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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 01, 2009

Wednesday - a Tour of the Museum of San Marco and More

I had decided that today I would visit the Museo di San Marco, part of what was an ancient Dominican monastery  and is now famous for housing the world's largest collection of paintings by Fra Angelico, whose name, which I've always liked the sound of (I feel like it's in a song or something),  was my main reason for going.  I had mapped out my route (I would be entering new territory today) to take me past Orsanmichelle so I could retake the pictures of the 14 niches in that building which I had lost.  Don't worry, I won't inflict all of them on you!  But here is an example...

This niche was brought to you by the stonemason's and woodworkers' guild.
and here's an up close look at the bottom panel

I chose this one because it's my favorite, I'm pretty sure.  There is one other niche that has Mary and the infant, but all the rest are single figures and some of those are fairly dark and hard to see.  My slightly irreverent guidebook says that "Art historians differ here.  It (this niche) was commissioned either by the guys who do the discount circumcisions or by the carpenters' and masons' guild."  And looking at the close-up now that I've posted it, I finally see what the author was referring to - does look like a possibility!

As I went around the building taking the pictures, I noticed a small church across the street which I hadn't noticed on my first visit.  It was the Chiesa di San Carlo and I was glad I took a peek inside.  Its altar area walls are covered with almost worn away frescoes.  I bought some postcards of those.  The postcards indicate that the church is a 14th century structure and it certainly looks like it.  But the very interesting thing is that it has several very modernistic pieces in it.  There is what I think is probably a bronze (possibly wrought iron) baptismal font and "pulpit" and a statue that was created in 2006 and was made for its location because it's sitting on a ledge at the base of a crucifix dated 1306!  How's that for a blending of the old and the new.  Here are the pictures of the new pieces - I wish I could show you the frescoes...

baptismal font


and ancient crucifix with modern sculpture

So my task done I moved on toward my destination, enjoying yet another wonderful morning.  And got my first sight of...

But I didn't let that deter me.  I continued on and soon came across what I'm assuming was a strike demonstration, or protest or something.  Whatever it was, they sure were having a good time - chants, songs, whistles, flags... these people know how to picket!
wish you could hear it...

I finally arrived at San Marco, bought a bottle of water, and caught my breath in the little Piazza di San Marco.

another beautiful facade - sorry about the bus!


Of course, we weren't supposed to take pictures, but I snuck a couple while I was in the ground floor rooms.  The one above is a last supper (which I had kind of thought about collecting since apparently, every religious building has one).  This one is by, well, actually, I don't seem to have that anywhere - kind of embarrassing.


And, I'm not real sure who painted this - whether it was Fra Angelico or not.  But I loved the fact that it was all in sepia tones - the only fresco I've seen like that in what is becoming my vast viewing of frescoes.


This is the crucifixion as painted by Fra Angelico.  It is in a side room of the main building and the bell in front is the original bell of the church and rang out to warn Savonarola (a Dominican monk who, for a brief time, ousted the Medici and steered the Florentinians(?) back toward medieval ways) that the populace, who had reached their limit in austere living, were coming to San Marco to deal with him.  Which they did with hanging and burning.  I remember reading a novel once about this whole time, but it was so full of characters skulking around for and against, that I didn't get a whole lot out of it.  I need to find a basically chronological but relatively readable history of the Renaissance in Florence.  The more I see and read, the more I wish I knew.  This is a famous painting of Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo, another monk living in the monastery at the time.

and how's that for tricky?  I took a picture of the postcard I bought.

On the first floor were the cells where the monks, wanna-be monks, lay people (cooks, janitors, etc.) lived.  There were 43 of them and they were quite small.  Really small.  But each and every one of them has a fresco painted either by Fra Angelico or one of his "understudies".  They are wonderful, and I did try to sneak a picture of what was my favorite, but it didn't come out well enough to post.  There was also a 2-cell "suite" for Cosimo de Medici the Elder who built the monastery for the Dominican monks and a 3-cell "suite" for Savonarola.

This is the cloister - I love all these enclosed courtyards - have I said that before?

Oops, I almost forgot this sweet little one.  It was on the way out and I did another quick sneak.  I think it's probably the most loving madonna and child I've seen - looks like they're sharing a little kiss...

This was a really nice visit and I only wish it was allowed to take pictures.  But more on that later.

Following my map to head back, I came to the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata - another fantastic name.  The main thing here is the Spedale degli Innocenti (an orphanage way back then).  It was a Brunelleschi project and was built in the 1420's.  The front of the building has blue and white medallions spaced along it by the artist Della Robbia (remember him from the Porcelain Museum in the Boboli Gardens?)  I've been running into him at all sorts of places.

My guide book says this is considered the first Renaissance building.

Looking at my map, I noticed that I was near another piazza (one always is in Florence) and it was the Piazza Brunelleschi.  So I decided I would buy a sandwich and some water somewhere and take it there to eat since, admittedly, I am fairly obsessed with anything to do with him.  So that's what I did, and poor Brun (what I call him for short) - his piazza has become a parking lot!  But I found a ledge to sit on since I was there and I ate my sandwich, which was probably the only one I've had that wasn't very good and thought "well, shoot."  I imagine it was named for Brun because you can see the top of the dome from it.

You can probably guess what direction I was headed - not intentionally - it was just on the way back to the hotel.  When I got to the cathedral, it dawned on me that I never had been inside it yet - just up in the dome and in the baptistery.  There was no line when I got there so that means there are more pictures coming.

But I'm going to give you all a break and post this now and then do a separate one for the cathedral interior.  See you inside!

1 comment:

Christopher said...

What a great teaser at the end of the post... can't wait to see the interior! You really are covering a lot of ground over there, both on the map, and historically... I think I have a readable history of the Renaissance, and remember reading about Della Robbia's famous medallions on buildings...
Keep it all coming...!

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