Yesterday I set off for the Galleria del Accademia only to find that it's not open on Mondays. Haha, the lack of a queue should have given me a clue. Mind you, a few other places were closed too. A lot of the smaller galleries and museums seem to close at 1 or 2pm on most days. So off I wandered up and down random streets and eventually came to the Basilica Santa Croce, the Church of the Holy Cross.
The facade is like a similar, but plainer, version of the cathedral. The rest of the building is plain brown stone though. Inside is really interesting. The high altar end was completely closed off due to restoration work: scaffolding everywhere! I could see glimpses of stained glass through the scaffolding and drop sheets - hinted at something magnificent. The open area is still worth a look though. There are huge paintings on the walls by various artists, most I'd never heard of but that means nothing. Between the paintings are some incredible tombs and funerary monuments. There are some really famous people buried in this church. The tombs include various influential Florentines from the past as well as such luminaries as Machiavelli, Galileo and Michelangelo.
There are also monuments to Dante and Marconi amongst others.
I can imagine them all gathering in the middle of the night - what conversations there'd be!!
Marconi: I have this idea for transmitting sound to the masses.
Galileo: Let me do some calculations on that. Hope the Church doesn't ground me again for it!
Dante: I can do some poetry readings, yeah!
Machiavelli: I can use this. Oh, the power!
Michelangelo: I'll design the case. Marble or bronze?
Anyway.... up around the closed off section are lots of smaller chapels with some excellent fresco work. Some are done by Giotto but I'm not sure which. They are all in excellent condition though.
Santa Croce also has a museum where they keep art and religious icons not used in the church itself. There apparently used to be a lot more but they lost a lot in one of the many floods that Florence is subjected to. I noticed today that, after a couple of days of rain, the river was running pretty high and fast.
From Santa Croce I made my way to the Piazza San Lorenzo. The church there is where Lorenzo di Medici is buried. The Medici family virtually ruled Florence during Renaissance times. The tomb is inside a huge pillar that pretty much holds up part of the church. Donatello is also buried in the crypt there.
Outside there's a huge street market that lines both sides of a couple of streets leading off the piazza.
A lot of the stalls were selling identical stuff - the mass produced souvenirs and imitation clothing. I had a look around but wasn't tempted by anything. The bag I got in Rome will do as far as genuine Italian leather goods go. Besides, you need to be less than size 10 to fit into anything that's on offer, in markets and proper shops both.
If you're into boots and shoes, Florence is for you. Even I was tempted by the boots on offer. But again, they're for skinny feet only.
Today I finally made it to the Galleria and saw the real, original David.
I got told off for taking this shot, but at least I had the flash turned off.
This is just a magnificent piece of work. 5 metres tall and carved from a single block of marble. A block that had, by the way, been rejected as flawed by another sculptor. Yeah right, he just wasn't genius enough to realise its potential. It took Michelangelo only two years to create David. The story goes that one of the local politicians, or church persons maybe, objected to it and said the nose was too big. Michelangelo climbed up on his scaffold, sprinkled down some marble dust he had in his pocket, came down and asked if that was better. Yes indeed, all fine now. It was originally displayed in one of the piazzas for all to see but was moved into this specially built part of the Galleria many years ago. Just as well probably, as it is safe from environmental, and other, damage now.
I must be thick because it wasn't until today that I realised that what he's actually holding over his shoulder is his sling. Duh!
The rest of the Galleria is quite small - even smaller at the moment as the whole first floor is closed for renovation. The shop is open though. It's called "David Mania". Probably why they don't want you to take your own photos.
From there I did some more random wanderings and came across the Leonardo da Vinci interactive museum. It's just a little place between the Galleria and the cathedral. It has a whole series of models made up from Leonardo's designs - the flying machines, the armoured car, the oil press, worm screw, helicopter, machine gun, time piece, bicycle, etc etc etc. I know a couple of people back home who'd love this little exhibition.
Tomorrow I'm off to Ravenna for a couple of days. It's not far from Florence, on the Adriatic coast. I figure I'll have a couple of days r&r there before I tackle Venice.
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