We left the hotel at 7:30 on the coach for the short ride over to the Academia of Art to see the third of Michelangelo’s masterpieces I’ve dreamed of seeing in person ever since I was in high school and read about and studied the master artist and his work. During his lifetime, Michelangelo wanted only to be remembered as a sculptor. He never thought of himself as a painter or architect, yet of all his work, he is known as as a master in all three as evidenced by his astonishing frescos in the Sistine Chapel, his design of the great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, and my personal favorite, his astonishing sculpture known only as “the David.” This is the one masterpiece of the dozens of masterpieces we saw that I was most looking forward to seeing on this trip.
As part of our group benefit, we had priority tickets to this small museum that is really only open because of this statue that has its own wing and special place at the end of a long gallery. We entered and our tour guide spent some time showing us several paintings and one plaster model of a pretty famous sculpture called the “Rape of the Sabines” which isn’t about sexual assault, but rather about a kidnapping of young women by an invading army. The point was that most sculptors in that day always made a plaster model before they ever started carving on the stone.
But not Michelangelo. He never used a plaster model, opting instead to study the stone for several months or years prior to ever taking hammer and chisel in hand. He always when asked how he could take such a risk of ruining a marble block by not seeing the finished piece beforehand that the finished subject was already in the stone, his job was simply to remove the material to release it. After the tour guide had finished her explanation, it was finally time. We entered the gallery lined with some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures and down at the end in all his glory stood David. I’ll admit I felt a thrill upon seeing it in person. The sculpture is of heroic proportions standing 17 feet tall and dominates the large space wherein it is exhibited. The extraordinary quality of this statue is quite simply its presence. It feels almost alive, radiating a magnetism and power that is indescribable. I very much enjoyed spending the 30 or 40 minutes I had in the gallery with this greatest of all sculptures.
We departed soon thereafter and made our way to Florence’s magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (St. Mary of the Flowers) and her famous brick dome erected between 1418 and 1434 to a design which Filippo Brunelleschi entered in a competition in 1418 and accepted in 1420. The church itself is covered in white, pink, and green marble that has undergone a recent cleaning that makes the stone radiate the light of the sun so the church positively glows. The church was begun in 1296 from a design by Arnolfo di Cambio and is the third-largest church in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. We didn’t have time to go inside and I really didn’t want to since the plaza and surrounding streets were jammed with tourists from all over the world. We followed our tour to the plaza of Santa Croche, the Holy Cross where we were shown some of the beautiful gold and leather goods Florence is known for. We didn’t buy anything since everything was expensive and we didn’t need either product. Instead, we went souvenir shopping and picked up a few things for ourselves and our family members at much more reasonable prices and that we hope will be enjoyed just as much. Then, we went looking for some lunch, which we found on one of the main streets at a small sandwich shop our tour guide said was the best in the city. We stood in line for about 20 minutes and each got a fresh, delicious (and very large) sandwich. We ate them sitting on the steps of one of the many smaller churches that seem to be around every corner. The pigeons kept us company along with many other people who had the same idea.
Amy wanted to see the Ponte Vecchio again, so we walked that way and got a couple more photos before making our way back to our meeting point for the coach. We stopped for gelato (of course) one last time and enjoyed it on our walk along the Arno where we boarded our ride down through Tuscany, Umbria, and back to Rome. Our hotel was called the Grand Hotel Tiberius and was comfortable but certainly not as luxurious as the name makes it sound.
For the evening, all the tour guests were invited to a farewell dinner in the restaurant. The food was tasty, but not like Giada’s cooking from the previous evening. The three of us enjoyed talking with another family of three from Florida. We had met them on the first night of the trip and spent the evening talking with them then as well on the final night of our trip. Their party consisted of the mother, Denise, and her two children, Samantha and Caesar. During dinner, Emma stood and announced the winner of the Pisa photo contest from the previous day. She had all of us send her our photos that she then had compiled and shown to the manager of the hotel so she would have an impartial judge. As it turned out, he selected one of my shots as his favorite. I was the subject and Leah was the photographer, so we both felt good about our efforts in Pisa.
One of the tour guests asked if I would stand and thank Emma and Batholomew (our driver) on behalf of the group on account of the time I took role call in Venice when Emma was waiting for the three guests who missed the water taxi pick up time. Anyway, I stood and got everyone’s attention and gave a short thank you speech on behalf of each guest. Then I sat down. The party broke up after that and we said our goodbyes to our fellow travelers with promises to keep in touch that we all knew we probably never keep because of, you know, life. Then it was off to a good nights’ rest before the long trip home.