Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Went to the Oofoozee, Dad

The Uffizi Gallery is the most confusing place in all of Florence to find. Maps of Florence are actually wonderfully accurate; I've found everything I've ever been searching for. Accept the Uffizi. I've wanted to go to the Uffizi since I arrived here. I promised myself I'd get the touristy things out of the way. A week went by and I still hadn't gone. Then two weeks. Then three. I was like a small child on a ton of aderrol dropped into a theme park with no parents in those first weeks. I went to a bar or club at least 5 out of the 7 days of the week. The Uffizi Gallery just didn't happen for me. I'd made plans two times to go with Buzzaro and both times I answered his wake-up phone calls sounding something like: "Mmmaarrgggghhhhhhhhhhhh". Nights that last til 5:30 in the morning never precede productive days. A month passed and I still needed to go the Uffizi. I mentioned it to a bunch of my friends a bunch of times and mostly everyone had already been there. I figured I would just go by myself. It was still the off-season. I just couldn't bring myself to ask anyone how, exactly, I was supposed to get there. I'd been living in Florence for weeks and I should have obviously known how to get to the Uffizi. Asking my friends where the Uffizi was would be the equivalent to asking them if they knew how to get to the Duomo. We make fun of people who ask us for directions to the Duomo, here (it actually happens more often than you'd think). I spent weeks trying to find the Uffizi. I would walk past the place where the map said the Uffizi was and where I thought it could be every day, but there were no signs. There was nothing to make the Uffizi stand out. I got more pissed off at myself with each day I didn't go. It is middle of March and I finally found it!

Turns out, the Uffizi's entrance is really not that hard to find. It's right next door to the Palazzo Vecchio. I walk past the Uffizi every single day. It took the coming of tourist-season for me to finally figure it out. The long line to get inside was the trigger that set off the bells in my head. I waited in that stupid line for over an hour, kicking myself for never realizing that the Uffizi was the gigantic fancy looking building next door to another gigantic fancy building with statues all around the outside. Dying my hair won't ever offer an escape from my blondeness. I was excited to finally be there, though, and being able to see paintings I've idolized as an art student was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

I'll admit that when I got there I was weirded out by the LACK of ornateness. The Uffizi was just a bunch of rooms with a bunch of paintings and sculptures. The whole place felt like it was falling apart-that is to say the Uffizi isn't very well-kept. It could use a good sweeping/mopping/dusting/re-painting. I understand the value of original paint. I'm reluctant to paint my car back home because its old and still has it's original paint. Seriously, though, the Uffizi needs to be re-painted. Like, bad. Original paint is not helping to maintain integrity in this case. For years I'd made the Uffizi into this grand place in my head and the simplicity of it was almost too much for me. I got over it, though. I was in the Uffizi Gallery, the most famous art gallery in the world. To get to the good stuff you've got to walk up a shit-ton of stairs, effectively stoking my anticipation.

I walked into a room with a bunch of portaits and a bunch of marble busts. I thought to myself Okay, this sucks before realizing I was looking at the busts of Roman Emperors and portraits of kings, queens, popes, and cardinals. Then I thought to myself Shit, I hope I don't start crying. When I was in seventh grade, I had the most incredible ancient history teacher ever. I learned all about those emperors and remembered more than I thought I ever could when I was looking at each bust. For instance, my favorite emperor EVER is Marcus Aurelius, hands down, and while I looked at his bust I couldn't help thinking about his Meditations. "Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee..." I memorized that quote in seventh grade for a presentation I did on the guy and I've never forgotten it. I was excited to see their faces. It dawned on me that this is exactly how these guys looked. I stared down 1,000 year old rulers. I cracked up when I saw Nero. The guy even looks like a total whacko. He had this really chubby boy face and I kept thinking about Dudley Dursley. I can only imagine the spoiled brat he was. That guy's temper tantrums = Rome on fire! The corridor had other things in it, too, like statues of mythological scenes, many I recognized and many I didn't. The very best thing I saw in the corridor was Laocoon and His Sons. This statue is a scene from the Illiad where this prophet Laocoon is gonna tell the Trojans that the Myceneans are in the horse but instead some god, I think maybe Posiedon, sends a bunch of serpents out of the sea to kill him and his sons. Its my favorite statue ever. I learned a long time ago the value in going to museums and seeing a piece in real life over seeing pictures. Seeing the original Laocoon and His Sons stirred in me the same proud feeling I had when I graduated high school. An important stepping stone of my life was completed.

The corridor is annoyingly confusing. There are rooms all along it but only certain areas where you can enter them. I got yelled at by Italian security guards (mostly middle-aged women with ugly hairdos) more than once. The first couple rooms I went through were all boring as hell. Portrait after portrait, crucifixion after crucifixtion, Madonna and Child after Madonna and Child, and not many of them were ones I could recognize. I was getting irriated because there were seventeen hundred tour-groups standing in front of all the paintings I wanted to look at. I was also irriated by the lack of information provided about the works. There was nothing curated; there were no accompanying facts or details about the pieces. It was just annoying. I like to really get to know the things I'm looking at when I'm in exhibits and you'd figure a place like the Uffizi Gallery would have a never ending supply of information to offer. I went through maybe twenty rooms without seeing many of my favorite works. At this point I'm thinking that perhaps the Uffizi wasn't all I'd thought it was. The Uffizi is a gallery I'd grown up thinking held artistic treasures innumberable and the only really incredible ones I'd seen were the Doni Tondo by Michelangelo, some Raphael's, and some Caravaggio's. There were other big names in there, Correggio and Fra Angelico, but none of their works that were particularly inspiring.

I knew, though, that there was a room full of Botticelli paintings and I absolutely had to see them before I left. Who knows when I'll be able to motivate myself to go there agian, seeing as it has taken me months to go in the first place. The Birth of Venus is and forever will be among the top ten most famous paintings of all time. If that was the only absolute masterpiece I was going to find, painting-wise, in the Uffizi, I was going to find it. I searched and searched, I went through every room and passageway, and I still could not find the Botticelli room. I sucked it up, finally, and approached one of the security guards. She seemed the nicest, smacking her gum and staring down all the visitors but kindly refraining from walking around brandishing her nitestick (sp?). "Scusa, signora, tu sai dove The Birth of Venus?" "Si, room ten. Is round the corner insyde the bige dowrs. You see if you walk paste". Okay. As if there aren't 25 different sets of big doors. I found room ten, though. Amazing. Absolutely, overwhelmingly amazing. The Birth of Venus is HUGE. It takes seeing the painting in person to realize how horribly disfigured poor Venus's feet are. I feel ya, Botticelli, feet suck! To the right of Venus is Spring, another gigantic Botticelli masterpiece. I started getting teary-eyed again and managed to spend a solid fifteen looking at these two paintings.

I reluctantly left the Titian room. I walked to the left and what should I find but all the lost Renaissance gold that I'd been looking for the whole time I'd been in the Uffizi. Cimabue, Giotto, more Raphael. Fianlly, paintings so famous I'd be a horrible art student not knowing them. I was in a daze of happiness; I probably looked like I was drunk with all the stumbling and gawking I was doing. I couldn't decide which paintings I wanted to look at first. I was in heaven, which I guess is what those Renaissance painters wanted to remind me about with their work. YOU SUCCEED, GUYS! YOUR WORKS ARE TIMELESS! I was satisfied. I'd been in the Uffizi for about two hours and decided it was time to go. On my way down and out I passed through what was perhaps another gallery. I have no idea. There were huge photos of construction workers fixing up famous Florentine buildings. I get it. Rennaissance artists built those structures without all the modern machines and materials we have. Why can't we do it their way? Old meets new kind of deal. It was just so bare that I didn't understand why, exactly, it was in the Uffizi. It was the only way out so I was forced to go through. I've pondered why they would put these really unremarkable pictures in the Uffizi and decided I don't care. The works in the Uffizi I went there to see were the ones I should care enough about to ponder. Not ugly pictures.

Daddy, I finally went to the Oofoozee (as he calls it because he still refuses to pronounce it right). I hope you're proud! Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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