If you’ve been doing any research on visiting Italy – the Birthplace of the Renaissance – you’ll undoubtedly come across many articles touting the extraordinary collections of Art in Florence. And they’re all true. A visit to Florence [Firenze] will not disappoint even the most ostentatious art fan. There’s countless painting, sculpture, and architecture on display throughout the city and definitely not limited to the popular Uffizi and Accademia museums. The city is by all accounts LEGEN [wait for it] DARY.
Giotto, considered to be one of the fathers of Italian painting, called Firenze home. You can see his frescoes in two chapels in the Piazza Santa Croce at the cappella Bardi e Peruzzi. And if headed to the Uffizi Gallery you’ll enjoy his impressive altarpiece, ‘The Ognissanti Madonna‘, originally commissioned for the Florentine Church of Ognissanti. Another famous painter from Firenze? Sure. Sandro Botticelli. You can check out some of his best-known works, ‘The Birth of Venus‘ & ‘Primavera‘, while you’re at Uffizi where he has his very own room. If visiting the Palazzo Pitti, not to be missed is the ‘Madonna della Seggiola‘ by Raphael.
The city is full of medieval architecture. You’re probably already headed to this next mention anyway, but now you’ll have this knowledge when you visit the work of Filippo Brunelleschi. He’s responsible for the massive octagonal Dome of the Duomo of Florence. The Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral was constructed in the late 13th century but with no clear plan on how the actual dome would be designed and supported. Enter local goldsmith Brunelleschi in 1420 – 150 years later! The project took a series of 4 steps, including a double-shell dome and herringbone brickwork, and nearly 16 years! His work remains a truly remarkable feat then and now. Other points of interest at the Duomo: mosaics in the Baptistery [the small octagonal building] and Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bronze ‘Gates of Paradise‘ doors which are now safely on display in the Museo del Opera del Duomo.
And perhaps the most famous art in Florence, the work of Michelangelo. But first, did you know he was an architect as well? The Laurentian Library was both designed and built by Michelangelo and is renowned for its revolutionary innovation and use of space. And, of course, he was a sculptor. But there’s something other than the ‘David‘ [which is on display at the Galleria dell’Accademia] to be admired. The ‘Florentine Pieta‘ was one of Michelangelo’s last sculptures. It was intended for his own tomb but destroyed by the artist and then reconstructed by another (unknown) artist and is on display at the at the Museo del Opera del Duomo.
And so many more. Far too many for me to list in this post [my save for not knowing them all!]. 🙂
THE ‘OTHER’ ART IN FLORENCE
Florence’s main allure has always been that of the arts. And while you’re checking off the classics why not add in a little modern spice. You may be planning a visit to the first great basilica in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. The architecture is not the only draw here; inside you’ll enjoy a whole slew of masterpieces: ‘Trinity‘ by Masaccio, Giotto’s ‘The Crucifix‘, a second wooden crucifix by Brunelleschi, an early work of Botticelli – ‘The Nativity‘, and countless other frescoes. But venture to the southwest side of the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and you’ll find yourself at the Museo Novecento Firenze. A contemporary museum dedicated to 20th century Italian art. Meander through the exhibits and take a curious walk through the renewal of art culture including the birth of fashion and influences of the avant-garde. When I visited, there was an artisan chocolate fair in the piazza which *literally* sweetened the deal!
Spend some time walking around the city and you’re bound to see the work of some urban expressionists. Most notably, that of Clet Abraham, Exit/Enter, and Blub. Yes, yes – I’m referring to street art. Love it or hate it, the movement is growing and it’s a rarity to find a city that has maintained its innocence to the tags, wheat pastes, and murals of today’s generation. French born, but now Firenze resident, Clet Abraham [Clet] is responsible for all the mocked up street signs. His whimsical alterations add a creative and sometimes provocative message, but for safety, never modify the readability of the sign. He has a studio open to the public [Via dell’Olmo, 8] in San Niccolò. Stop in and purchase some stickers or prints and perhaps meet the man himself.
The little, black and white omini figures belong to artist Exit/Enter. His simple and poetic displays send humble messages. A man tugging on a balloon. Or climbing a ladder to a giant red heart. I noticed him around my flat during my stay in Pigneto, Roma and was pleased to learn more on my trip to Firenze. You can pick up small [read: easy to travel with!], framed, and reasonably priced Exit/Enter water color originals at a modest gallery not far from Clet’s studio – Dhai Studio Atelier [Via di S. Niccolò, 44]. The studio is owned by Carla Bruttini who just so happens to be an artist herself. Carla’s beautiful, large scale paintings are on display alongside her current works in progress.
AND while you’re at Dhai Studio, you can contemplate picking up prints by Blub [only €10 each!]. The artist’s L’arte Sa Nuotare [art knows how to swim] project is on display all over Firenze. His wheat pastes take iconic and/or local, socially relevant portraits and depict them in underwater settings. Seemingly simple in nature, there are a few interpretations of the message of the project – the submerged figures represent the difficulties faced by the art world OR the project, in choosing the title art knows how to swim, expresses the longevity of art through changing trends OR by representing iconized characters the artist is challenging the use of commercialism through art. However you want to view the work, the portraits are playful and I enjoyed them so much I picked up two prints!
You’ll find quite a bit more as you wander around the streets and alleyways of Florence. Many are the result of an ‘art mob’ – Finestra con Vista – which placed over 40 pieces on windows, doors, and elsewhere one September night back in 2014. Most of the pieces have since been removed or subject to the unforgiving elements, but using THIS map to search out remains will be a fun excuse to get to know the city. And bringing it all full circle, a famous Renaissance guy did his part of adding to art in the streets. In the Palazzo Vecchio, the side near the Uffizi Gallery, carved into the wall is a simple outline of a man’s face. The work of none other than Michelangelo!
Whether you’re interested in the classics, modern, or a healthy mix of both, Art in Florence won’t disappoint. Get out and explore my favorite city in Italy and have a Negroni on me! Saluti!
Happy Grid Walking 🙂