It was Saturday the 9th, and our trip to Italy was finally coming to an end. The eight days that we had spent in this sunny country, the home of my wife's ancestors, had passed surprisingly quickly. Our days had been filled with so many sights seen, new experiences had, and unexpected adventures, such as our unforgettable meeting with Giorgio, the Florentine businessman, the night before. We had one final day left in Florence - one final chance to soak up some piece of Italy to take back home in our memories - what would we do?
Our group went on our final excursion together that morning; a trip to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo's masterpiece statue, "David", and then a short visit to Florence's 2nd most recognized landmark (besides "David"); the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers cathedral) and its famous "Duomo" (dome). I was excited to see both of these beautiful works, even if it meant being herded around and seeing them with crowds of others, as had been the case during all of our trip.
There was a huge line going into the Accademia, but like when we saw the Colosseum earlier in the trip, our tour guide skirted us right around the queue and straight in. The Accademia (at least the part we were allowed in) was surprisingly small - just one hallway, lined with statues, leading straight to the "David".
As I neared it, goosebumps rose on my arms and I felt a chill of admiration. Words just can't describe the experience of seeing something beautiful that is timeless. As I gazed at the 17 foot tall statue - contemplating it silently before our guide started to fill my earphones with facts and history about it - I wasn't sure what I admired the most. Was it the magic of the statue's "real-ness"? How could the artist have created something so alive, so strong and supple, so expressive, out of cold marble? Or was it simply admiration of his skill? His dedication? His daring? Michelangelo was 26 when he accepted the challenge to carve his masterpiece for the city of Florence, and he worked on it for over two years. Most likely, the quiet awe which filled me as I gazed at the statue was born out of all of this.
We were told to not take any pictures of "David", but I'm glad that our friend Angela was brave enough to sneak a few snapshots that she shared with us.
I'll always remember the determined gaze in David's eyes (got this pic online!)
The only other statues we saw in the Accademia were 4 pieces, also by Michelangelo, known as the "Prisoners". These are unfinished pieces, each evidence of the artist's philosophy that:
"Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." (Michelangelo)
I had seen two other pieces from this series in the Louvre in Paris when I was there many years ago. And once again, I was in awe at both the skill and the beauty that was apparent in each of these works. My favorite was the one named "Atlas" (see below)
Can you see Atlas' eyes looking at you, above his wrist, as he struggles to hold up the world?
Deborah and I and the 35 other "Perilloistas" then hiked over to the Piazza del Duomo to see the Basilica. We wandered through some narrow streets, lined by old buildings and shops, and then turned the corner. Deborah said it took her breath away when she first saw the beautiful baroque church.
The pictures I tried to take don't do justice to the grandeur and beauty of the Basilica. It, and its Bell Tower and Duomo, tower above the square. I couldn't fit them all into my tiny borrowed camera's viewfinder. The cathdral walls were dazzling: green, white, and red marble stripes. Here are a couple pics that show why the building took our breath away so. I don't know why we didn't go inside the Basillica, or why we weren't given the chance to climb up inside the Duomo or Bell Tower (I knew you could) - guess it wasn't on "our agenda"!
Florence has the reputation of being the home of some of the world's finest art, and artists, and our final tour that morning had certainly shown us beauty that we would never forget.
After the tour ended, we had the rest of the afternoon to do as we wished in Florence. Deborah and I wandered around a bit and did a little more shopping. But we were tired. I think we were ready to go home. All that was left for us to experience was two more meals in Italy (lunch and our final dinner together that night), and then packing for the long trip back to Oregon the next day.
Time for a last gelato...on a hot bench in the piazza...(not the best one we had, even though it cost us 25 Euro! Sheesh!)
But, wouldn't you know it? There would be a final surprise at lunch that day; one that was a perfect way to end our visit to Firenze... (you'll never guess who we ran into again!)
Or maybe you will... see you at my next entry!