Battling crowds at the Uffizi – 3/21/17

Yesterday we saw a ticket office when we were at Orsanmichele where you could buy tickets for the Uffizi. You have to pay a 4€ service fee but it guarantees you a time slot and you do not have to wait in the gargantuan line to get in. Our tickets were for 9:30 AM. When we got there the regular line was so long that the crowd was cheering every time the guards let in a few people. This is March. I cannot even imagine what it will be like in the summer when there are a lot more people and it is hot!

The line extends back a long way

Anyway we get in right away but it is really crowded and hot Inside. First thing you have to do is climb a massive staircase which is the equivalent of more than 4 stories. Luckily we survive this. Then the battle begins to try and see the artworks. The biggest problem is the tour groups and the school groups. When twenty or so people set up camp in front of a painting there is no way to see around them. You must strategically wait for the split second when one group leaves and rush in to establish position before the next group sets up shop. The kids under 10 are not quite so bad because you can see over their heads and they are generally well behaved (remarkably) but the teens are busy slouching around and more coolly disinterested. The groups of adults are worse. They are busily taking pictures of one another smack in front of the paintings. Since in this situation I am not at my best I actually tell some guy that I got a nice shot of his wife in front of a Botticelli.

Well-behaved Italian kids learning about art (this does not seem like an American class trip)
Thanks lady for standing in front of Botticelli’s Primavera so we could all take your picture

Rant over. The art is wonderful and worth the waits and hassle. You truly get to see the development from the stiff Byzantine cartoon paintings of the early 13th century slowly move by the end of the century to more realistic body forms and perspective thanks to greats like Cimabue, Daddi, and Giotto. In the next 100 years art changes rapidly until you end up with real people in real landscapes.

Giotto’s Madonna and Child (around 1300)
Cimabue’s Madonna and Child (around 1300)

The paintings and frescoes are almost exclusively about religious subjects since that was really the only thing allowed. Occasionally you might see a mythical subject used in an allegorical way to underline a religious precept like a personification of a deadly sin and how you are going to hell.

The purpose of much of the religious art is to educate a populace who is largely illiterate. Going into a church is like stepping into an illustrated comic book of the Bible. Saints and their miracles are like modern day super heroes. Everyone has their favorite whom they are devoted to. Their saintly lives decorate the walls from their births to their often gruesome ends. The people of the times understand every gesture, position, and color. They know the significance of each animal, plant, and object. So what looks like the same old same old Madonna and Child, Crucifixion, or Last Supper is actually imbued with subtle meaning by a hand gesture or a peacock.

St. Cecilia went around baptizing people in the 2nd to 3rd century even after her husband and brother-in-law were executed for doing the same. She was tortured in baths of extreme temperatures by the local prefect but did not die. So an executioner tried three time to hack off her head but it refused to come off so they left her to bleed to death which took three days. In the meantime people came and collected her holy blood and were converted to Christianity.  (Master of St. Cecilia circa 1300)

 

St. Nicholas throws in three bags of gold to provide dowries for three young women who would become prostitutes if they had no dowries (Lorenzetti circa 1330)
St. Matthew exposes magicians accompanied by dragons (Orcagna 1370)

The crowds thin out the deeper we go into the museum. The tours and school groups only view the “greatest hits.” So there are a lot of people surrounding Giotto, the Botticellis, Michelangelo’s one painting, and da Vinci. The Perugino, Caravaggio, and even Raphael works are often bypassed. We enjoy our time at the Uffizi immensely.

Some beautiful works of art we saw –

Gentile da Fabriano “Adoration of the Magi” 1423

Fillipo Lippilippi “Madonna and Child with Angel” 1460?

Botticelli “Birth of Venus” 1485
Michelangelo “Holy Family” (Doni Tondo) 1507
Raphael “Madonna and Child with St. John” (Madonna of the Goldfinch) 1506
Leonardo da Vinci “Annunciation” 1474
Titian “Venus of Urbino” 1538
Caravaggio “Bacchus” 1596

Having been on our feet with a lot of people for over four hours leaves us pretty exhausted, thirsty and hungry. We decide that we will pick up some sandwiches on the way back to our apartments. This way we can put on some comfy clothes, take our shoes off our achy feet, and lounge around while eating lunch.

John and I tell Sarah we are opting out of any late afternoon’s activities and she can make plans on her own. She makes her way over to the Pitti Palace for some more art viewing and we do laundry, read books, do crosswords, and take naps. Hey, it’s a vacation not a total art marathon!

Later we go out to Bussola for pizza! Mmmmm, the crust is so delicious! Reminds me of the Jersey shore pizza of my youth. Here people eat entire pizzas themselves but John and I decide on a salad and to split one. We end with vin santo and cantuccini, small Florentine cookies.

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