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Lost In Italy, Part 3

Ionarts contributor Mark Barry sends his third missive from his fantastic trip to Italy. Here are Part 1 and Part 2. He has been posting some great pictures from the road.

The Galleria dell'Accademia (The Academy Of Fine Arts), founded in 1563, is the first school established in Europe specificially to teach drawing, painting, and sculpture. The big draw here is Michaelangelo's David. It is worth the wait. The long line to get in moves by half every 20 minutes. Once in, there he stands, all 17' of nude male perfection. Michelangelo was 29 when he sculpted this out of a single stone. Most of the tourists leave after seeing David, but real treasures are on the second floor. There are several galleries of paintings, religious icons, and altar pieces by Florentine artists such as Lippi, Bronzino, Pontormo, Botticelli, and yes, Michaelangelo; he owned this town.

The beauty of Venice and Florence for me is the walking, at least 5 miles a day with very steep terrain and lot of steps. Get lost, and you will, but enjoy, because every corner has a surprise. Pinch yourself.

Collegiata, San Gimignano, May 2005From Florence to Siena and a night in San Gimignano. The Baroness was in need of wild boar tagliatelli and Vernaccia. We spent two nights in the area. This was a main stop on the pilgrim route from Northern Europe to Rome. The small duomo of the Collegiata has a series of frescoes based on the life of Christ. My favorite is the racy vision of hell by Taddeo di Bartolo. Hell seems much more exciting than the other option.

Padua: Cappella degli Scrovegni. Enrico Scrovegni built this chapel in 1303 to spare his dead father from eternal damnation, nice boy. [Dante still places him in Inferno, Canto XVII—CTD.] In turn we get the frescoes of Giotto, the father of western art; what James Brown did for soul. You’ll need reservations and arrive an hour early to watch a movie and get background info. It's helpful. This is also time to decontaminate, to prevent damage to the chapel. It took a few years for me to get here, so what's another hour.

The glass doors to the waiting room slide open, and the attendant guides you into the chapel; you have 15 minutes. It's breathtaking. The blue ceiling, although worn by time and the elements, is still majestic. It must have been stunning in its day. With only 15 minutes your eyes move quickly, then a slow pass, then a broad sweep. This is why the movie is helpful, to navigate particular panels. Giotto's version of hell is, of course, my favorite. I never thought the devils' tails could do so much probing!

This was a great trip, very inspiring. Where's my cappuccino?

Mark Barry ( is an artist who may actually come back from Italy to his home in Baltimore.

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