was imprisoned after his arrest, but we decided to do the museum first. And from the word go, I think I spent more time looking up than I did looking anywhere else! The ceilings were so stunningly beautiful that they look my breath away with their frescos and gold leaf. Everywhere you looked you could see the Medici coat of arms and more exciting for me, there were frescos involving the most famous members of the Medici family.

The very first room you enter is the Hall of the 500, a large chamber that was commissioned by Girolamo Savonarola in 1494. The hall, although beautifully decorated now, was incredibly plain during Savonarola’s time – he himself had vowed to have a life of poverty, and had the Florentine’s working towards making their city the New Jerusalem. That meant getting rid of all vanities – so his new Government hall had to reflect that.

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Hall of the 500. Photo by me.

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Giovanni di Bici de’ Medici, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Palazzo Vecchio ceiling. Photo by me

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Fresco showing Lorenzo the Magnificent, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Medici coat of arms. Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Portrait of Machiavelli, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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View of the Duomo from Palazzo Vecchio’s tower. Photo by me.

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Beneath the bells, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Top of the tower, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Shocked looking horse, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Marble busy, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Close up of Vasari’s Florence, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Map of Florence, Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

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Archaeologists in the Roman excavations beneath the Palazzo Vecchio. Photo by me.

On the way down from the tower, we sat in the Alberghetto for a good long time. The Alberghetto, or ‘Little Inn’ is a tiny cell at the top of the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and has played host to some incredibly important prisoners including Cosimo the Elder and Girolamo Savonarola. It was a very moving experience for me, sitting in this plain little cell and knowing that Savonarola spent his last remaining days on earth in that tiny little cell. As we sat in there, others came into the room and simply used the bench within for a rest point before heading up the rest of the tower. They gave little thought for what the room was actually used for or who had been imprisoned there. I doubt they even noticed the plaque above the door stating that this had been the holding place of Savonarola. I haven’t put any photographs up that I took within the Alberghetto as these are being used for my upcoming book on the man himself.

After a good few hours within the Palazzo Vecchio we stopped for a gelato in the Piazza della Signoria before taking a slow walk up to the Ponte Vecchio and heading back to the apartment. Dinner that night involved pizza and wine in a quaint little pizzeria just within sight of the infamous Duomo – which was to be our destination the very next afternoon!