Monthly Archives: January 2016

The new Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and the Baptistery

On Saturday morning Stefano and I joined a group of about twenty friends on a guided tour of the museum of the Opera del Duomo. The Opera del Duomo, roughly translated as Cathedral Workshop, was founded in the 13th century with the aim of supervising the building and maintenance of Florence’s magnificent cathedral, the Duomo.

After undergoing a period (three years, I think) of top to bottom renovations and a much-needed expansion, the museum reopened in October 2015 (and in fact one of my closest friends worked very hard on this enormous project…I’m so proud!!!), thanks to the purchase and renovation of adjoining buildings, including a former parking garage and a theater. So in October, for the first time ever, the Opera del Duomo’s rich collection of medieval and Renaissance sculptures, consisting of 750 statues and reliefs, finally had enough room to be put on display. And I must say that it is FABBBBBULOUS. Stunning, simply stunning.

IMG_5773We saw one of the museum’s most famous sculptures: Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà, which, the guide told us, he worked on by candlelight, after he got home at night, when he was 70 years old. Michelangelo evidently didn’t like the way the sculpture was turning out, though, because at one point, in a fit of rage, he hit it with a hammer, damaging it here and there (especially Christ’s arm, which has been reattached–the scar is clearly visible).

The guide told us that Nicodemus’ face (that’s the tall guy holding Christ in his arms) is considered to be Michelangelo’s self-portrait. That’s the wonderful thing about going around a museum with a guide, something that Stefano and I rarely do because we hate to be rushed from place to place, and we like our independence, but I have to admit that a guide CAN give you some interesting bits of information that you otherwise would not have.

For instance, she told us a cute little anecdote about the actual building of the cathedral’s dome. Incidentally, did you know that nobody has been able to build a replica of the dome? That’s right. It has never been done successfully. All the dome replicas have tumbled down. How did Brunelleschi do it? A mystery. An amazing feat of engineering…And we may never figure it out…

Oh, I almost forgot the anecdote, hehe…here it is: according to legend, Brunelleschi used breadcrumbs to show his assistants how to place such a heavy dome on top of Florence’s cathedral. Once they’d understood what they needed to do, he ate all the breadcrumbs, thus destroying all the evidence. He left no plans, no drawings, nothing specific, anyway. How about that, eh? I knew that nobody had been able to recreate this wonderful dome, which I believe is still the largest brick dome in the WORLD, but I hadn’t heard the breadcrumb story…And hey, who cares if it’s not true? It’s cute!!!

IMG_5756An entire wall of the museum’s largest hall, which can be viewed from the upstairs galleries, too (and it’s great to have a different perspective, statues at eye level, etc.), is covered by a spectacular full-scale model in resin of the original medieval façade of the cathedral, which was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. The original façade was never finished and ended up being destroyed in the 16th century (the Duomo’s current façade was built in the late 19th century).

IMG_5751Opposite the resin façade, you can have a close-up look at two of Florence’s Baptistery’s original doors, including Lorenzo Ghiberti’s exquisite, gilded bronze doors. These two doors were removed from the Baptistery and cleaned in the late 20th century, as I recall.

This means, of course, that the doors photographed by thousands of tourists outside, in piazza Duomo, are actually copies…beautiful copies, but copies nonetheless. The only original door out there right now is the North door, which however is supposed to be cleaned up and placed next to the other two inside the museum soon, so hurry up if you want to take a photo of it out in the open…By the way, these two doors are enclosed in glass, which makes it possible to see not just the external gilded sides but the internal wooden paneled sides, too. Very interesting…IMG_5780

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with too many details (all the various galleries in the museum, Giotto’s Bell-tower gallery with its 16 life-size statues, the Choir galleries with the pulpits by Donatello and Luca della Robbia, etc. etc. etc.), but I hope you will enjoy the photos I took…yes, you can take photos inside the museum…no flash. The one on the left, by the way, is Donatello’s extraordinary “Penitent Magdalen,” a 15th century sculpture of polychrome wood (one of the few that survived the Renaissance, btw!) that really could have been made yesterday by a famous modern artist.

Okay, enough, before this gets too boring! 😉 I highly recommend that you make time for a visit to this museum on your next trip to Florence! Ah, and don’t forget to walk up (or take the elevator up) to the museum’s panoramic terrace, which offers a breathtaking view of Brunelleschi’s dome and the rooftops of my beautiful city. I took the photo on the right up there, in fact. Another recommendation: buy a cumulative ticket. Our ticket, which cost 12 euros, enabled us to visit the Baptistery as well as an art exhibition going on right now in Palazzo Strozzi. So check it out and see what’s being offered.IMG_5820

Next, as planned, we visited Florence’s Baptistery, with its newly cleaned facade. I hadn’t been inside the Baptistery since I was a kid, I think. Ah, it’s a real beauty. Definitely worth seeing. Plus, it will give you an advantage when Dan Brown’s “Inferno” comes out. 😉

After the Baptistery, our group split up, and Stefano and I headed off to have a romantic lunch in town. Alone. We went to a small restaurant where we’d had dinner years ago, while we were still in the dating phase.

We began chatting (my, er, “fault,” as usual! 😉 ) with an adorable young British couple having lunch next to us. They asked us if we had recommendations on places to have decent meals. I jotted down a few restaurant names for them, and we continued chatting. After lunch we went to the above-mentioned art exhibit, and then took the bus back home to our kitties.

A lovely day. Simply lovely. :-)

The holiday post I would have written…

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As I announced a few weeks ago, Stefano and I spent the holiday season visiting my parents on Cape Cod, U.S.A. We had a very nice, quiet visit…My parents are now in their upper 80s but still doing quite well, knock on wood! _1080860

The title of my post should continue “…had I been able to.” In the States, the only computer I had access to was my mother’s old Apple computer. And it was so maddeningly slow that I finally gave up on it. _1080884

So instead of writing a holiday post back in December, I’m going to write one now…now that I’m back in Florence (we landed in Florence yesterday afternoon) and able to access my fabulous, FAST desk computer. Let’s just pretend for a moment that it’s around December 25th. 😉

Let’s see. I wanted to tell the story of our flights to the U.S. and back to Italy.

First, our flight to the U.S.A. on December 23rd. _1080973While Stefano and I were waiting in Frankfurt Airport for our connecting flight to Boston, we heard our names being called. We went up to the gate agent who informed us that we had been upgraded to Business Class because the flight was overbooked and also because of Stefano’s frequent flyer status. Well, knock me over with a feather!

_1090086Flying in Business Class has been on my “bucket list” for a while now. But we haven’t been able to afford it, so I figured I’d never have the opportunity (no big deal, really…I mean, I have more important items on my list!). This upgrade was therefore a completely unexpected and fantastic early Xmas present for me. I got so excited, in fact, that I began doing a little happy dance, right in front of all the other passengers and gate agents. Such a happy moment. _1090072

And there’s more: our plane was one of those double-deckers. Yes, you guessed it: our seats were located upstairs, on the top floor! Another wee item crossed off that bucket thingy! 😉

I was so thrilled that I couldn’t sit still. I examined every item in the holiday goody bag; I checked the settings on the seat (you can lie FLAT if you want to…the seat basically turns into a rather narrow but comfortable bed); I watched three movies; I stretched out, and I drank a glass of champagne…total bliss. Needless to say, we had a wonderful flight–even the food was very good. I felt like a princess… _1090058

so much so that when we reached the check-in desk at Logan Airport in Boston day before yesterday, I asked the agent how much it would cost for us to be upgraded again to Business Class. I figured it would be too much, but it doesn’t cost anything to ask, right?

Her fingers went clickety-clack clackety-click on the computer, and after a few minutes she told us that our return flight was overbooked and we’d been upgraded to Business Class…AGAIN. Unbelievable. I felt like a little kid opening presents on Xmas morning…_1080946

However, I have to confess that I felt badly for the folks marching past us on the plane on their way to their seats in Economy (where I’ve always traveled, of course, and where I will travel again, no question about that!). I mean, I strongly believe that all seats should be comfortable on long flights, not just Business and First Class seats. All seats. _1080904
But…that’s the way things go. The more money you can spend, the more comfortable you will be. When I told my parents about feeling badly about traveling in Business, Dad remarked, “Oh well, then of course you must have gotten up and given your seat to someone else, right?”

(He’s such a clown…)_1080957

Um, no. I didn’t.  The thought didn’t even cross my mind, I admit.

But I did feel a bit guilty for traveling in such luxury…I felt it wasn’t fair…and it isn’t, really.

_1090018Anyway, here are a few of the photos I took while I was on Cape Cod.

Beaches…guests at my parents’ bird feeders…a seagull in the fog in Chatham (Massachusetts)…two very playful dogs running on the beach (they ran up to us and got us a bit wet and sandy…so cute!)…and so on. _1090081If you hover over the photos, you should be able to read my comments on most of them…

I guess that all that remains to be said is: Belated Happy New Year, everyone!!! 😀 I’m off to feed my hungry cats and have dinner now…Ciao!