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Report 926: My Dream Trip To Italy and France

By BGE from Fox Creek, Alberta, Canada, Spring 2005

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Page 14 of 38: Uffizi Gallery Day

photo by BGE

What? You caught me!

I made this reservation a long time ago by booking on-line with Florence Art. I also booked a guided tour, because I don't know a thing about the layout of the Uffizi, and it makes sense to me to have a knowledgeable guide to take me through and show me the way. Today I’m to meet my guide, Daniela Bigatti, at the Uffizi’s door #3.

Leaving the apartment at 9:00 A.M. for my 9:45 A.M. tour, I take the #7 bus in front of my building. My son has been ragging at me because I get off the bus as soon as I see the scaffolding on the north side of the “Du-o-mo!” He thinks I should just stay on the bus and then I’d not have to walk so far, as he thinks it will take me right down town.

SO, this morning, I decide to ride the bus past the scaffolding and see where it lets me off. The bus turns right at the scaffolding! No, no, NO! I don’t want to go this way, not when I have a reservation that I paid a lot of dineros for, and that reservation is at 9:45 A.M. I get off the bus, all the way over by the train station, and start walking BACK towards downtown. (Note to self – tell son to take a hike of his own!)

I’m finally at the Uffizi, that is no problem. However, finding door #3 IS a problem. After walking the length of the gallery back and forth a few times, I do the most sensible thing and ask someone wearing a uniform where I can find door #3. I'm kinda expecting Monty Hall to step out right about now. The guy in the uniform looks like a security person, and he's very nice. He points me to the opposite side of the walkway. Now, who in their right mind would think that door #3 would be all the way over there, buried behind 13 pillars?

I find the door, I find a bench, I sit and wait. Very interesting, how people come up to me, one and two at a time, and ask me, “Are you with the 9:45 tour today?” Next thing I know, there are 13 of us and Daniela arrives!

She introduces herself to us, gets our tickets, gives us a little orientation talk and we are sailing past the huge, HUGE line-ups and into the gallery! Talk about feeling every eye in the place drilling into your back! Boy, the people in line are a little crusty, this morning! We can hear the mutterings and grumblings as we walk by (Daniela shows them a big, BIG grin and encourages us to smile, as well!)

My 3 hour guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery has begun and we climb up stairs, up some more stairs and once again with feeling, up some MORE stairs! The only consolation for us is that the group of students we are following are so busy heaving and ho-ing that they fall behind us. Totally wicked! We are in much better shape than those kids. In spite of feeling like my lungs cannot hold another breath, I take a deep one, then find I’m smiling to myself!

“Not bad shape, girlfriend, considering you're someone’s grandmother!” I think to myself.

Daniela is an art historian and it shows in the first 5 minutes. This woman knows her stuff, big-time. She takes us to the area where a very ornate grouping of 2-dimensional icons and murals of Medieval art are displayed and she walks us through the evolution of art, from the flat and uninteresting 2-dimensional pieces to the more life-like 3-dimensional works. Then, she leads us into the rooms holding these very gorgeous pieces by the artists in the 1500’s and 1600’s. This is why they call it the Renaissance!

It is amazing. Pieces that I’ve seen only in books or on TV are right in front of my eyes... close enough to touch, if I were allowed to do so.

Boticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, and “Primavera”.

Piero della Francesca’s “Duke and Duchess of Urbino”, accurate right down to the deformed nose of the Duke.

I cannot believe that I actually am priviledged enough to see these pieces. It is stunning that they are still in good condition after all those centuries. They've survived beautifully through wars, floods and fights over ownership... I'm mesmerized.

We move into another area of the gallery, and Daniela is explaining about Michelangelo’s 'Holy Family' being one of the few paintings of his still in existence. She says that it was likely created as a wedding gift and also that he designed the intricate and ornate frame as well.

I am struck with the spectacular colours in this piece, I'm in awe of the very obvious gift that this young man had at such an early age. He was 25 years old and he could paint like this already? I know what is meant by someone having a God-given gift. This young man was obviously so gifted.

This painting is so alive, the colours are incredibly bright and clear, almost luminous…I have no words. I want to stand here and look at this luscious piece and most of all, I want to touch it. The thick red silk rope barricade in front of the painting tells me that more people than myself have wanted to do that very thing.

Too soon for me, we move along, away from the 'Holy Family' to an area that is not yet open for tours, but because Daniella has an interest in this specific painter, she takes us in. We are seeing a display of Carravaggio’s works. Bloody, savage, shockingly realistic... one huge piece shows a woman slicing open a man's throat, his head bent backwards by the woman’s grasp on his hair. His neck is bent at an awkward angle as the knife slices through the skin, muscles and sinews of his stretched-taut neck. Blood is rivuleting down his skin, along clothing, then dripping thickly onto the floor.

There are several more like this, but I am still struck speechless by the gore and the realism that has been splashed on the canvas in front of me. Although the lighting is dim, the realistic appearance and raw viciousness of the painting screams out from the canvas.

Our tour is complete, and after saying our thanks and our goodbyes to Daniela, I leave the Uffizi and meet M. & D. at our favourite place for a delicious meal and cappuccino, our Rivoire. We finish a quick lunch and then head out to wander, window-shop and to buy gelato, of course.

I find a really wonderful glove shop, Martini’s, and I buy a pair of red leather gloves immediately. They are so elegant and the finishing is superb, with little laces holding the front and back together. I also choose a black pair, with miniature leather-covered buttons running the full length of each glove to the wrist on the little-finger side. For good measure, and because I'm here, I also buy another pair... plain, classic and slipper-soft, with a cashmere lining.

I am in heaven.

We wander into a leather shop, Maria Vittoria Latini at via Por S. Maria 35r, and I find a black leather blazer with white top-stitching and turned-back cuffs that literally takes my breath away. The price is also high enough to take my breath away! I tell the owner, Mario, that I’ll give it some consideration and sleep on it, but in my heart of hearts, I KNOW I’ll be back! You know how it is, when you find something that is a perfect fit, and you love it, as well? Come on now, I KNOW you know that feeling!

After a hazelnut gelato break, we duck into San Lorenzo's cloister area for a much-needed “peace and quiet” break. It is silent there, beautifully silent. There are no people pushing and shoving, no tour groups of ratty kids running and yelling and not listening to their poor beleaguered chaperones. It is as blissfully quiet and calm as sleep. We wander, sit, and take photos of each other, of the plaques on the wall, the flowers in the gardens. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... it's bliss!

I leave M. & D. then, walk along via Cavour towards my lovely apartment. These GEOX are spectacular. I have no sore feet, my blisters are healing, it was nearly pain-free walking today. Perfetto!

Best Things Today:

~ “The Holy Family” by Michelangelo

~ wandering with my son…so lovely that he is sharing some of this with me.

~ lemon spritzers at Rivoire

Worst Things Today:

~ crowds of people, pushing and shoving

~ beggars… I watched a young woman, maybe 19 or 20, transform herself from chic cute, in blue jeans and a short T-shirt, to a not-so-clean beggar in rags. She stashed her street clothes in the same paper bag that her beggar's rags were in a moment before, stuffed the bag under a shawl that she spread on the sidewalk, hunkered down on the shawl, assumed her “begging” posture, with feet slightly askew to look deformed, head lowered, sad faced, a chipped pottery cup on the pavement beside her.

It pisses me off, this manipulation of soft-hearted people who drop money into her cup. Mostly what angers me is her faking a disability. I’m the softest touch for someone in real distress or hardship, but not for this fake-y, bake-y crap.

D. softened yesterday, then dropped some coins in one guy's cup and promptly had both jacket pockets picked clean. The biggest loss? Not money, or credit cards, but journals that I’d brought as gifts for all of us, to write our thoughts down as we make our way through this magical trip...D's journal is now gone.

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