Artists’ Paradise!

The taps ran dry on the last day and I had no means of fixing it. Massimo was in his room I suspected, for I could hear the sound of water pattering softly just above my roof (he had told me the previous night that he lived on the second floor of the same building). Moments later, he rushed downstairs apologising to someone on the phone.
‘Why, what’s wrong, sir?’ he asked pausing briefly at my door.

‘The taps in my bathroom have run dry,’ I said. ‘I might need some help’. 

‘Che Macello! (What a mess!),said Massimo ‘I’m so sorry, sir. There’s an emergency, I shall send in a man as soon as I can spare one.’ 

His mobile phone rang interrupting our conversation. Room number 109. Bring Giuseppe with you,he said over the phone describing my plight to the headwaiter. ‘Looks like a man’s free. He’ll be assisting you with the plumbing. Sorry, sir, I need to go. I’ll see you afterwards’ said Massimo and left. The delay was long, few hours as I can best recollect. I wasn’t going to leave until 10am.

The first thing that you’ll observe on the narrow streets of Florence is that their names can be confusing. Some streets have one name at one end of the street and another at the other. For instance, last evening, I observed that the Via Martelli that leads away from the cathedral, at the first crossroads, turns into Via Cavour. Damn! this can be extremely confusing for tourists. However, the city boasts of some of the oldest paved streets in all of Europe, older than Milan and even Rome itself!

Some half a kilometre from my hotel stood the widely acclaimed cathedral; if there’s anything that matches the St.Peter’s in beauty and its sheer structural grandeur, it most certainly is The Florence Cathedral (or The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore). The monument is special in its own way. Its high walls and its beautiful Dome is Florence’s centre of attraction. The spired Cathedral towered the entire city at one point in time and still astounds its tourists in every way. The tantalising mediaeval frescoes contained within are truly awe-inspiring. With the largest brick dome in the world, this architectural wonder is a jewel atop Tuscany’s grand capital. As soon as I reached the exquisitely embellished doors at the entrance, at somewhat noon time, the weather suddenly changed for the better; beams of sunlight cut straight through the dreary clouds creating a gaping hole in the sky, lighting up the tower’s eastern facade. No sooner had I entered the building than bells atop the tower rang sharply amidst a noisy crowd; the sound rattled my ribs. It was 12’o clock.

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Beautifully decorated doors of the Cathedral

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There I stood, facing the nave, and it was humongous! It certainly isn’t the longest or the highest in the world, for it certainly isn’t the St.Peter’s you see. But blimey, it gave me shivers.

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I walked around the inner perimeter twice before reaching the chancel. The frescoes under the soaring Duomo are fantastic. However, I couldn’t capture the painting in great detail, for my camera was only capable of zooming as much as is shown below. The interior, in contrast to the exterior, is pretty stark and quite enjoyable.

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Fresco under the Cathedral’s dome

The entrance to the cathedral is free, albeit the Duomo isn’t. However, my Firenze card availed me free entrance to the Duomo and the Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) therewithal.

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SDC11009.JPGStarted in the 13th century, the Duomo – although designed on the inside and consecrated in the same year of its completion – was supposed to be incomplete until the 19th century, when it was finally finished by the likes of the time. The clock, above the main door of the Cathedral, was designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello in accordance with the ora italica, where the 24th hour of the day ends at sunset.

From above the tower that stands guard on the right-hand side of the front entrance, one can see the weather-stained Cathedral clad in white and pink with a marble finish and the Duomo with a tint of green among other colours.DSC08610

From the top of Giotto's Bell Tower

The next attraction was north of the Cathedral, on the Via Ricasoli. This was a very special place, for it housed a classical relic skillfully chiselled by one of history’s finest artists. Also, this was my last place of interest in Florence and I had the privilege to spend as many hours as I wished for.

Contemplating David: I have to say that I am greatly fond of history as I have been all my life and I do not regret it, for I have been a history-geek – as modern English puts it – for as long as I can remember. And even if you’re such as he who hates history, you will not fail to acknowledge this wonderful collection of late mediaeval art.

The lines outside the Galleria dell’Accademia can be long and as you can see from the picture below, the lines were indeed so – people were waiting for as long as 2 hours or more. I still had to wait in line for 10 minutes even with the Firenze card. No wonder this is one of the most visited places in Florence.

With the audio-guide plugged in, I began my two and a half hour trip through The Renaissance. Galleria

The tour began with David below the halo-like structure on the far end of the hall to my right. The fourteen feet high, broad-shouldered stone structure gleaming under  high walls appeals to all; even those who are least bothered about it.

Within the Hall of the Prisoners stand Michelangelo’s unfinished works, literally imprisoned inside the brightest bespoke marbles from a nearby quarry anon after he completed David. And David stands at the other end of the hall graciously venerating it. The prisoners, who were supposed to embellish the tomb of Pope Julius II, were left unfinished.

They comprise of 4 statues hight Young Slave, Awakening Slave, Atlas, Bearded Slave (clockwise from the entrance). The statues were abandoned at a very early stage with the prisoners’ heads and faces the least developed parts.

David – a figure from the prophetic texts – a man of humble origins, standing tall, facing bible’s giant villain in a legendary duel. Humble though he is, small be his stature, he represents mankind stepping out of the darkness and declaring I can do it. His brilliantly undeterred but kind gaze lay fixed upon his opponent. He’s humanity’s best example of an ideal man. And Michelangelo’s depiction deviates little from the traditional theology. The shepherd boy stands high holding a sling in his left hand ready to hurl a stone at Goliath.

Michelangelo’s black bust, says Rick Steves (audio-guide), sits sadly in the corner looking at the floor, ignored by his fans. In spite of his success in sculpting David, Michelangelo looks distraught, wart on his furled brow…his mortality exaggerated in the shadow of his towering creation.

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Michelangelo during his last days

Julius is history, the prisoners bow their heads, and Michelangelo’s chisel is lost. Only David stands high, saying in marble eloquence, that life on earth — no matter how grand — is just an overrated speed bump. Michelangelo intended to show the soul imprisoned in the body. While the Prisoners’ legs and heads disappear into the rock, their chests heave and their bellies shine.

Some lesser sites in the museum include The Hall of Colossus that houses the Rape of the Sabines and an exclusive gallery that displays works by the students of art. The museum also has an art school attached to it. Who knows? The next Michelangelo might be wandering the streets along with you.

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Rape of the Sabines

I know that that day, I was lost in time; going back hundreds of years. To the time of Colombus and Galileo. The few hours that I had spent in the museum had given me enough to admire the world’s most famous artist and thinker.

–  Immortal Chiron

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