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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy - A Tourist Study of the Masters

A statue of Leonardo outside the Uffizi Galler...
A statue of Leonardo outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, based upon contemporary descriptions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Portrait of Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici (1617...
Portrait of Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici (1617-1675) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Detail of: Portrait of Pope Leo X and his cous...
Detail of: Portrait of Pope Leo X and his cousins, cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pietro de' Medici. Uffizi Gallery, Florence. D...
Pietro de' Medici. Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Don Pietro de' Medici (1554–1604) was a son of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Eleonora di Toledo. He married Eleonora di Garzia di Toledo, whom he strangled in 1576 for adultery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Statue of Leonardo da Vinci himself ? In...
Statue of Leonardo da Vinci himself ? In front of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Uffizi Gallery, Florence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Florence (Photo credit: ChrisYunker)

By []Jeff Titelius

Care to journey back to the 13th century to study the master artists of Florence in one of the most famous art collections in the world? How would you like to get up close and personal with Giotto, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, Caravaggio and the Medici? What about traveling through time from the Gothic era, to the Renaissance, to the High Renaissance and finally to the Baroque? Well, read on to see how we spent our first day in the Renaissance City of Florence! And if Florence is in your travel plans, be sure to read this article for it not only provides a lesson in art history, it features helpful planning tips to help make the most of every vacation moment.

We started out the first day in Florence at the Uffizi Gallery at 8:30am, the time of our reservation. What do I mean by reservation? After reading this, you will understand fully. When we arrived at the Uffizi courtyard, the center of a giant "U" which is surrounded by the three wings of the museum, we found the entrance line stretching from Entrance #1 on one side of the street, winding down toward the Arno River and then back up the other side of the street to Entrance #3 where you actually enter the museum to begin your tour. If you don't have a reservation in hand or are not part of a group, this line will eat up 2-3 hours of your day. This is precisely why we had ours. And to help you, I will explain how to get your reservations later. Needless to say, we bypassed the line and arrived at Entrance #3 where we picked up our actual tickets and proceeded to the museum entrance. We were inside in less than five minutes.

Before we begin our journey through the museum, let me share a short history lesson on the Uffizi Gallery. Established by the Medici in 1581, this world famous museum was originally commissioned by Cosimo I in 1560, the patriarch of the Medici family, and designed by Georgio Vasari, a very well known artist of the day and one of Cosimo's favorites. The edifice was intended to serve as offices or uffizis for the high-ranking magistrates of Florence. Over time, the Medici amassed a large collection of artwork; either purchased or commissioned, and stored them here, some in especially elaborate rooms such as the Tribuna, the red walled octagonal shaped room that houses some of the Medici's most prized collections. When the Medici fell out of power, Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress, established the museum through a family pact that stated all of her possessions were never to leave Florence and then opened up the museum to the public in 1765. The rest, as they say, is history.

We began our journey a little winded after ascending three very long staircases to the top landing where you are greeted by the "family", busts of the prominent members of the Medici Family. And there is very good reason because as you tour the museum, you begin to understand just how influential this family was throughout their "reign" of Florence, so to speak, and the legacy they left behind.

After surrendering your ticket, you begin in the 13th century Gothic art rooms. Like the Vatican, the Uffizi too has quite a collection of this fascinating two-dimensional artistic style of painting that features prolific amounts of gold throughout the works. Lacking in most of the art of this time was perspective, an idea born of a Renaissance man some 300 years later -- Brunelleschi in the 15th century and demonstrated later by Masaccio in his Holy Trinity, a fresco on the inside western wall of the Santa Maria Novella.

From here, the rooms travel through the centuries and you will discover Botticelli's "Primavera" and "Birth of Venus." Strikingly beautiful, the "Birth of Venus" is rich in color and tells the story of Venus who arrives on the first day of creation, floating in a shell with the winds, Zephyr and Aura blowing her ashore. To her right, is one of the Three Graces, who is ready to offer her capes to provide her cover in her modest state.

As you continue your journey, you will come upon Michelangelo's "Doni Tondo", a painting of the Holy Family completed in the early 16th century and during the transitional phase from the "Renaissance" period to that of "Mannerism", around 1520. Giotto, Lippi, Carravagio, Raphael (Self Portrait), Leonardo (the unfinished Adoration of the Magi, Annunciation), Titian (Venus d'Urbino) Piero Della Francesca (Duke of Urbino), Parmigianino (The Madonna of the Long Neck) and countless others are all here and you'll discover them too throughout your tour. There are also rooms of Italian sculptures where you'll find Bernini's statue of The Martyred St. Lawrence. And you'll happen upon the Tribuna Room that I mentioned before, an octagonal shaped room with vivid red walls that houses the Medici's most treasured and valuable pieces. With so much to explore, the museum offers hours of contemplation for those who appreciate the fine artistry on display here.  

As you weave in and out of all of the connecting rooms, be sure to notice the ceilings in the outer hallways. What are known in the artistic world as "grotesques", not because of the subject matter but of the origin of the art form itself, are frescos painted in the 16th and 17th centuries. This style of painting derives its name from where they were first discovered, on the ceilings of grottos, hence "grotesques".

At last, we have almost completed our tour and here we are in the 18th Century. But, before we leave the centuries behind, there is one fascinating element of this museum that I want to share with you, a spectacular walkway known as the Vasari Corridor, which was designed by the artist in 1565 as a wedding present to Francesco I de Medici and Joan of Austria. This "secret passageway" stretches from the Uffizi Gallery, down along the Arno River, across via the Ponte Vecchio, and finally adjoins the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens in Oltrarno (other side of Arno). It was reserved exclusively for the Medici who traveled this kilometer long passageway by pulling themselves by hand along its entire length. Dismaying as it may be, this clandestine corridor is not open to general public. However, if your one of the lucky ones who may traverse its path as part of a special group or school tour, you're in for a real treat.

Now that we are at the end of our first tour in Florence, allow me to impart a few essential planning tips. Before you leave, investigate the places you plan to visit via online and printed resources. Also, check out the many tour websites that feature group and private tours of the city, the churches, the museums and other popular sights. Although a few hours in length, these tours are a great introduction for the first time visitor.

We booked our tour, almost a full day, through   rel=nofollow []Avventure Bellissime. One of their most popular, this tour features a guided city walk in the morning to learn about the architecture, the historical sights, the Medici, Dante and the role that Florence played in one of the most influential and reawakening periods in history, the Renaissance! Following the morning walk, there is a guided tour of the Accademia Museum to see Michelangelo's David. And, later in the afternoon, a tour of the Uffizi Gallery. I strongly recommend this tour and it's well worth the price because not only do you get a great introduction to the city and learn the significance of the architecture, the popular sights, etc, you don't have to worry about the price of museums nor the strongly recommended advanced reservations. If a whole day tour doesn't appeal to you, then book a scaled down tour of just one museum. The site offers a variety so explore!

If touring doesn't appeal to you, I strongly urge you to make reservations for the museums at the very least. You can do this online or by calling the museums and although a nominal fee is charged, it's well worth it! And be sure to rent an audio guide so you don't miss a thing. I do have one last tip to share but be sure you don't tell anyone! Ask your hotel to make the reservations for you. Since you are a paying customer, you will find they are most amenable. Our friend at the hotel we stayed in Florence was only too happy to oblige when we asked her to book the Uffizi and Academia. Finally, leave your cameras in your rooms because no pictures allowed. However, if you want to see photos of the museum and of the famous paintings mentioned, visit my travel blog at the address below.  Arrivederci!

For more exciting stories, pictures and planning advice for touring the sites, sounds and tastes in Italy and France, be sure to visit [] often!

Article Source: [,-Italy---A-Tourist-Study-of-the-Masters&id=1895557] The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy - A Tourist Study of the Masters
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