Imagine a solid block of marble, 14+ feet tall. Now imagine someone hacking away all that does not belong there, starting at the front and working to the back so that, like figure in a slowly draining bathtub, an incredible and exquisite one-piece statue emerges. This describes Michelangelo’s creation of the famous sculpture of David, the shepherd boy (ready to slay Goliath). It’s truly an awesome work and it’s just hard to imagine how it could have been created by hand. The artist did not mark up the stone, set reference points, or draw quadrants on it as some of his contemporaries did; instead he just dove into it, marble chips and dust flying, giving in entirely to the (he said) God given inspiration, working for days without end, without sleep, letting the act of creation completely consume him. In the case of David, he even used a block of marble that others had rejected as flawed and too thin. On the statue, the skin tension, the veins in the hands and arms, the sense of impending motion gives the marble a quality that is quite sublime. I spent an hour looking at this work.
So went my visit this morning to the Accademia Gallery. The rest of the museum features more (but naturally disappointing, after the David) sculptures and more Renaissance paintings. I confess my circuits were overloaded by then and they did not get a fair viewing.
Next stop was the Duomo, the local medieval cathedral with an incredibly high and long, unsupported interior. What I could see of its famous dome from inside was beautiful but I’m afraid that I passed on the long climb up to the top: the line was very long and the 460+ steps not all that inviting.
I did take some time today to do some laundry and to check out the bus station for tomorrow’s day trip to Siena. After lunch (pizza with mushrooms and artichokes), I also visited the Museum of the History of Science, which was midly interesting but a lot like the "Mind of Da Vinci" exhibit yesterday at the Uffizi.
Here’s a shock: I think I may have overdosed on Gelato! Recent cups and cones have resulted in some stomach distress so I may have to lay off for a few days. Yes, it’s quite a deprivation, I know. And with a gellateria every twenty feet in this town (literally), it’s hard to avoid.
What, you ask, about the Pitti Palace, the Bargello Museum, the Church of Santa Maria Novella, and all those other sights? Well, I tend to look at things in museums really hard, to spend time with them, to look at the details intensely. This is satisfying but also contributes to a phenomenon known as "museum fatigue". After a few hours of this concentrated attention it feels like my eyeballs are about to fall out. So, I don’t go into my tourist role with the notion, as I know some of you do, that I’m only here once and, by golly, I’m going to see it all. Instead, I pick the top sights, see them at my own pace and with due attention, and figure I’ll see the rest on my next few visits. Vive l’difference, eh?
So, friends, tomorrow I’m off by bus for a day in Siena, a hilltop town that was once larger than Paris and was once Florence’s main commercial and political rival. The Black Plague wiped out 1/3 of the town and it never recovered and, consequently, its an excellently-preserved medieval town. It was an interest in going to Siena, in fact, that sparked my whole visit to Italy.