It’s been a few days since I arrived, and the city is bustling with tourists and locals alike. As this is prime tourist season, the streets are much more packed than my visit last April. Although most people would likely classify the weather as hot, many of the old buildings remain naturally cool due to their stone walls. The street I live on represents the Renaissance style of architecture. The door to my apartment building, like most in the old parts of Florence, is a semicircular arch with large, brass, circular knob in the middle. Throughout the city, buildings exemplify the geometric patterns prominent in the Roman era of architecture. Perhaps one of the most famous architects who influenced the design of Florence was Filippo Brunelleschi. While he is renowned for his work on the Duomo of the Florence Cathedral, he is also known for his mechanical engineering and sculpture skills.
On my second night in Florence, I happened upon a concert held in honor of a national holiday, Festa della Repubblica or the Festival of the Republic (similar to the American 4th of July). Every June (giugno) 2, Italians celebrate the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the republic government.
Side Note: While throngs of tourists pack the streets during the day, it is at night that the city really comes alive – the beating sun is replaced by a subtle warmth emanating from the stone streets and a gentle wind circulates through the streets. Musicians play along the streets as street artists begin to pack up their little stands. I captured the photo below while walking along the Arno at sunset.
Sailing Under the Ponte Vecchio at Sunset
Returning to the concert…
The wind and brass band’s name was the Filarmonica G. Verdi Montemurlo. Before the concert began, a politician [I’m guessing it was the mayor of Florence] made a speech in honor of the Republic Day. In a funny parallel to US public events, the politician was a long-winded presenter because he just kept going. In a truly funny scene, the frustrated crowd began clapping to politely “push him” off stage and get the concert going. When that didn’t work, they began booing him. The funny scene captured the universal annoyance at someone trying to steal the limelight of the main attraction.
Finally, the concert began. The group played both classical pieces and movie scores. The crowd, me included, enjoyed it so much that we sang [or in my case attempted to] along and cheered for four more encores! For those of you who know I’m a movie score buff, the last piece [to my joy] was At World End from the Pirates of the Caribbean. The onlookers became especially animated when a young saxophonist took to the microphone to sing Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu.
The first Sunday of every month offers a special opportunity for tourists and local alike, with many museums and tourist destinations granting free entry. This past Sunday, I visited the Galleria Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery).
In 1560, Cosimo I de’Medici commissioned Giorgio Vasari to construct a building for administrative and legal offices; however, in 1580 Francesco I de’ Medici made the top floor a personal gallery. Year after year, Medicis added new works to the gallery – jewels, statues, maps, paintings, weapons, and scientific tools. When the Medicis lost power, the Lorraine family was given control of the gallery on the condition that the collection remained intact. In 1769, the Lorraine family opened the gallery to the public [the weapons and scientific tools were relocated, making the gallery more art focused]. Today, the museum houses works by Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli [to name only a few]. One of the works I most wanted to see was the Caravaggio shield with the head of Medusa emblazoned on the front. The shield was a gift from Cardinal del Monte to Ferdinando I de’ Medici the Grand Duke of Tuscany. It has been said that the shield’s design was meant to terrify opponents, just as the Greek, mythological Medusa turned her victims to stone.
Many of the other paintings were religious in nature — either Biblical stories or variations of the Madonna and child. However, the sculptures highlighted various Roman and Greek military heroes, leaders, and famous, literary scholars.
In addition to all the artwork, the museum offered a wonderful view from the second floor windows which looked out over the city from two directions.
View from the Front of the Uffizi
Pallas [mythological daughter of Triton] and a Centaur
That’s all for now…up next, I’ll be touring the Boboli Gardens.