Sunday, 24 May 2015

Florence Trip - Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the Piazza Della Signoria it is one of the most significant public places in Italy. In 1299, the commune and people of Florence decided to build a palace, worthy of the city's importance and giving greater security, in times of turbulence, to the magistrates. Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Duomo and the Santa Croce church, began constructing it upon the ruins of Palazzo dei Fanti and Palazzo dell'Esecutore di Giustizia, once owned by the Uberti family. Giovanni Villani wrote that Arnolfo di Cambio incorporated the ancient tower of the Foraboschi family (the tower then known as "La Vacca" or "The Cow") as the substructure of the tower into its facade;[2] this is why the rectangular tower (height 94 m) is not directly centered in the building. The Neptune Fountain was commissioned for the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici and Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria in 1565. The sea-horses are supposed to be drawing Neptune’s chariot (a giant seashell on a pedestal decorated with the chained figures of Scylla and Charybdis). When the statue was completed in 1565, the Florentines did not like it much. Michelangelo said: “What a fine piece of marble you have ruined.” The Florentines then started to wash their clothes in the fountain.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Florence Trip - Pitti Palace & The Boboli Gardens

The Pitti Palace or Palazzo Pitti if you prefer is a huge renaissance Palace over the the Ponte Vecchio on the south side of the river. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The palazzo is now the largest museum complex in Florence. The building was commissioned in 1458 by the Florentine banker Luca Pitti, a principal supporter and friend of Cosimo de' Medici. Land on the Boboli hill at the rear of the palazzo was acquired in order to create a large formal park and gardens, today known as the Boboli Gardens. There are some wonderful views across the Cypress lined Tuscan hills as you walk uphill to the Boboli Gardens. The Gardens are some of the first and most familiar formal 16th-century Italian gardens.The openness of the garden, with an expansive view of the city, was unconventional for its time. The gardens were very lavish, considering no access was allowed outside the immediate Medici family, and no entertainment or parties ever took place in the gardens. The gardens have passed through several stages of enlargement and restructuring work. They were enlarged in the 17th century to their present extent of 45,000 meters² (111 acres). The Boboli Gardens have come to form an outdoor museum of garden sculpture that includes Roman antiquities as well as 16th and 17th century works.

Florence Trip - Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi buiding was created in 1560 for the Florentine magistrates and completed in 1581. The narrow courtyard between the palace's two wings creates the effect of a short, idealized street; view toward the River Arno. Because of its huge collection, some of its works have in the past been transferred to other museums in Florence. The one painting and probably the one that every visitor wants to see is the stunning 'Birth of Venus' by Sandro Boticelli in the mid 148o's. Essentially it is the Goddess Venus arriving from the sea as an adult to the sea shore. Another world renowned Boticelli is 'Primavera' also known as 'Allegory of Spring'. Much interpreted there are many theories as to what is going on. The painting features six female figures and two male, along with a blindfolded chubby male chid (putto), in an orange grove. To the right of the painting, a flower-crowned female figure stands in a floral-patterned dress scattering flowers, collected in the folds of her gown. there are 500 identified plant species depicted in the painting, with about 190 different flowers. The Holy Family or 'Doni Tondo' or even 'Doni Madonna' if you prefer, is the only finished panel painting by the mature Michelangelo to survive. The Virgin Mary is the most prominent figure in the composition, taking up much of the center of the image. Mary sits directly on the ground without a cushion between herself and the ground, to better communicate the theme of her relationship to the earth.
We met a lovely couple from Chicago while queuing for the Duomo and bumped into them again at the cafe at the Uffizi.