Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Florence Day 10: Palazzo Vecchio

Our last full day in Florence began with a tour of Palazzo Vecchio--the medieval fortress built from 1298-1314 as a home for the city government.

In the mid-1500s, members of the Medici family (yes, them again--you hear about them *everywhere* in Florence) lived in apartments here for a while before moving across the river to Palazzo Pitti.

photo: flickr.com/fotofilippo
The first thing to note is that you should learn from our mistakes and reserve a guided tour in advance. Somehow we hoped we could just show up and get in on the Secret Passages tour, but they had no openings all day. Bummer!

The first and most notable room to see in the palace is the Hall of the Five Hundred. This massive (174 feet by 72 feet) hall was built to house Florence's legislature.

 The walls are covered with these enormous battle scenes painted by Vasari...  

 Even the ceiling is covered with intricate gold molding and paintings.

From there we just wandered through the rest of the apartments. I feel like the Secret Passages tour would have been really amazing, but otherwise, we'd pretty much reached our limit in terms of being able to absorb or appreciate Renaissance art. Still, there were some interesting pieces of painted furniture and other extravagant furnishings in the apartments. 

The maps room, with a giant globe in the center and ancient maps of the world all over the walls, was fascinating:

Some of the most memorable art for me was in the Chapel of Eleonora. Eleonora of Toledo was a Medici duchess, and her private chapel (?!?) was painted by Agnolo Bronzino in the mid-1500s. What I appreciated about it was the way it seemed to recognize and celebrate the gospel in the Old Testament, the way the stories of Moses point to Christ. I loved seeing the centrality of Christ portrayed, seeing Old Testament scenes illustrated in an effort to magnify Him. When I read the  plaque in the room, there was this sense of, "Yes! They got it!":
"The dialogue between the altarpiece with its Deposition and the three walls with their stories of Moses presaging Christ's sacrifice and the mystery of the Eucharist, points to the link between the Old and New Testaments."
Deposition of Christ - Bronzino

Moses strikes the Rock

The people look to the bronze serpent for healing

After we'd seen enough, we set off for one last strenuous climb: 418 steps up to the top of the tower. It closes when it's raining, but we made it up just in time before the drizzle started! Amazing views of the Duomo and the rest of Florence. 

By the time we were done touring Palazzo Vecchio, it was pouring rain, so we ducked into the Bargello for one last Firenze Card admission and an opportunity to stay dry while sightseeing, hoping the rain would taper off for the afternoon.

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