Monday, December 19, 2005

Palazzo Vecchio


Carved by Michelangelo on the side of the Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio Open 9-19; Thursday 9-14 Price: € 6
Tel. 055 2768224

Palazzo Vecchio is one of my favorite sightseeing attractions in Firenze. This ·Old Palace· has a magnitude to it that is only rivaled by our modern skyscrapers. Its bell tower reaches up into the sky as a symbol of Florentine might. The square in front of it has been the center of Florentine society for many centuries. I can imagine a young Michelangelo being taunted by Leonardo da Vinci, (It is well known that they were rivals, not friends) right in the square! In fact, if you go to the corner of the Palazzo Vecchio, the one nearest to the Uffizi Gallery, you will find a carving of a man·s face. The legend says that it was carved by Michelangelo on a dare, that he couldn·t carve a likeness of a man while chiseling behind his back. This is the only sculpture by Michelangelo that you can actually touch. Palazzo Vecchio has been many things during its 700 year existence. Mostly it has been the seat of power for the Florentine government, a role that it still holds today as city hall. A large portion of the immense building is used for government offices, but most of it is open to the public in the form of a museum. You can see the incredible power of the Medici Family, who were the leaders of Florence for several centuries. In the Great Hall, as you enter the museum, you can see the beautiful and imposing military scenes depicted on the two long walls which was designed by Giorgio Vasari, who was the architect of the Ufizzi as well as a great Art Historian. He wrote ·The Lives of the Artists·, which is a must read for anyone who is interested in the art of the Renaissance. These scenes show the domination of local cities such as Pisa and Siena. It is hard to believe that these peaceful towns were once at war with Florence. Before the war scenes were in place, there was another kind of battle that took place in this room. It was a competition between Michelangelo and Leonardo. Each was given a wall to design a fresco, showing Florentine domination in battle. As the story goes, Michelangelo made a ·cartoon· on several large pieces of paper, which would be then transferred onto the wall, of Florentine soldiers caught of guard while bathing, right before a surprise attack. In the design, called ·The Battle of Cascina·, the soldiers are almost all nude, some getting dressed, all in apprehension for the upcoming fight. The drawing showed all of Michelangelo·s skill as a draftsman, and his incredible knowledge of the human figure. The fresco was never made because Leonardo, who was not fond of the fresco technique, tried to fix his finished painting of ·The Battle of Anghiari· to the wall using incredible heat. It was a technique which was supposedly lost from antiquity. Leonardo tried his best to reproduce the correct amount of heat, but alas the painting was ruined and Leonardo was sent away from Firenze in shame. Needless to say the competition was called off and Michelangelo never made his fresco. The drawing by Michelangelo was studied for years until it was finally destroyed and taken apart piece by piece by the followers of Michelangelo. So from the competition, nothing remains. Continuing on in the Museum you climb the stairs to see the Great Hall from above. Following along the museum, glorious rooms depict the life and times of the Medici Family from when they lived in Palazzo Vecchio. Keep walking up, all the way to the top to see some of the best views of Florence. From the top floor, the Duomo looms larger than life, and the red roofs span out into the landscape.


One of the best attractions about this museum is that it is open on Mondays while the Uffizi and Accedemia are closed, so plan your trip wisely and go on a Monday to Palazzo Vecchio.

Article by Matthew Bates

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