December 10, 2016: Nothing is Easy but Nothing is Impossible

The last art history trip was to Florence. It was also the biggest trip, with ~35 people. Plus, other students just went to Florence and kind of tagged along. We were definitely more than 35 people at some points. We grew as the day went on, messing up all the numbers for tickets-. Actually, it was too many people to be manageable. Often times, I couldn’t hear the professor.

Professor Cavina got a coffee in the morning, but she told us not to get coffee because we’re too slow. On the Mantova trip, we took long at the café for her. Italians drink espresso, which literally means express. They just suck it back at the counter and go.

Our first stop was Santa Maria Novella Church to see Giotto, Brunelleschi, and a fresco. That is the church that the main train station in Florence is named after. It has black and white stripes on the marble façade. Inside the courtyard before entering the church, you could hear what sounded like bats. But you couldn’t see bats. They might have been birds, but they were loud and sounded like the devil in church. It was a scary jungly sound that didn’t fit.

Went to see Biblioteca Laurenziana, the Lorenzian Library, but it was closed even though the internet said it was open. The professor was right to question what we found online, but how we were we supposed to know that they wouldn’t post their hours? Because Italy. Except we already went through the trouble of buying tickets. So we saw the courtyard with the orange tree and the Medici cathedral of San Lorenzo insetad, not even the chapel.  Everyone was kind of bummed, especially the professor. She was kind of flustered like she didn’t know what to do anymore. We were already way behind schedule anyways. There was a Donatello (sagrestia nuova) in the church but she didn’t even show it to us. I saw it through the glass, but we walked right on. She talks a lot and the tickets always take forever.

At the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, the professor bargained for us and got us discounted tickets. She always does this. She tells us in Italy, nothing is easy but nothing is impossible. If she argues with them enough she could get us a discount. The Cappella di Benozzo Gozzoli houses the Magi Chapel. It is a little room covered in frescoes. The colors are very lively, it was very well restored. We had to go in two shifts at 5 minute intervals. It wasn’t really enough time to really take it in, but we were rushed along

The school paid for the tickets to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. That’s really all we saw there. It is a whole museum, though not a big one. But most people walk in to see David and don’t even venture into the rest of the museum. We contrast David to Michelangelo’s later sculpture, which line the hallway leading up to David. His later statues are unfinished. The idea was that you’re not supposed to focus on the beauty on the sculpture, but on the religious nature. Once it was clear what it was, he stopped carving. He was liberating the figures from the marble, just enough to make out Madonna or whoever. David is enormous and perfect. He is a towering figure. There actually were not too many tourists. I thought it was going to be a lot worse.

We were allowed a short break for lunch. We went to a very crowded market and got fried chicken/rabbit/vegetables in a cone. It was very American but quintessentially Italian. I went to eat with Anna, Sofia, Sonia and Luigi. I’d never met Luigi before. He is a former student who lives in Bologna and TAs some of the economics classes. He is very kind. He offered to let me go to his parents’ house near Rimini for Christmas. I seriously considered. It was quite a dilemma. I could have an authentic Italian Christmas experience. In the end, I decided against it because I had a lot of work to finish before Morgan and mom and dad arrived. Plus, I didn’t want my other friends to be alone in Bologna after I told them I’d be around too (though one of them ended up going to Luigi’s in my place).

My first glimpse of Il Duomo was incredible. It is a beautiful cathedral from the outside. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside, let alone wait in the long lines. The patterns and colors and the lighting was perfect. It is so big and majestic. I’ll have to go back. At least from the exterior, I think it might be the most impressive church I’ve ever seen.

Lastly, we went to Uffizi Gallery. It is an art history trip after all. The school paid for these tickets too. The museum is enormous but actually not that big. You can certainly walk through the whole thing, in fact, you kind of have to in order to exit. Plus, a lot of sections were closed off. Which was frustrating and surprising. It was as if they didn’t have enough staff to man those galleries, but it was a Saturday in December. How could they be short on staff? Because Italy. Professor Cavina showed us a little bit of the top floor, including Boticelli (she walked right past Birth of Venus). But I stopped to take a picture. We saw Ponte Vecchio from the corridor. The corridor is really beautiful and iconic. I didn’t get as much out of it after she left us. It’s really good to go to museums with her, because I was just looking at the Leonardos not really analyzing them. The best was when we were near a group of schoolkids who were really excited about art, raising their hands and answering the docent’s questions about the art. And then the professor shushed them. It was hilarious. She’s so funny.

View of Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi through Ai Wei Wei’s surveillance sculpture

Afterwards, we went for wine at this rooftop bar. Though the rooftop was full, so we were one level below the rooftop. Oddly, the bar was on the top floors of a big department store, Japanese style. And for dinner, being in an international city, we were going to get Chinse food, but went for Korean instead. Either way, it was just nice to have white rice. The pork I got was supposed to be spicy but it was only Italian level spicy, that is to say not spicy at all. In any case, I’ll have to come back to Florence because there is so much to see here.

More photos:


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