Day 4 of Italy!

Tuesday morning, day 4 of our trip, began similarly to the previous days: too early.

Our trip of the morning was to the Uffizi Gallery. “Uffizi” literally means “offices”, and it is so named because during the time of the Medici it was literally the office building of the city. It was used to store the collection of paintings owned by the city, and after the city offices moved to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi the building became exclusively a painting gallery. It now houses some of the most important paintings in the world: several works by Michelangelo, an early painting by Leonardo da Vinci, and the centerpiece of the whole gallery: Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus. The Uffizi is tremendously long and winding and our feet became tremendously tired by the time we finished, but all of the paintings were quite spectacular, even if it became harder and harder to concentrate as the corridors kept going and going.
The Uffizi is laid out in chronological order of paintings (for the most part), so you begin in the 12th century and move forward throughout the rest of the Renaissance. The earlier, Byzantine-style paintings have almost an excess of gilding and gold paint, but it is a trademark of the style and it means that you can still see the majority of all of the paintings, despite their extreme age.The faces of the people are fairly flat and unrealistic, especially the paintings of the baby Jesus in the many different version of the Madonna & Child. The baby looks like an old man’s head was placed on a tiny body! As the Renaissance progresses, though, you can see the development of perspective and more realistic painting styles. While there are still quite a few Madonna & Childs and Holy Familys and Annunciations from the body of the Renaissance, they look less terrifying and more realistic than those from the end of the medieval period. From these paintings, particularly “Madonna & Child” and “The Annunciation”, was born the two memes of our trip: “No Thanks Mary” and “Peace Out Jesus”. These came about because I ended up walking through most of the Uffizi with the theater major from our trip, and she noticed that in most of the Madonna & Child paintings the baby Jesus has two fingers raised in what, in modern culture, is known as the “peace out” symbol (i.e. palm facing out and the index and middle fingers raised in a V shape). (We also found a few “Peace Out Jesus”s later on in the Uffizi and in our trip.) The “No Thanks Mary” comes from the Annunciation paintings, where the Virgin Mary is being told by the angel Gabriel that she will have the Son of God. In a surprisingly large number of these paintings, Mary has her face turned away from Gabriel, and more often than not, also has her hands out to her side as if to push him away. This two silly thoughts were mentioned repeatedly throughout the Uffizi, and later in the week as we saw more and more of the same types of paintings.
In the hallways between rooms in the Uffizi, there were portraits of famous Florentines on the wall, right up where it met the ceiling. They were quite beautiful, and I was pleasantly surprised to note that there were several women among the portraits! There was also a number of busts lining several of the hallways, and those were quite amusing to look at, especially since many of them had strange facial expressions.
There was a lovely balcony/terrace about halfway or possibly two-thirds of the way through the Uffizi. We stepped outside to enjoy the outside air and take pictures of the view of Florence. Unfortunately we thought this was the end of the Gallery and so we got rather excited that we were almost at the end, only to find that there were several more galleries we had to walk through. I personally think it was worth it, though, as one of the galleries near the end was of Renaissance painters from other European countries, and three of those paintings involved lutenists; two of whom were women.

After the Uffizi we had lunch and a short break, then we headed back to the ACCENT offices in Piazza Santo Spirito where we’d gone the first day so that we could have a short class period. It wasn’t a real “class” class: we really just discussed all the cool things we’d done so far in Florence.

After class we were completely free to do whatever we wanted, so most of the girls (myself included) walked over to the San Lorenzo leather market to shop around. It was a lot of fun looking at all the different wares on the stalls and listening to all the vendors yelling and haggling sales. We ended up staying at the market for most of the afternoon and into the evening, taking a break from friendly arguments with the salesmen to eat dinner at a local trattoria. {A small aside to talk about this particular trattoria: their food was amazing. We’d said at the beginning of the trip that we wouldn’t eat anywhere more than once, but we broke the rule for this restaurant. I don’t know what exactly it was or how to describe, but it felt fun and authentically Italian, and the food was some of the best I tasted while we were there. End aside.} Most of everyone else bought a leather bag while we were there; I bought a leather book cover emblazoned with the lion of Florence.

Several of us went out that night and explored more of the nightlife of the city, but that was about all the interesting stories from that day.

And thus ended Day 4 in Florence!

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