There were two significant events on our minds as we arrived in Florence. Seeing Michelangelo’s David and taking the Covid test required for travel back into the US. In May 2022, testing positive meant quarantine in Florence.
Our hotel room in Florence was the worst we had occupied in all of Italy. It was very small and very gray. It had a queen bed, TV and one chair. Despite being new, or newly renovated, there were no electrical or USB outlets on either side of the bed. There was one electrical outlet behind the TV and one in the bathroom. Forget the CPAP, just having outlets to charge our phones, watch, camera and iPad was problematic. The idea of being stuck THERE for ten days was awful.
All 27 of us lined up for our Covid tests – Euros only, exact change preferred. Those of us with Euros helped those who had never exchanged currency. The doctor was apparently annoyed at having to come to us because he inserted the swabs through the nasal cavity all the way to our brains. We survived the medical assault and celebrated when we all passed! I think our tour guide Fabrizio celebrated most because he was the one who would have had to arrange for our quarantine.
Now on to David… actually several Davids! The first David we saw was a replica at a park above Florence.
The second David was a replica placed where the original sculpture stood (outside) for 360 years.
The statue on the right is Hercules and Cacus. The rich and powerful Medici family that ruled Florence from the 13th through 17th centuries used Hercules as a symbol of courage and strength. Four popes came from their line.
The Medici family used art as currency and displayed their vast collection. They were famous for patronage – paying commissions so artists could focus solely on their art. The Medici family had a huge impact on the Italian Renaissance.
We saw the real David in the Galleria Accademia. David was commissioned not by the Medici family but by the Opera del Duomo. David was to be part of the sculpture collection in the Florence Cathedral.
The block of marble Michelangelo was given for David had been rejected by two other sculptors as being of poor quality. Begun in 1501, Michelangelo took three years to create David, finishing when he was 26 years old.
When completed David was too heavy to go in the intended place along the roofline in the cathedral. He is 17 meters tall with oversized hands and feet because people were to have viewed him from below.
David’s left arm was broken a riot while it was still outside. It was later repaired.
His right shoulder is pitted from an acid wash used to clean the statue during the 18th century.
David’s left big toe was damaged by a person with a hammer in 1991.
At age 500, David was restored in 2003. This time restorers took 18 months to remove dirt using only distilled water.
We saw another Pieta but there is not full agreement on whether this was created by Michelangelo. The Galleria claims it is so in its signage. We were told this Pieta was found in 1940 at a small church in Italy.
We saw the famous Michelangelo Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. A second verified Michelangelo Pieta is in another Florence location and a third is in Milan. This would be his fourth if correctly attributed.
While visiting the Galleria Accademia we saw many sculptures each with a story of its own.
Most artists began with plaster casts such as these women. Careful observation shows measurement marks in preparation for sculpting in marble. Michelangelo did not use casts – he went straight to the marble in creating his works.
We saw so many sculptures all over Florence – inside and outside and everywhere between. It became a bit overwhelming!
Churches on our Tour of Italy also became a bit overwhelming. There were larger and fancier churches in Florence but we ended our day at the more modest Santa Croce Church.
Basilica de Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross) was begun in 1294 and consecrated in 1440. It is the largest Franciscan church in the world. The front facade was added later when Florence gained great importance. The architect was Jewish and included the Star of David.
This church was interesting to us, not because of interior beauty or opulence …
…although there was a bit of that… but because of the historical figures entombed there.
Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor and electrical engineer, known for inventing the wireless telegraph system and early radio.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. You know – Galileo!
Nicolavs Machiavelli – writer of “The Prince” and the owner of the Tuscany villa we enjoyed the night before.
Gioachino Rossini was an Italian composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, chamber music, piano pieces, and sacred music.
Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist and creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor.
And of course, Michelangelo is here – but he wasn’t always. On questionable terms with the Medici family, Michelangelo lived his last thirty years in Rome. He died and was buried there. The current leader of the Medici family conspired with Michelangelo’s nephew to steal Michelangelo’s body and return him to Florence.
Santa Croce has evolved into a tomb of national glory with over 15,000 places of rest. There were many other elaborate tombs but I have highlighted those whose names were familiar to us.
When reviewing Florence pictures (six months later) for writing this blog, I was surprised to see this meal picture but I remember it well. We ate at a little sidewalk restaurant very near Santa Croce. Randy, as always, had pizza and I had a delicious carbonara. I should have been ordering carbonara all along!
Next up: Our last full day in Italy!