Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Free Firenze

It's nice to pretend you're not a tourist sometimes, even when your skin is 7,000% paler than the locals and the extent of your Italian vocabulary comes entirely from the first of two pages of key phrases that you hastily printed out before leaving the UK as a flimsy attempt to assuage your post-colonial guilt by pretending you were ever going to learn more. You didn't even make it to page two, did you? I hate you.

Luckily, it turned out my last full day in Florence coincided with several unrelated national holidays and local events that most tourists seemed oblivious to, but which were a great way to tick off some galleries and museums I otherwise would have felt a bit hard-pressed to pay for. There was also plenty of free fruit drink and chocolate milkshake available - oh Florence, you are spoiling us.

Sunday was my best day in Florence by far, more than making up for the initial disappointment I had when confronted with the mental traffic and pollution after spending five days in snow-globe Venice. Thanks to my friend Sofi having put more effort and passion into researching the Renaissance masters than my own minimal contribution (which involved tracking down the four namesakes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the various museums, galleries and churches of the city on Friday), I was able to really appreciate the great sculptures of the Borgello and enjoy some rare proper food in the evening, without having to contribute to Florence's economy - take that, Florentines!

Ninja Turtle Tour of Florence

Michelangelo - He may have been the most annoying of the TMNT, but Michelangelo Buonarotti's sculptures in the Borgello are pretty excellent, despite the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican being more famous. I also recommend visiting the massive church/museum complex at Santa Croce, where you can see his tomb alongside those of other famous dead guys, like Galileo, Machiavelli and Dante.

Leonardo - The definitive Renaissance man spend a lot of time in Florence, and the city's tourism industry doesn't let you forget this. See John the Baptist in the Borgello or Adoration of the Magi in the Uffizi, or visit the dedicated Leonardo Museum for some lean, green flying machines.

One way to get your Leo fix for free is visiting the Old Pharmacy museum next to Santa Maria Novella, where you'll be able to browse the spines of herbalist books reputedly written by da Vinci, though you're not actually allowed to look inside them. Almost as if they're just lying.

Raphael - Raffaelo Sanzio is less prominent in Florence than his ninja brothers, but you can see the wisecracking reptile's paintings of dour-looking popes and ugly women in the Uffizi.

Donatello - The best turtle, clearly, Donatello di Betto Bardi was a pretty good sculptor too, and there's plenty to get excited about in the Borgello in particular.

This TMNT tour would undoubtedly work better in Rome, but I am too cool to go there. I'm glad I met someone who could teach me a thing or two about Renaissance art while in Florence though, to advance my needs beyond the character-collecting level of a six-year-old.

Next I head south to see more dead things in Pompeii.


  1. My respect for you never stops growing, although if I really thought about it I would definitely have guessed Donatello would be your favourite turtle.

  2. Just as Egon was my favourite Real Ghostbuster and Brains my favourite Thunderbird. The nerds shall inherit the Earth.