This is the sixth in my series of posts from my family’s trip to Italy with the St. Mary’s of the Lake Choir from Skaneateles, NY. If you’d like to check out the earlier posts, you can find them by clicking these links – PART1, PART2, PART3, PART4, PART5
After the simplicity and calm of Assisi, we found ourselves in Florence. The Grand Mediterraneo Hotel was located on a busy street and we were roused from our drowsy state of mind after the bus ride from Assisi to frantically search for luggage. Then we had to take the tiny European elevators to our floors. The elevators said that they held six. As my ten year old daughter, Lillie, and I struggled to cram ourselves and four bags into the elevator, we wondered how small those six people had to be to fit.
At any rate, we got checked in and braced ourselves for the long walking tour scheduled for the next day around Florence. Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy. It has nearly 400,000 residents. It’s less crowded and frenetic than Rome, but only slightly so.
Our word of the day, as we ventured out, was simple. Father Bob, once again, shared words of wisdom with us and a prayer before we started out day in Florence.
Galleria Dell’Accademia Di Firenze:
TheGalleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or Gallery of the Academy of Florence, is best known as the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David. It also has other sculptures by Michelangelo and a large collection of paintings by Florentine artists, mostly from the period 1300-1600. In 2016 it had 1,461,185 visitors, making it the second most visited art museum in Italy, after the Uffizi. The Galleria dell’Accademia was founded in 1784.
This sculpture is definitely the highlight of the museum. It’s an imposing figure with incredible detail. David is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created in marble between 1501 and 1504 started when Michelangelo was only 26. It is 17 feet in height made from a single block of marble.
What struck me was the painstaking detail, but, when you look at the hands and feet of the statue, they don’t seem to fit the rest of the statue both in size and aesthetic. The guide told us that, because of the time it took to create the details of hands and feet, it was likely that Michelangelo used his own appendages as the models for David’s mismatched features. Michelangelo was known to have unusually large hands and feet. When researching this post, however, there are other various reasons cited for the large appendages. For instance, it is speculated that Michelangelo knew that the statue would be viewed from below. Another explanation is that the immense right hand is a reference to David’s manu fortis or strong hand. Yet another explanation is that the statue is a stylized account of a growing boy’s ungainly limbs.
Of course, there were many other beautiful works in the museum including some unfinished statues from Michelangelo that were emerging from single blocks of marble that gave a glimpse into how his sculptures were created.
An Unscripted Rest:
After the Gallery, a nearly seven mile walking tour of Florence was planned. My wife and I, along with her sister and her husband, saw this as a good time to break away from the group and head back to the hotel for a rest. With the five of us (including my daughter), it was impossible to find a cab that would take all of us and Uber didn’t operate in Florence.
We decided to take the 15 minute walk back to the hotel. It afforded us some additional views of the city and allowed us to do some shopping in a leather store. This turned out to be just the recharging activity that we needed in preparation for our evening concert and mass. We took naps and my wife, Caryn, and my daughter, Lillie, went on a short shopping (and gelato) venture.
Basilica San Marco – Florence:
On this evening in Florence, we were able to participate in a mini-concert and mass at the Bailica San Marco (the 2nd of three churches dedicated to St. Mark that we would visit and perform in on this trip).
The church has a single nave with side chapels designed in the late 16th century and paintings from the 16th–17th centuries. A further renovation was carried on in 1678 and the current façade was built in 1777–1778.
The five of us that rested at the hotel arrived a bit early to find a man in a priest’s cassock, a sporty hat and vibrant blue glasses rehearsing with a few of the churches choir members. What struck us was the acoustics in this old church along with the strength of the voices.
It turned out that this choir would be assisting us with the mass parts and the man rehearsing them was the charming and appreciative priest that, along with our own Father Bob, would be celebrating the mass. It was at his request that we did a mini-concert prior to the mass.
The experience was a special one. The priest from this church had a deep appreciation for music which was apparent as he thanked and shook hands with every choir member after mass. The church’s choir was also very friendly and appreciative. It was an experience that shows how music transcends culture and language.
Florence was a great city, but we would only be staying the night before heading off to our next adventure.