I am not a big fan of large, overcrowded museums. They draw tourists who are trying to check off the “important sites,” and who stand in front of the major pieces of art, taking pictures that will come out worse than the post cards available in the store. This is especially true since I live in New York City, and have The Met, MOMA and the Whitney at my beck and call. When I travel, I am much more likely to look for smaller exhibits. I mean, I have been to Florence three times, and I have yet to visit the Uffizi or the Academia. Yet I have seen amazing art on these trips, and this one was no exception.
In order to fulfill my passion for walking old cities and visiting smaller museums I usually try to stay as close to the center of the city I visit as I can afford. On this trip to Florence The Amazing Ms. D and I chose the Hotel Olimpia, which is on the Piazza della Repubblica. The Olimpia is a nice 3.5-star hotel that occupies the top two floors of a building built in 1800. The beds are comfortable, the ceilings are tall and the staff is extremely friendly. It is not the fanciest place to stay, but at a rate of around $100/night in a great location, this was a good choice.
|Palazzo Strozzi by saját tulajdonú képeslap [Public domain] via wikicommons
Staying in the center of town makes it easy to walk around and discover wonderful exhibits. One that I found was at the Palazzo Strozzi. The Palazzo Strozzi was built at the end of the 15th century by the Strozzi family, rivals to the Medicis. It is a large, freestanding, stone structure with an open ground floor that includes an open space at its center. Today, the building is home to the Institute of Humanist Studies, and the Fondazzione Palazzo Strozzi, which organizes exhibitions of art works.
My visit to the Palazzo Strozzi was to see an exhibit celebrating the life and work of Andrea del Verrocchio. Verrocchio was a painter, sculptor and goldsmith during the 15th century in Florence. He may have apprenticed under Donatello and/or under Fra Filippo Lippi. He ran a workshop in Florence where Leonardo da Vinci and Pietro Perugino were among his students. While his work has not been well known, his influence has lasted for centuries.
|David Triumphant by Verrocchio
|David Triumphant with sketches by da Vinci
|Madonna and Child by Verrocchio
The exhibit was an excellent collection of works by Verrocchio and his contemporaries and students. It began with some of his sculptures, including one of David, along with a drawing of that statue by da Vinci. This joining together of works was done throughout the exhibit. There was a cornucopia of Madonna and Childs, along with angels and saints galore. It was an excellent exploration of one artist and his legacy.
|Madonna and Child with Two Angels by Botticelli
|Winged Boy with Dolphin by Verrocchio
|Saint Bernadino Restores the sight of a Blindman by Pietro Perugino
Staying near the Piazza della Repubblica also put us only three blocks from the Auditorium of Santo Stefano al Ponte. Sitting just a block from the Ponte Vecchio, this decommissioned 12th century church is now a concert and exhibition space. We saw “Van Gogh & I Maldetti” (Van Gogh and the Damned). This was a multi media show high-lighting the works of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, and Chaim Soutine. Their works were set to classical music and projected onto the walls, ceiling and floor of the building. This immersive show makes one feel as thought they were inside the paintings. In fact, there is also a VR experience that literally takes you on a tour through Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Modigliani’s Workshop. Van Gogh & I Maldetti is similar to several shows that are being staged in cities around Europe. Last year I attended a different show while in Berlin. This is a great experience and I highly recommend seeing one of these exhibits if you have the opportunity.
When you are thinking about traveling, look beyond the large museums, and seek out the smaller galleries. They have great shows of works that aren’t often seen.
Palazzo Strozzi – Piazza Strozzi 50123 Firenze. Tickets for the Verrocchio Exhibit are €13/10.
Auditorium of Santo Stefano di Ponte - Piazza Santo Stefano 1, 50122, Florence, Italy. Admission varies depending on the event.