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Lost in Italy, Part 2

Ionarts contributor Mark Barry sends his second missive from his fantastic trip to Italy. Here is Part 1. He has been posting some great pictures from the road.

Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, May 2005Thursday was our fourth day in Italy. We drove south from Venice to Florence. We stopped for the night in the seaside town of Cesenatico. This must be a very busy summer spot, but at this time it was a sleepy village along the coast. I’m writing this from a balcony overlooking the Adriatic.

From the coast we wound our way over the Alps, an incredible journey. The Giro d'Italia bike race is going on now, and I expected to run into them around any corner; we did not, but there were many riders along the way, mostly men, some in their 60s. As a flat-trail rider I was humbled by their effort.

We entered Florence at mid-afternoon. Did you know that when you drive through the historic area without a hotel pass, cameras generate electronic tickets? And if you drive in an ambulance-only area—well, we’ll find out soon enough. Florence is a loud, busy place; but if you want great art, all the masterpieces you’ve only seen in reproductions, you MUST come here. Michelangelo, Bronzino, Botticelli: if you're an art pilgrim and not moved to tears when you finally see the Botticellis at the Uffizi, I don’t want to know you. As luck would have it all museums are free this week!

Boboli Gardens, Florence, May 2005I was here about five years ago on a day trip. At that time I walked to the Uffizi and entered with only a short wait and the galleries were nearly empty. This trip there are no passes for general admission until June 16th (see image above). The only possiblility is with a guided tour. On one hand, it’s wonderful that so many people are looking at art, but on the other hand it means looking for a scalper.

Not to worry, there’s much more to see, like the Pitti Palace, built by banker Luca Pitti starting in 1457. It was taken over in 1550 by the Medici and became their primary residence. Not a bad crib: it has room after room of masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione, and this nice little Madonna and Child by Raphael, which you may have seen reproduced a few times. In addition to the art collections, the palace has the extensive Boboli Gardens, which could take a good day to cover.

There is a show up now about Maria de Medici, called A Florentine Princess on the Throne of France. Maria married Henry IV in 1600, becoming the second Medici queen of France. Michaelangelo attended the wedding and apparently helped to plan the occation. An artist and a party planner, too!

Mark Barry ( is an artist who used to live in Baltimore and has now fled to Italy.

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