Tuesday, March 29, 2016

First Full Day in Florence

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 831).

After having spent a wonderful evening the night before celebrating at the Great Vigil of Easter at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Holllywood, I prayed this prayer full of Easter joy as I started out with Steve on this journey.

It was an easy layover in Frankfurt heading to our "home" for the next five weeks: St. James Episcopal Church Townhouse in Florence, Italy. Julia Wright greeted us warmly as we pulled up in the cab from the airport. She opened up the front door of the townhouse and began to explain where things were, how things worked -- and most importantly for me and my sabbatical endeavors, how to connect to wifi and where the best places in the townhouse are to pick it up. 

To say that my heart leapt for joy as I entered the townhouse would be an understatement! Three bedrooms, three baths on three floors (great for getting steps in), beautifully decorated with antiques, and a general feeling of quiet peace. Steve and I walked through the rooms looking at each other with the feeling, "this is so much more than we had hoped it would be."

We soon discovered that we had arrived in Florence on Easter Monday -- a holiday in Europe (as is Good Friday!). Just about everything was closed -- BUT the local "supermarket" was open. Julia had made sure of that before she sent us over there to procure more provisions (the Church had made sure there were some essentials -- milk, coffee, cookies, cereal and wine stocked in the townhouse). Steve and I walked over to the store -- and bought cheeses, cold cuts, bread, bottled water, more cereal, fruit and yogurt for the "pantry". 

We waited for my sisters and my brother in law to arrive from the airport -- their flights were to arrive 4 hours later than ours. We were ready for them. They settled into their rooms and joined me for a second trip to the supermarket, and to scope out what might be opened for us for dinner. After a second shopping exposition, we discovered that a few restaurants were indeed open in the neighborhood. Back to the townhouse to put things away and then out again to eat.

We had a lovely "first meal" at Il Gourmet. It seemed as though my sisters and I had been together every day instead of not-all-that-often. We fell into a rhythm with each other that is at the same time comfortable and comforting. 

Waking up on Tuesday, the "Jardine women" were down first into the kitchen/dining room, wearing our matching pjs (yes, we do that). Donna is the pj queen, always looking our for matching ones we can where when we are together, and gifts us these as we travel together. Here we are having our morning coffee at 4:30 am Florence time -- bed head and all.

Off we were by 8:15 out the door of the townhouse and on our way to our pre-planned all day walking tour of Florence.

We walked about 20 minutes to get to the Piazza San Marco where we met our guide for the morning, Maya. This is the first of many Piazzas we will encounter during this journey. I particularly liked the flowers adorning the statue in the small Piazza!

Maya took us over to the Accademia Gallery where we she gave us a bit of history of Florence as well as managed (I'm not sure how!) to get to the front of the long line of people who had "skip the line" tickets. We were in the Accademia in a flash.

Maya was wonderful at explaining the details of contents of the small gallery. The "
plaster model for the stunning marble sculpture of Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabines (from around 1580). Giambologna prepared the model to express virtuosity, creating for the first time a tightly-knit group of three figures carved just from one large block of marble which offers multiple viewpoints to the observer. The original marble sculpture, completed in 1582, can be now admired under the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria." (From the Accademia website). This was wonderful to see there as Maya pointed it out later in the Piazza Della Signoria. 

Maya also pointed out the panel from a wedding chest in this room which was a typical Florentine scene of a Renaissance era wedding, including an image of the Bapistry we would see later. She pointed out the hairstyle of the women (they waxed their hair to have a very high forehead). It was great, again, to have that perspective on Renassaince Florence. 

Next, Maya walked us into the gallery where Michaelangelo's David is displayed, but first sharing with us the history of the "slaves" in that gallery. We had almost 1/2 and hour in the hall to admire the statue of David. Maya's knowledge of art history and the history of the period/city was invaluable in helping to make the statue "come alive" for us. What's in his hand? A sling shot. What's the look on his face? "Goliath, you're going down!". His hands are strong. This 17' statue once sat in the Piazza Signore, and a replica of the statue is still there. Maya explained the history of the statue, and of the political placement of it in the Piazza and why now it's home is in the Gallery.

We then went on our walk through the historic streets of Florence. We loved seeing the "pig of Florence" -- really, it's a wild boar. It's nose was shiny due to people rubbing it. If you put a coin in its mouth and the coin flows into the fountain, it is said you will return to Florence! Here's Steve with the boar -- which is in front of a market now in the square.

We passed by various palaces of the Medici during their reign in Florence. The architecture in many ways is stark, but, but the buildings are large.

We visited the Duomo -- the square outside the Duomo was packed with people! Seeing the outside of the Cathedral and the  was breathtaking. The three colors of marble -- Green, white and pink, are from the various quarries in Italy.
The square was packed with people, and there was a long line to get into the Cathedral, which Maya navigated us around and we were lead into the cathedral on the "group tour" line.  

Thanks to Bob Williams for the reminder that the
doors of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco are copies of the Ghiberti doors of the baptistry at the Duomo, and the ceiling of San Miniato Basilica (up on the hill) is the pattern for the ceiling of St. John's, L.A. I hope to see the San Miniato Basilica during this trip!

Inside the Cathedral I was surprised at how simple it was. Simple, but beautiful. As is my custom, I stopped to light a candle and say a prayer. While I won't say what I prayed for, what I will say is that votive holders there are unique -- they reminded me of a tree, and I started reflecting on the tree of life image, or the burning bush. I'm still thinking about that this morning.

Maya also explained to us about the old clock on the wall of the Cathedral, which was set for 24 hours, with the hand (only one) on the clock running, when it ran, counter clockwise.

We continued our walk, and saw in the Piazza Della Signoria the "fake" statue of David as well as the actual statue of the plaster Rape of the Sabines we saw in the Accademia this morning. 

More statues in the outdoor Loggia "gallery" was impressive. As in the square around the Duomo, the area was packed with tourists.

We said goodbye to Maya and headed out for lunch at a local pizza shop before heading back to the Uffizi for our afternoon tour.

Steve had to stop for Gelato after lunch!

We had a bit of time so we went on the Ponte Vecchio to see the Arno River -- beautiful!

We met Maria Gracia our guide at the Uffizi and once again got a history lesson of the Gallery. A history of the Gallery from the Uffizi.com website is as follows:

Few people know the huge building of the Uffizi was not created as a museum. It was ordered in 1560 by Cosimo I de’ Medici, known as Cosimo the Great and first Grand Duke of Tuscany, to house the administrative and judiciary offices of Florence, the “uffizi” (which in Italian means “offices”). At the time when the grandiose building was being built, the Medici hegemony was secure over Florence.

Cosimo called upon his favorite artist, Giorgio Vasari, to design the U-shaped building we can still admire today. The great architect also built the secret Corridor that joins the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace running above the Ponte Vecchio, by the church of Santa Felicita (peeking into a balcony inside from which the family could attend mass without having to walk through the streets) and the many buildings and towers on the way to the palace before ending at the Boboli Gardens. The “Corridoio Vasariano” was built to celebrate the marriage of Cosimo’s son, Francesco, to Giovanna d’Austria in 1565 and was built in just 5 months.

To build the Uffizi and make space for the huge complex, many constructions in the area were demolished. Among them was San Pier Scheraggio, an ancient and important Romanesque church. You can still see some remains of the old church’s exterior on the ground floor along the street called Via della Ninna, facing Palazzo Vecchio. The arches and columns of one of the aisles of the church are still visible from the street.

The old nave of San Pier Scheraggio is the only part of the church that is still almost intact and is encapsulated into the Uffizi’s ground floor, at the corner closest to Palazzo Vecchio and near the museum’s entrance.

The hall of San Pier Scheraggio is often closed and opens only for special events and celebrations. Inside are the famous detached frescoes by Andrea del Castagno depicting the cycle of Famous Men and Women and another famous fresco by Sandro Botticelli.

The Uffizi was finished by another great artist, Bernardo Buontalenti, after Vasari’s death in 1574.

Just a few years later, in 1581, Francesco I de’ Medici, Cosimo’s son and the new Grand Duke of Tuscany by then, set up a private Gallery with statues and other precious objects on the top floor of the east wing of the Uffizi, all part of the private family collection of art objects.

The heart of this original private museum is the octagonal room called Tribuna or the Tribune. Completed by Bernardo Buontalenti in 1584, it represents the four elements and is fully decorated with marvelous marble, precious stones and thousands of shells inside the dome.

The collections of the Medici family would become vaster and vaster, continually enriched by every member of the Medici dynasty until the family died out in the 18th century.

The Family Pact, signed by Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last of the Medici dynasty, ensured that all the Medici’s art and treasures collected over nearly three centuries of political ascendancy remained in Florence. She bequeathed most of it to the Tuscan State upon her death in 1743 so that “they would remain as decoration for the State, for the utility of the Public and to attract the curiosity of Foreigners”, and it all had to stay in place and not leave Florence or Tuscany. In particular, she declared that the Uffizi Gallery was a “public and inalienable public good”, paving the way for it’s great wealth of art to be shared with all (and we hope to contribute to this through this guide).

Sixteen years after her death, the Uffizi, built by Cosimo the Great, the founder of the Grand Duchy, was made open to public viewing and still contains a large portion of works commissioned and collected by the Medici.

The Gallery opened to the public in 1769 by Grand Duke Peter Leopold, likely the most enlightened and important member of the Austrian House of Lorraine, the new reining family of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany which lasted until the unification of Italy in 1860.

At that time, the gallery was completely reorganized according to the new scientific criteria of the Enlightenment and the collections were divided per type. The paintings were divided from the scientific pieces, for which a new museum was built, the Museum of Zoology and Natural History best known as La Specola. During the nineteenth century many Renaissance statues were moved to the National Museum of the Bargello and some Etruscan pieces were placed to the Archaeological Museum. For this reason, to really get a greater idea of how vast the Medici collections were, you need to visit many museums in Florence and Tuscany!

We saw works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, and others. Walking through the Uffizi was overwhelming -- there are two large flights of stairs to get to the main level where our tour of the works of the museum started in earnest, including this symbol of the Medici family and busts and pictures of the famous Medicis.

The Uffizi and the art work it contains is a beautiful testament to Rennaisance art and Florence. 

The use of the Uffizi originally and now, thanks to Maria Gracia, was opened to us through walking through the corridors and looking at the various pieces of art:



The Medici's Venus


Leonardo da Vinci


We were able to see the view from the roof terrace and the area inside the Uffizi:

We were also able to see the original version(?) of the "pig of Florence" --

We said goodbye to Maria Gracia and started the 20 minute walk back "home". 

We were all tired -- but Debber and I headed out to the grocery store once again to pick up more necessary items. We are a hoot together in the store, that's all I will say. Dinner was a quiet home at the townhouse with cheese, meat, bread and fruit we picked up yesterday and today.

We finished the evening with a walk back to the Arno at sunset -- beautiful!

I leave you with a few pictures from the Arno at dusk.

And as part of my sabbatical discipline, I'll log my daily steps:
Steps logged Monday, March 28 -- 17,953, 6.93 miles
Steps logged Tuesday, March 29 -- 16,091 -- 6.19 miles


  1. Quite a busy start. Lovely photos and great narration. You really make your hornets come alive.

  2. Wonderful!
    Florence is a favorite city of mine- I had a memorable week there almost 20 years ago with my mother and sister... but we didn’t have matching nighties )-: Enjoy!

  3. What a great adventure. Unfortunately I couldn't see many of the pictures - I can't figure out why they won't load. Any suggestions?