Have you lost all respect for me after reading that title?
I hope so.
The truth is, my main goal with this blog is not to be rich and famous (not that I’d mind,,,), no, the goal here is to have fun sharing my ~quirky~ traveling stories with you all, and if it’s not fun to write, then I won’t want to do it anymore. So you see why this title was completely necessary!
Now, with that out of the way, here’s a rundown of my first day studying abroad in Florence:
Today’s class involved visiting 3 of Florence ‘s art museums, including the Museo Nazionale del Bargello (National Museum of Bargello), the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Duomo), and the ever-famous Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy’s Gallery). Needless to say, it was a full and exhausting day, but I think it was a great way be introduced to this artsy city.
Museo Nazionale del Bargello
I was extra excited to be visiting the Bargello National Museum because it has the art that we studied the most during our classes back at Oxford, like the Saint George statue and Donatello’s David.
Before it was the national museum, this building was the Bargello Palace- a public building for Florentine affairs in the middle ages. This makes sense, seeing as it looks so similar to the Palazzo Pubblico we visited yesterday in Siena, with its red brick and castel-y looking tower.
After entering the gates, you’ll walk into a square courtyard with an outdoor staircase and a well (staples of a medieval building). Its walls are covered in the seals of powerful Florentine families, and I was fascinated with looking at all of these.
There are 3 floors of exhibits, and the ground floor holds the most valuable art- the statues. At first I wondered why, because now they seem easier to steal. Now that I think about it, though, would you want to lug a 100kg marble sculpture up 2 flights of stairs? I would not.
Just as I’d hoped, we got to see Donatello’s Saint George, who kind of looks like Tom Holland from the Spiderman movies if you look closely. Also on this floor we saw Donatello’s risque bronze sculpture of David, Michelangelo’s hilarious statue of a drunken Bacchus, and of course, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti’s competition panels!
The other two floors have a variety of art and artifacts from medieval and renaissance Florence, and I especially liked the bird statues on the third floor.
We didn’t spend a ton of time at the Bargello National Museum, but I think our hour was enough, especially considering we had two other museums to visit! Next up is the Duomo Museum!!
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Similar to the Museo dell’Opera in Siena, the Duomo Museum of Florence holds a lot of the art and artifacts from Florence’s most famous attraction- the Duomo.
There’s almost every kind of art you could imagine in here. Paintings? Marble sculpture? Bronze paneling? If you can name it, they’ve probably got it.
The work that stood out to me most was a wooden carving of a mourning Mary Magdalene wearing a hair shirt. I won’t sugar coat it, it’s creepy as hell. It’s also apparently very rare, because wooden carvings back then were susceptible to rotting by wood worms.
Overall, the Duomo Museum was neat, but I would ultimately give it a pass and spend some more time in the Duomo itself.
Finding Food in Florence
After leaving the Duomo museum, I was exhausted and relieved when we were allowed a break for lunch. Normally, we try to avoid restaurants near major tourist attractions, but like I said, we were tired and so we settled for a table outside right next to the Duomo.
I ordered some carbonara, and although it was more expensive due to the location, it was tasty and not unreasonably priced. Our view of the Duomo was awesome, and thankfully, the dome kept us in the shade. The waiter (playfully) made fun of me for using hand sanitizer and I got hit in the arm by a pigeon. Overall an eventful lunch.
Piazza Santissima Annunziata
After finishing lunch, we left to meet our class at the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, or S. Annunziata Square.
We got there early to find the square empty and quiet, and so we decided to explore.
The main feature of the square is the Ospedale degli Innocenti (hospital of the innocents), which was an Florentine orphanage and monastery until the 1800’s. On the other side is a ‘loggia’, which is kind of like a stage with an awning over it supported by tall, rounded arches.
In the streets branching off the square, there are some small souvenir shops and cafes, one of which we stopped in for a midday cappuccino. There were lots of locals at this cafe, and I got the cheapest cappuccino I’ve been able to find since I got to Italy for less than a euro. It was good too.
When the rest of our class got here, our professor told us about the history of Florence’s loggias before heading to the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Afterwards, we had one more museum to visit for the day… it’s the one you’ve all been waiting for…. It’s got THE David… it’s… the Academy Gallery!
The Accademia is another of Florence’s museums that’s dedicated solely to Florentine art. Most of the works are marble statues by Michelangelo, including the uber-famous David, but there’s also a collection of paintings and musical instruments.
The first exhibit is a hallway that has Michelangelo and others’ unfinished marble sculptures lining both sides. A lot of these sculptures weren’t finished because the artists would find flaws like cracks inside the marble slabs, and would be forced to quit.
That’s what makes David so impressive. Besides being an amazing demonstration of human anatomy, the fact that a slab of flawless marble of this size exists is a miracle. They’ve also recently cleaned the statue, so it practically glitters.
At the end of the hall of the unfinished, David stands tall and proud on a large pedestal surrounded by mobs of people. The statue of David itself is way bigger than I had imagined, which I was grateful for because it meant I could see a lot of the details from far away. If you look closely at his face, you’ll see that David wears a worried expression, which is surprising because he looks confident from far away. I can’t really blame him though, I would be embarrassed to if I was a guy with my peepee exposed.
In the room to the left of the hallway, there are tons of miscellaneous sculptures, most of which are heads. Most people just go to the museum to see David and leave, so this room is a lot less crowded. Even less crowded is the room upstairs with the Florentine paintings. It took me a while to find the stairs, but once I did, it was nice to take my time looking and all of the golden paintings.
There are a TON of museums in Florence! For more info on Florence’s museums, prices, and hours of operation, click here!
While I understand that sculpture is a huge part of Florence’s history, visiting three museums really sapped my energy. Still, Florence is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m excited to visit more of the city outside of museums. I’m dying to just take an afternoon to walk around outside! My friends and I also had a good laugh seeing David and all of the souvenir crap with his ween all over it.
We finished up the day with dinner at a trattoria. There’s nothing quite like pasta, wine, and flan(?) after a long day of museums 🙂
Even though I’m dying to see more of Florence from the outside, I am excited to visit the Uffizi Gallery tomorrow. I suspect that it’s going to be mobbed, but I think we’ll still have fun.