FLORENCE

Italy

When we take Pitti

In the morning you can already feel that this is going to be a sizzling hot day. It’s still quite early when we walk down the Via Pisana towards the Palazzo Pitti, the former Medici residence that houses several museums today. After half an hour, we reach the big Piazza de’ Pitti, a rectangular place built on a rather steep slope. At the upper part of it rises the main façade of our famous palace. It’s an impressive, one could even say threateningly bulky building, but it doesn’t seem to impress all those inevitable pigeons coo-coo-cooing around on the cobblestones, looking for food and making their typical, abrupt head movements. Oh, pigeons—without them an Italian piazza wouldn’t be a real Italian piazza!

It must be 9:30 am; the ticket booths are not overrun by crowds yet. We study the list of tickets available, a list that clearly states, “I dare you to understand me" (or in other words: totally obscure). Finally, we take the most expensive ticket simply because it allows us to visit all the different parts of the palace as well as the Giardino di Boboli and the Giardino Bardini, the name of which vaguely rings a bell.

First floor: the Palatine Gallery, the private paintings’ collection the Medicis and their successors have assembled over the centuries. We proceed from room to room, understanding at last the meaning of the famous “Stendhal syndrome”. We’re almost crushed by all these splendid chandeliers and all these gilded and frescoed ceilings, all these statues, all this inlaid furniture. On the walls, paintings by some of the biggest names, be they Italian (Titian, Tintoretto, Perugino, Caravagio, Raphael, Veronese, Botticelli), Flamish (Rubens, Van Dyck) or Spanish (Velasquez, for instance). An archangel Gabriel here, smiling enigmatically; a Saint with an emaciated and ecstatic face there; a Virgin Mary gazing at her baby Jesus with an infinitely sweet look. We thought that too much art would bore us quickly. Yet the contrary turns out to be true. We also discover a lot of painters we didn’t even know existed until now. Carlo Dolci, for example, who worked during the 17th century and whose paintings with their shiny red and blue hues look as if painted only yesterday.

Then, we proceed to the Royal Apartments, used until 1920 by several "crowned heads" (members of the Medici family, Habsburgs, then Napoleon, who had an amazing white marble bathroom installed, and finally the Kings of Italy). The “Stendhal syndrome” threatens yet again as there are so many beautiful things to see: walls covered with shimmering cloth, crystal chandeliers, ceramic stoves, paintings, and two of the highlights, the Throne Hall and the bedroom. When we leave that part, we notice it’s time to eat. Our tickets allow us to come and go as we like today, so we try out the narrow lanes around the Palazzo Pitti. We choose a small bar. The young waiter is exceedingly welcoming, cute as they come, too, and his French turns out to be excellent. We order some pasta each, followed by a nice lil’, homemade cake. What can we say? The weather is fine, Florence—and the waiter—are smiling at us, lunch is perfect… la vita is bella, after all!

After lunch, back to art. The Silver Museum is situated on the ground floor of the palace. It’s an astounding collection of precious objects also called the “Medici Treasure”: cameos, other trinkets, cups, reliquaries, cases and other pieces of decoration, golden ones, silver ones, some made of ivory, some of amber, others of jade, with semi-precious stones galore… Somewhat ashamedly we think of the poor, silver-plated cutlery we always use on weekends.

Then, it’s time to climb up to the Costume Gallery on the last floor. Our guidebooks promised us clothes dating back to the 16th century and worn by the Medicis themselves, but go figure why—are they being washed today or did they vanish in sudden combustion—we don’t find them anywhere. Not even a glimpse, not even some knickers, niente, nada, only clothes from the 19th and 20th centuries. Big deception!

We finish our visit by entering the Gallery of Modern Art, which contains paintings of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, with some very fine discoveries again. Yet after so many hours dedicated to art, Didi feels a sudden bout of “Stendhal syndrome”. “I’m overdosing on old daubs!” he exclaims before running through the remaining rooms as if chased by a ghost. Seb takes a last moment to stop at a window and take a photo of the wonderful view over the city, then he follows his man. On the ground floor, we smoke a cigarette and drink some water. There’s the Carriages Museum to visit, but we decide we’ll do it next time…

GOOD TO KNOW

  • To know more about the Palazzo Pitti, see this article on wikipedia – EN.
  • You can buy your tickets online on the site tickets Florence – FR, EN, IT, DE, ES, PT.
  • The bar where we had our scrumptious lunch and which we warmly recommend is called Caffè degli Artigiani; you can find it in the Via dello Sprone. They run a little blog in Italian, but as far as we could see its latest update dates back to 2015 – IT.

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