I guess my love of art goes back to Year 11 at high school, when I not only had a great teacher, Mrs Barnes, but also a fantastic text book that told the stories behind the masterpieces. It was Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, and I still see it in bookstores today. We spent a good deal of time covering the Italian Renaissance and what was happening here in Florence. So it’s been for just a little under half a century that I have wanted to visit the Uffizi and see these art treasures with my own eyes.
We arrived at the ticket office door and there were only a handful of people there. The guy on the door convinced us that we could see a good deal in just a little under two hours, and we’d probably never get a ticket queue so short, so we went in.
To view the art in the Uffizi, at first you must walk up many stairs, which date back to the Renaissance. It’s a relief to eventually discover there are no more to be climbed, and a delight as you gaze down the long corridor and see the white marble statues from the Roman era and the beautifully painted ceilings. The galleries are in small rooms off the main corridors. Some are roped off and you view them from a doorway. I was surprised to discover Renaissance works in the same galleries as Roman and Greek works from over a thousand years earlier, but a panel explained that the Renaissance artists were often encouraged to study the remarkable sculptures and other works left by the classical artists and model their own works upon them. So it made good sense to often house them in the same rooms of the Uffizi.
As we didn’t have time for a longer visit, we skipped the opportunity to get audio guides. There were very few people in most galleries, so it was easy to get a close look at a painting or sculpture and then move on quickly to the next room.
Over the next hour and a half, I found myself standing before many of the great artworks I’d once learned about from Gombrich’s book. There were rooms dedicated to paintings by Giotto, Botticelli (including the Birth of Venus), Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. The colours were vibrant. The paintings were every bit as beautiful as I’d always imagined them to be. Marg and I were also delighted to find works from Rembrandt and Rubens in the museum, which we hadn’t expected. It was a visual feast. We left just before the museum closed its doors for the day, very satisfied that we’d been able to see all of the galleries but just a little disappointed that several of the High Renaissance rooms were closed to the public for renovation.
We left the Uffizi and walked down to the Ponte Vecchio arched bridge over the Arno River just a short distance away. The bridge was built in the 1500s, and for centuries has been the home to jewellery merchants. I think Marg plans to come back here for a second look.