Our visit to Venice in January 2018 made us fall completely in love with Italy and we could hardly wait to go back again for more – however, we weren’t able to return until October that year when Simon whisked me off to Florence for my postponed birthday trip. As an Art History graduate and Historian, I hate to admit this but I wasn’t as enraptured by Florence as I expected to be and didn’t love it even nearly as much as I adored Venice. However, it was amazing to see art, streets and buildings that I had only ever read about before and I am so glad that we finally managed to see it for ourselves.
The high point of the trip was definitely the Uffizi Gallery – our original reason for visiting was to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera for ourselves and they absolutely, definitely did not disappoint. Did you know that there have been cases of people having actual heart attacks when they see The Birth of Venus for the first time? I’m not at all surprised at all as it really is every bit as extraordinarily lovely as you might expect and, unusually, much bigger than you think it is going to be as well (most famous paintings seem to be smaller.) I also really enjoyed introducing my boyfriend to the work of Bronzino, who has long been a favourite of mine, who painted various 16th century Medici in all of their sumptuous, bejewelled glory. Also amazing was the Pitti Palace, which is absolutely stuffed full of masterpieces – we wandered around in a state of drop jawed amazement at the riches that they had on display, which included wonderful paintings by Raphael, Titian and Botticelli.
The wealth, power and influence of the Medici family is evident everywhere in Florence. Their symbols are literally everywhere as you walk through the streets and they had an enormous influence on the city’s architectural, artistic and cultural development too. So much of the wonderful art that we love so much today is only in existence thanks to the Medici family – and that isn’t just in Florence either as lots of lovely things in France and England are thanks to Medici girls and their descendants who channelled the family’s wealth and taste into building wonderful palaces and patronising artists like Van Dyck and Rubens. For me, the most lovely remnant of the now extinct Medici family is the delightful Magi Chapel in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi – which has the most beautiful fresco that I have ever seen, involving portraits of Medici family members and their chums as part of the procession accompanying the Three Kings to Bethlehem.
Last but not least was Michelangelo’s masterpiece David, the symbol of Florence, whose image is everywhere in the city – as well as two full sized replicas, one of which stands in his original spot near the Uffizi. Although familiarity can indeed breed a certain amount of contempt, seeing him for the first time really is a wow moment because no photo can ever adequately convey the power or charisma of Michelangelo’s huge statue in all of his glory.
Rome next, I hope!