Grand Tour IV


Originally written on September 11, 2005

Ciao ragazzi,

I hope this message finds all of you well.

Today is my last day in Florence and Italy. I have some time to kill because my sister has left for London this morning, and D.B. is already home. Thus, I decided to send you another email and give you an update on how this week has been.

I ended the last message talking about David, so that’s where I’ll begin this email.

The night before going to the Uffizi Museum and Accademia I didn’t get much sleep. It was either because of the excitement, or because we had several people in our room whose alarm clocks went on around 2 am. I don’t know what happened to those vampires. I didn’t see them in the morning to yell at them, so they probably flew away. lol… šŸ˜‰

Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Vecchio at night, Florence

The Uffizi was wonderful although there was a lot of Gothic art which didn’t hold my attention for long. I gained a lot of respect for Botticelli, and his Birth of Venus looks simpler in the composition than I expected it to be. Although we had “museum fatigue” after spending hours in the Uffizi, we proceeded to the Accademia to finally see David.
I was glad that we made ticket reservations well in advance because people were queuing for hours while we just walked straight into each museum.

It is a bit sad that in every other museum, and every other country, exhibits from the Accademia would be praised and paid attention to. However, this is not the case here because David is the star. Nothing else around matters. Signs are not posted around to show one where to go. Instead the gallery is lit in such a manner that the light leads one’s eye straight to him who stands at the end of the hall underneath a dome. I’m still amazed by how Michelangelo was able to turn a junk piece of marble into such a statue that has symbolized the freedom of expression, return to classics, Renaissance, Florence, and Italy.

While I’m still on this topic, I have to agree with other art historians that Michelangelo no matter how great he was, had never succeeded in painting or sculpting a proper female body. I guess he loved men too much. lol… I went to the Medici Chapel, and the statues of women he created have all masculine features except two clumps of marbleĀ  that represent female breasts. Even the torso was very masculine!!!

Statue of Michelangelo at Uffizi Gallery

In addition, there is something magical about Florence in general – especially in the late afternoon when the sun is about the set. The entire city wraps itself in a golden cloud and turns different shades of yellow. It definitely is a romantic city and rivals Venice in it. During the day it’s filled with tourists who mostly come here on a day trip. However, once evening comes, and most people are gone, one can truly admire the beauty of Florence. It is just wonderful to walk down the streets and admire architecture. I found it difficult to believe that such huge palaces would have been built in the 14th century and would have been called “homes”. Even for today’s standard, they overexcited with their enormous sizes and grand decoration.

Florence at night

Since we were in Tuscany, we also decided to do several day trips and see some other towns.

Pisa – has been the low key point of the vacation. To put the simply, it was annoying! One wouldn’t expect such a description, but the sights did not live up to my expectations.

First of all, we were wrongly advised to take a train which stopped closer to the Leaning Tower. There is nothing wrong with that if the train did not take nearly 2.5 hr instead of only 1.25hr! I definitely did not make the same mistake on the way back to Florence.
Secondly, the Leaning Tower is not as tilted as I thought it would be, and it was pain in the neck trying to take a pictures next to the structure. Moreover, there were so many tourists on that square that one couldn’t breathe. I thought of climbing the Tower, and dropping a pebble from the top – just trying to do something similar that Galileo did – but the queue was long, and we left the town as quickly as possible.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa


Venice – is still as gorgeous as I remember it, and still flooded with tourists as ever. It was great to go back not only because of the sights I had not seen before, but also to see the girls being amazed by the uniqueness of the city.Ā My sisterĀ couldn’t get over the fact that the public transportation vehicle in Venice is a boat! There are many cities in the
world which have been called Venice of such and such (eg. Hamburg – Venice of the North) or Rome of such and such, but there are only one Venice and one Rome. Nothing else compares to them.

View of Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute Church in Venice

Siena – is a lovely Tuscan town close to Chianti region, and well worth spending several hours. The cathedral is stunning, especially the floor which was done in different types of marble.

El Torre del Mangia, Siena

Last night as if they knew that we were leaving Florence, there was a free classical concert in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. It was truly wonderful, and even the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge) was lit in rainbow colours. The concert ended with a piece from Wilhelm Tell, and that excited me a bit about my next destination.

Ponte Vecchio at night, Florence

I’m leaving tonight for Vienna and leaving Italy behind me. It truly has been an incredible experience, and one can gain so much from a country so rich in culture and great food.

Bye for now!

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