In Firenze, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Well, here I am. I’ve had some e-mail access and some Internet access at the school, but not much. When they said “there will be a computer lab” they meant “there will be 5 slow computers and 200+ students.” Ah, the things that you lose in translation, heh.

Anyway, all is well – I have lucked into a single bedroom with my very own balcony. My host mother is fabulous, my flat mates range from good to tolerable, and I love the food. I can’t speak the language worth crap yet, but that will hopefully continue to improve. My Spanish is helping me a great deal, except that I keep saying the wrong thing for “and” (it’s “y” in Spanish, pronounced “ee,” and it’s “e” in Italian, pronounced “eh”).

Today we had our first group museum visit, which was the first Italian museum visit for me as I’ve been concetrating on learning the language before venturing out for other enlightenment. We went to the Bargello, which is an ancient palace that became a prison and is now a gallery for sculpture, a few blocks away from the Piazza delle Republicca, which I am probably spelling wrong. First we had a somewhat lengthy but ultimately helpful and interesting lecture on the history of the place (from a local professor, who spoke English, whew) while standing in the courtyard. Then we went up to the Donatello room on the second floor, where we had another somewhat lengthy lecture on the history of the room and a short chance to look at Donatello’s beautiful bronze David and two panels by Brunelleschi (the ultimate architect of the Duomo) and Ghibertti (the artist chosen to do the doors of the Baptistry). I found Donatello’s works most interesting, particularly the famously ambiguous David and his small cupid figure at the front of the room, which was not on the tour but was covered in my guide book. We then went on to see Verlocchi’s (may be getting the name wrong – I’m writing really fast) David, which was studied extensively by Michelangelo before he created his. This David was based on Giuliano di Medici, the younger brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Giuliano was killed in the Pazzi Conspiracy, stabbed to death in a church by assasins hired by the rival Pazzi family, while Lorenzo escaped and eventually visited horrible revenge on the Pazzi families. This is so far my favorite Florence story, so I found the David to be fascinating. Next we went to a room of coins, one of which depicted the Pazzi conspiracy and the death of Giuliano, and then we went down to a special exhibit. There were two paintings by Raefaello (It’s been a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles day, as we saw sculpture by Donatello & Michelangelo, painting by Raphael, and the hands of one bust of a woman in the museum were probably done by Leonardo) of a rival banker, one of which came from the National Gallery in D.C. I felt a little D.C. homesick seeing that one, though who knows if I’ve seen it before. The artwork was very beautiful – the detail is just amazing in everything, and to imagine it was all done by hand, all done so many years ago with so much effort and attention… much of the art was done around the time artists were “discovering” perspective, which is a mind-blowing concept to consider. A world without perspective? Hmm…

Anyway, after the special exhibit (which also featured a large Celini bust of Cosimo I, a famous Medici and, I think, the uncle of Lorenzo and Giuliano; Celini also did a bust of the banker that Raphael painted, and the contrast between the outward-looking, ready-to-conquer Cosimo and the almost demure other banker is a sure sign of the Medici power to influence art during that time) we went to the room with Michelangelo’s work. We saw his Drunken Bacchus and a round disk picture he sculpted later of the Madonna and Child. The Bacchus was a very early work in which Michelangelo was trying to capture the classical style of sculpting while using marble (instead of bronze). Again, the detail was impressive, though I still liked Donatello’s David best of all the works in the museum.

Now I’m at an “Internet Cafe,” which is really just like a computer lab in a small narrow shop. I’m going to walk up to the stazione and find something near there for lunch, then perhaps wonder out on the edge of the city a bit more. The language barrier is still keeping me pretty local, though my roommates have invited me to go to Rome with them next weekend. I am undecided on whether to go along, but I’ll need to make up my mind soon!

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