Well I wanted to go to see the quattrocento masterpieces in the Uffizzi Gallery in Florence and many of my friends had been more than enthusiastic about Venice so we did a 2-centre holiday which was , of course , exhausting .
One of those places everyone should go to – like Paris , Istanbul ? Firstly if you know anything about art history or English literature a lot of what you see will be familiar – the tall buildings with classical proportions neatly plastered and painted in warm colours , the red tiles on the slightly sloping roofs above the many roof gardens/terraces and lifting your eyes further up , the Tuscan landscape so often seen in the background of Renaissance Annunciations & portraits . And yes it looks just as good in real life as in many an English watercolour or as described by Elizabeth Barret Browning . A surprise was that the obviously modern buildings also exhibited classical proportions and thus fitted in and managed to be pleasing to the eye – even concrete blocks of flats . In fact my son said he had not seen so many examples of the Golden Ratio all together before .
Secondly the Uffizzi is (as it boasts) one of the greatest Art Galleries in the world . Of course I went to see the obvious Botticellis ;
Both of these are bigger than I imagined and luckily were hung high up so that you could see most of each despite being several feet deep in people listening to tour guides while endlessly taking photos . Anyone would think that there no photographic images available anywhere ! Or silly non-information about these 2 very pagan icons if that is what you want . Most importantly they are so much better in real life than in a reproduction – they are indeed staggering to contemplate . Unfortunately the Uffizzi has no seating where the paintings are , so looking properly (ie for long enough at a time) is difficult . There were many other Botticellis ; my son particularly liked this fresco from a villa –
and I this with yet more pagan/classical references !
But there were also Fillipino Lippi , Giotto and Uccello’s wonderful battle scene which again was much bigger than I had imagined . Downstairs they had later stuff which was less to my taste – especially a whole room devoted to decapitations ! But also many portraits and Titian’s Venus – beautiful .
If there were no paintings the Uffizzi would be worth a visit for the marble statuary – including Roman originals and the long wide corridors largely housing them (the paintings are in rooms off to the side) . These corridors or galleries also looked a little familiar and then I realised that almost every “country house” I have ever visited in England was trying to imitate the painted ceilings , the inlaid marble floors and the processions of marble statuary…..but the original is just better – or maybe the climates clash too much !
I fear I was less entranced here because oddly it was again familiar . I have read so much in the way of romantic nostalgia for its faded glories and ‘raddled’ beauty and lately also about how it will sink beneath the Adriatic due to faulty engineering or (more likely) climate change , that the dilapidated state of so many buildings was no surprise . Indeed Venice is so obviously largely dependent on tourism that I suspect things are kept at just the right level to ensure romantic decadence but prevent complete disintegration . Me I don’t like decay , sorry .
The most glorious thing I saw in Venice was St Mark’s Basilica and this was unexpected . All the photographic images I had ever seen made it look like a more than usually OTT wedding cake . But , no . In real life it is sumptuous , magnificent and clearly a case of Venice showing off when at the height of its power – but not OTT . If you get the chance spend some time looking carefully at the façade before going inside . They have lovely scale models explaining its building and repair at different times . You can see these by way of stairs which are more reasonable than most English church towers’ – I never did get all the way up St Paul’s ! – and also let you up behind the horses on the façade . But not behind the lion which is St Mark the Evangelist’s symbol and so all over the place . The best reasons for going inside ? The gold mosaics on the walls and inside the domes and the floor which can only be described as marquetry in stone . Some of the sections were put together to produce a trompe l’oeil effect which was positively Escheresque !
And here is Jen-Li Shih’s beautiful stainless steel rhinoceros which we found in a park near where we were staying . It is currently the Venice Biennale for architecture and a sculpture exhibition was part of it . My partner’s photographs :