Monday, June 05, 2006

Palazzo Uffizi - Wealth and Power of Florence

Florence is a beautiful city. A new treasure is waiting behind every corner. Churches, Museums, parks, normal buildings even your local pizzeria can hold some treasure if you keep your eyes open. Once a nation itself, a global powerhouse, great treasures from the 15th to 19th abound. It is only fitting that the public offices, or Palazzo Uffizi, from that period reflect the opulence of the period.

Designed in 1559 by Giorgio Vasari and completed in only 5 years, the horseshoe shaped palace connects Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio and with a scenic view of the Arno, the river that runs through the center of Florence. This building was designed to hold the offices of the 13 divisions of the court. The entire first floor held offices for the artisans who masterfully worked metals, precious stones, tapestries, ceramics, and glass. The west end of the building contained the Treasury where the legal tender was produced and the Pharmacy where the tables of numerous medicines and poisons were painted on the walls and still visible today.

Many existing building were demolished to make room for Palazzo Uffizi however Vasari incorporated the small church from the Roman Empire into the new building. During the restoration of 1971 murals hidden under centuries of plaster and paint reveal images of the Florentia Romana, a local tavern, and a church of the Longobardi. Additional works of Botticelli (1481), and Andrea del Castagno (1450).

Following the death of Vasari the Gran Duca ordered that the corridor connecting Palazzo Pitti be adorned with murals depicting his growing dominance of Tuscany. Humongous murals, floor to ceiling, by Buontalenti, run the entire length of the corridor and later Buontalenti convinced the Gran Duca to allow him to paint the 3rd floor apartment. Two famous works, la Tribuna (1584) e il Teatro Mediceo (1586), were painted in these apartments.

Most recently the Friends of Florence Foundation, a group of American donors, paid for the restoration of Uffizi Gallery's finest rooms and its most striking sculptures. The Niobe Room's original 18th-century layout and opulence have been recreated over two years to produce a majestic international beauty that gives us the impression of being in Vienna or St Petersburg.

Its centerpiece, the statues of tragic mythical mother Niobe and her doomed family the Niobids, was found in Rome in 1583. Advisory members of the Friends of Florence Foundation include Zubin Mehta, Sting, Mel Gibson and Franco Zeffirelli.

Florence has so much to offer, great food, wine, fantastic people, and probably the highest concentration of art works in the entire world, so why spend the time to see some governmental offices. If it is true that our past molds our future, this building, that is a symbol of a dominant world power of over 400 years, can give us insight into how we should look at our world today. Take some time, walk through and maybe sit in one of the artisan shops. It is a great place to get our current life into perspective.


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Blogger AY said...

It is indeed a beautiful city and the food was out of this world.

But... if history does mold the future, given the current (sad) state of Italia(n politics/society), it does seem that all the past glory amounted to very little except eyecandy.

4:37 PM

Blogger a.c.t said...

I once (stupidly) nearly knocked over a statue in the offizi. I was reading a map and bumped into it - it rocked. I panicked. What do you think would have happened if it had broken?

4:15 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Aussie Yam - There are many points on which to dwell here, particularily regarding the status of the Italian economy. Now that I have been in the States for awhile, I could support a strong argument that the European economies are significantly stronger than the US, which is considered # 1 over time, but I was saying something completely different.

Various cultures, over time, take turns ruling the world, some dominate for 1000s of years while others for a few hundred years and many last less than 100 years (one song wonders in economic terms).

Each one of these cultures can teach us who we are and what happened to make them lose their dominance so we can avoid the same mistakes.

Finally no matter how rich a culture was or how long it dominated, the amount of wealth it accumulated is always forgotten, the only thing that defines a culture over the centuries are the quality products, art, architecture, laws or great feats of ingenuity.

What will our culture today be remembered for, "How many big macs we sold?"

4:18 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Nothing to you, except maybe a place in history as the individual that broke some famous statue. The curator would have been fired and probably have been subjected to a criminal investigation for not acting to protect the works under his care.

4:21 AM

Blogger Paros Shepherd said...

You have a great site.
Something for me to aspire to.

12:45 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Paros Shepherd - You are very kind. I appreciate your thoughts.

The Shepherd writes a cool blog about Greece (one of my favorite places to visit).

Most do not know that the Greeks and the Italians are very close cousins, there are islands in Greece that speak a Pugliese dialect and some areas of Italy that have strong Greek influences in their language.

12:59 PM

Blogger AY said...

David - I don't dispute what you're saying whatsoever.

That said, the socio-economic welfare of my fellow beings, is more important than the wealth of relics from the past. Which is the only point I want(ed) to make.

The present Italian economy has too many structural rigidities and benefits too few.

While I would not say the American society is something to emulate (no, I definitely would not) and indeed, America's capitalist society is not particularly good at hauling many out of poverty (c.f. to European economies), contrary to the general misconception. In America, at least people feel empowered to change for the better (note: 'better' as defined by individuals - which is what matters in the short-run).

I suppose, I compare it with what could be and, what must be.

Cyclical misfortunes are commonplace in economics and particularly, in history. But it doesn't mean that we need to take the former, as given.

Present-day Italy is in a very sorry state. If their Greek neighbours are anything to go by, dwelling on the glory of their history would not help them an iota.

Finally, historical glory in Europe very often came about with much blood-shed and human suffering. Glory can be overrated, no? Really, what truly, is wealth?

4:20 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jen - When I was young I strongly desired the Utopean Society. As I became more wealthy I attempted to apply the rules of mutual respect and I learned the meaning of the words to Salvatore Giuliani as the people he had fought to protect rebelled against him, "Salvatore, you wanted to give the people land and all they wanted was bread."

With my articles I hope that someone will read and be inspired to look outside of town, city, country to find some solutions for a better future. I do not believe that one period is better than another or that one culture has all of the answers but I do think that reasonable people can learn and with moderation apply the good things and avoid the bad that are present in today's life.

4:51 PM

Blogger AY said...

David - Blogger was down and I've already lost two comment posts here!! :-(

I totally agree with your stance and I feel somewhat hypocritical too, as I hail from a wealthy background and have known nothing else.

That aside, I simply do not think the present Italian society (i.e. its voters/technocrats/politicians) share the same ideals/respect. :-)

Precisely - the telling word is 'moderation'.

And precisely, too - what is at stake (for the future generations) is indeed, bread! Love the irony.

Finally, I think it is impossible to learn good lessons without sound education as a foundation - the knowledge of ethics/philosophy, of problem solving skills...

In that, Italy is in very deep trouble. For a great admirer of Italy, it is truly maddening to see.

9:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your argument... Maybe I am an idealist at heart,but I believe that if we don't learn from the past then we have no future. In the USA, our past extends about an hour.

You can look at every election cycle since I have been voting (34 years). It seems the same things are argued over and over. We see things happening and have opportunities to change, but in the end, nothing really happens.

Italy may be in trouble, but so is the rest of the planet. We are all living in a house of cards.

5:09 AM


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