Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa (Venice, Italy)

Courtyard o the palazzo

Courtyard o the palazzo

The  Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa, originally the ancient casa da stazio, an L-shaped building located at the intersection of the rios of San

Bronze bust of Antonio Grimani (Andrea Briosco)

Bronze bust of Antonio Grimani (Andrea Briosco)

Severo and Santa Maria Formosa, was the residence of the Venetian doge Antonio Grimani. It was substantially altered in 1532-1569 by his grandsons Vittore, procuratore generale of the city, and Giovanni Grimani, cardinal and Patriarch of Aquileia, giving it a classical stamp.

Giovanni allegedly collaborated with celebrated architects such as Jacopo Sansovino, Sebastiano Serlio and  Andrea Palladio.

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Two new wings, doDSC00364ubling the size of the building, were added.  A vast Roman-style inner courtyard, with loggias of marble colonnades (unusual in sixteenth-century Venice) and asymmetrical porticoes, was laden with artfully arranged sculptures, reliefs and inscriptions.The palace was completed in 1575 by Giovanni Rusconi while Alessandro Vittoria was responsible for the ornamentation of the doorway.

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The palace is composed of three parts with a small backyard. The façade, sporting

Bronze bust of Hadrian (Ludovico Lombardo)

Bronze bust of Hadrian (Ludovico Lombardo)

characteristically massive windows arches, is decorated with polychrome marble.

The most striking feature of the interior is the Sala di Psiche (c. 1540), with frescoes by Mannerist artists such as Francesco MenzocchiCamillo Mantovano and Francesco Salviati.

Other artists who worked to the palace’s decoration include Taddeo Zuccari and Giovanni da Udine.

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Bust of Antinoüs, favorite of Hadrian

Bust of Antinoüs, favorite of Hadrian

The palazzo once held the archaeological collections (one of the finest of the time), strikingly displayed on shelves, mantelpieces and plinths in settings of the high ceiling, specially designed Tribuna and the courtyard, amassed by Cardinal Domenico Grimani and Giovanni Grimani, and donated to the Republic.

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Palazzo Grimani, internationally important for its architectural originality, the quality of its decoration and the history of its development, was purchased by the State in 1981 and, in 2001, a decree of the Ministry of the Cultural Heritage gave responsibility for its management to the Superintendency of State Museums in Venice. On December 20, 2015, it was reopened as a museum.

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An especially valuable addition to its museum circuit, the palace displays a few HiDSC04670eronymus Bosch paintings from the Grimani collection: depicting the dream-like Visione dell’Aldilàl’Ascesa all’Empireo, and la Caduta dei dannati e l’Inferno; and the Triptych of Santa Liberata, and the Triptych of the eremiti (Sant’Antonio, San Girolamo and Sant’Egidio).

Sculpture gallery

The Sculpture Gallery with “The Rape of Ganymede (Reinhard Gomer)” hanging on the ceiling

The extraordinarily high quality decoration of the rooms iDSC04680ncludes outstanding stucco work and frescoes, reflecting the confidently unconventional taste of the Grimanis.

Palazzo Grimani, unique in Venetian history and architecture, is a fascinating treasure house of cultural, artistic and historical riches.

Statue of Laocoon and his sons

Statue of Laocoon and his sons

Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa: Ramo Grimani, 4858, 30122 Venice, Italy. Tel: +39 041 241 1507 and +39 041 5200345. E-mail: info@palazzogrimani.org and sspsae-ve.grimani@beniculturali.it. Website: www.palazzogrimani.org. Open 8:15 AM – 7:15 PM. Admission: € 4.00 + € 1,50 reservation fee.

Church of St. Zacharias (Venice, Italy)

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (1)

Church of St. Zechariah

The large 15th-century, formerly monastic (it was originally attached to a Benedictine monastery of nuns) Church of St. Zechariah (Chiesa di San Zaccaria) is located just off the waterfront, to the southeast of Piazza San Marco and St Mark’s Basilica.  The first church on the site was founded in the early 9th century by Doge Giustiniano Participazio  to house the body, under the second altar on the right, of St. Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist), the saint to which it is dedicated, a gift of the Byzantine Emperor Leo V the Armenian. The remains of 8 early doges as well as the artist Alessandro Vittoria (his tomb marked by a self-portrait bust) are also buried in the colonnaded Romanesque crypt of the church.

Nave

Nave

The original church, rebuilt in the 1170s (when the present campanile was built), was replaced by the present Late Gothic-style church designed by Antonio Gambello.  Built between 1458 and 1515, it was built beside (not over) the original church, the remains of which still stands. Seventy years later, the upper part of the façade, with its arched windows and its columns, and the upper parts of the interior were completed by Mauro Codussi in early Renaissance style. Thus, the façade is a harmonious Venetian mixture of late-Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Tomb of St. Zacharias

Tomb of St. Zacharias

The church’s apse, surrounded by an ambulatory lit by tall Gothic windows, is a typical feature of Northern European church architecture which is unique in Venice. The San Zaccaria Altarpiece, one of the most famous works by Giovanni Bellini (whisked away to Paris for 20 years when Napoleon plundered the city in 1797), as well as paintings by 17th and 18th century artists (at the  walls of the aisles and of the chapels).

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They include works by Andrea del CastagnoPalma VecchioTintorettoGiuseppe PortaPalma il GiovaneAntonio VassilacchiAnthony van DyckAndrea Celesti,Antonio ZanchiAntonio BalestraAngelo Trevisani and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. The organ of the church was built by Gaetano Callido in 1790.

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The Chapel of St Athanasius, which was most of the nave and right-hand aisle of the old church, was rebuilt for the nuns in the mid-15th century and then converted into a chapel around 1595. It contains a Domenico Tintoretto altarpiece depicting The Birth of John the Baptist or maybe The Birth of the Virgin. To the right of an altar designed by Vittoria is The Flight into Egypt by Domenico Tintoretto. Over the entrance door is the Crucifixion, claimed to be by Anthony van Dyke, very redolent of the Counter-Reformation in its minimalness and drama.

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Another door takes you through to the Cappella dell’Addolorata, with cases of relics, and then into the lovely Chapel of San Tarasio, the apse of the old church, built in 1440 by Gambello. It features some very impressive frescoes in the vaulting, painted in 1442 by Andrea del Castagno (in collaboration with a certain Francesco da Faenza).  Discovered in 1923 and cleaned in the 1950s, they are the artist’s earliest extant work and feature his only signature (Andreas de Florentia).

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There are also three well-preserved Late-Gothic gilded altarpieces by brothers-in-law Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna. The central three panels (dated 1385), on the main level of the high altarpiece (Saints Blaise and Martin, with The Virgin and Child in the center), are signed by Stefano di Sant’Agnese, taken from another work and inserted in 1839 in place of a reliquary. The two saints flanking them (Mark and Elizabeth) are by Giovanni and Antonio Vivarini. More saints, said to have also been added later, are found on the back. A recently discovered and restored predella, on the front of the altar, is ascribed to Paolo Veneziano.

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Church of San Zaccaria: Campo San Zaccaria 4693, 30122 Venice, Italy. Open Mondays – Saturays, 10 AM–12 PM and 4–6 PM, and Sundays, 4–6 PM. Tel: +39 041 522 1257

Murano Glass Museum (Venice, Italy)

Murano Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro)

The Murano Glass Museum (ItalianMuseo del Vetro), a museum on the millennial history of glass, including local Murano glass, is housed in the Vescovi Palace, the former residence of the bishops of Torcello. Originally built in the Gothic style, this patrician’s palace became the residence of Bishop Marco Giustinian in 1659. He later bought it and donated it to the Torcello diocese.

Jandy, Cheska, Grace and Kyle at the museum garden

This Glass Museum, founded in 1861 by Abbot Zanetti, became part of the Venetian Civic Museums in 1923, following the fusion of Murano with Venice.  In 1932, its collections were put in order under the guidance of Giulio Lorenzetti and Nino Barbantini who adopted more modern criteria regarding display techniques.

Museum exhibit

The museum’s collection, further expanded by the addition of the Correr, Cicogna and Molin Collections, includes, among other things, the most beautiful Renaissance pieces in the museum. Except for occasional purchases, the museum’s contemporary collection are enriched by donations made by the island’s glassworks.  It is run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE).

A collection of glass beads

Paintings of famous glassmakers

The museum is divided into the following sections:

  • Archaeological Section  (Ground floor) – its most outstanding exhibits come from the necropolises of Enona (Zara), noteworthy Roman works dating from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D. including objects with depictions of animals and plants, glass murrini and examples of applications and decorations used in ancient times.
  • Murano Glass in the 15th Century – the evolution, from ‘crystal clear’ glass, to the pure and transparent glass that, during the next century, leads to the development of new decorative techniques.
  • Murano Glass in the 16th Century – the century in which the precious Murano glass goes beyond national borders to spread throughout Europe,  on display are lattimo glass; white opaque glass like porcelain; glass used in filigree or decorated with enamels; and ice glass with a typical cracked outer surface.
  • Murano Glass in the 17th Century – considered to be the century of the so-called glass à la façon de Venise, the most prestigious Murano glass, the 17th century is also the beginning of the decline because of the massive exodus of Murano glassmakers abroad. Towards the end of the century the market began to prefer Bohemian glass.

Murano Glass in the 13th – 17th Century

  • Murano Glass in the 18th Century – Murano Glass acquired new life thanks to Joseph Briati. Examples of his vast output on display include chiocche (crystal chandeliers decorated with multiple arms); deseri (table triumphs), famous for their ornamental richness and variety of the subjects represented; and beautiful mirrors.

Murano Glass in the 18th Century

  • Murano Glass in the 19th Century – production of Murano Glass art goes through a period of technique and aesthetics decline. From the second half of the 19th century, blown glass by Antonio Salviati and reproduction of Roman mosaic glass by Vincenzo Moretti offered new ideas to the glassmaking industry.
  • Murano Glass in the 20th Century – the traditional techniques of glass working began to be used for more modern creations at the beginning of this century– as demonstrated in the ‘Peacock  murrina‘ and Vittorio Zecchin’s Plate. After the First World War, many artists began working closely with the furnaces on the island. Umberto Bellotto, with the cooperation of the Barovier artists and fantastic glassy fabrics created by Carlo Scarpa for Venini, designed daring combinations of glass and wrought iron. After World War II, Murano develops an interest in the chromatic effects of the glass as can be seen in the works of Ercole Barovier, the noteworthy sculptures of Alfredo Barbini and the creations of watermarks by Archimede Seguso.

Murano Glass in the 20th Century

The upper floor houses a collection of glass from the 15th to the 20th century (one of the most complete in the world), including world famous realizations by the famous Barovier & Toso glass company and glass textiles designed by Carlo Scarpa in the late 1930s.

Chiocche (crystal chandeliers)

The exhibit, interspersed throughout with innumerable glass objects reflective of the era covered and the specific techniques of production for each century, took us through the history of glass making solely on Murano, starting with the 14th -17th century apogee of the art and, continuing into modern times, in more detail with the 18th and 19th century of jousting of Murano with Bohemia as the world’s leader in this art form. Then, it continues with its downturn, after Napoleon,  and revival in the late 19th century (thanks to enterprising locals of the industry).  Modern day art ended our tour.

Miniature garden made entirely of Murano glass

Also on display are a fine collection of beads and an equally splendid exhibition of classic table ware. At a small hall just by the entrance, we watched a cool video presentation on glassware making.

The Minimalist displays, in 6 big, easy to navigate and wheelchair-friendly rooms, were.impressive and occasionally stunning to the eye and our 2-hour visit here was educational and worthwhile.

Murano Glass Museum: Fondamenta Giustinian 8, 30121 MuranoVeniceItaly. Tel: +39 041 739586. Website: www.museiciviciveneziani.it. Open from April 1 to November 1, 10 AM – 6 PM (ticket office: 10 AM – 5 PM); from November 2 to March 31, 10 AM  – 5 PM (ticket office: 10 AM – 4 PM); closed on December 25 and January 1. Admission: €4.00 (reductions for pensioners and students), €6.50 for a ticket which usually combines entrance to the Glass Museum and the Lace Museum on Burano.

How to Get There: The museum is located close to the “Museo” vaporetto water bus stop.

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte (Florence, Italy)

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

From Piazzale Michangelo, a five minute stroll up took us to the unique and beautiful Basilica of San Miniato al Monte (St. Minias on the Mountain), a basilica standing atop Monte alle Croci, one of the highest points in the city.  One of the most scenic churches in Italy, it absolutely has the best view of the city.

View of Florence

View of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio (left) and the Duomo (right)

Here, we could see the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio up to the last standing parts of the medieval walls that once surrounded Florence.  A stunning example of original Tuscan Romanesque architecture, it has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany. Here are some trivia regaring the basilica:

  • The church is dedicated to Miniato or Minas, an Armenian prince or Greek merchant who once served in the Roman army under Emperor Decius.  Miniato was denounced as a Christian after becoming a hermit.  He was brought before the Emperor, who was camped outside the gates of Florence, and was ordered to be thrown to the beasts in the amphitheater.  A panther refused to devour him so, in the presence of the Emperor, he was beheaded.  Miniato was alleged to have picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders, crossed the Arno and walked up the hill of Mons Fiorentinus, to his hermitage. A shrine was later erected at this spot and, by the 8th century, there was already a chapel built there.
  • The basilica served as an important setting in Brian de Palma’s 1976 filmObsession.
  • On June 16, 2012, Dutch royalPrincess Carolina of Bourbon-Parma married businessman Albert Brenninkmeijer

The present church, built on the site of a 4th century chapel, was started in 1013 by Bishop Alibrando (Hildebrand) and was endowed by the Emperor Henry II. The green (from Prato) and white (from Carrara) marble façade, with strict geometric patterns similar to the facades of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, is the most important element of the façade.

The basilica's Romanesque facade

The basilica’s Romanesque facade

The facade was probably begun in about 1090 although the upper parts date from the 12th century or later.  It was financed by the Florentine Arte di Calimala (the eagle that crowns the façade is their symbol), a cloth merchants’ guild who, from 1288, were responsible for the church’s upkeep.

Eagle symbol of Arte di Calimala

Eagle symbol of Arte di Calimala

The lower part of the facade is decorated by fine arcading.  A fine 12th century mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato, over a central window, decorates the simpler upper part of the facade.

Mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato

Mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato

The campanile, which collapsed in 1499, was replaced in 1523 although it was never finished. In 1530, during the siege of Florence, it was used as an artillery post by the defenders. To protect it from enemy fire, Michelangelo had it wrapped in mattresses.

The unfinished campanille

The unfinished campanille

The tripartite Romanesque interior of the basilica, little changed since it was first built, has three naves (without a transept); a trussed timber roof and ceiling (decorated in 1322) in the central nave; and exhibits the early feature of a choir, elevated on a platform above the large crypt (the oldest part of the church).

The trussed timber roof and ceiling

The trussed timber roof and ceiling

Fragments of 13th and 14th century frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi (1341) may be seen in the vaults of the crypt.  Finished about 1062, the austere crypt is divided into 7 small aisles by 38 slender columns that were decorated “in gold” by Gaddi in 1342. Enclosed by a marble column fence and elaborate wrought-iron gate (1338), this vast space contains an impressive 14th century wood chorus.

The crypt

The crypt

Columns, with alternating polystyle pilasters, divide the naves. The side (lateral) naves were finished in 1070. The patterned pavement, in the central aisle, dates from 1207 and includes marble intarsias representing the signs of the zodiac and symbolic animals.

Central Nave

The central nave

The beautiful, freestanding Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix), designed by Michelozzo in 1448, dominates the center of the nave. It originally housed the miraculous crucifix, now in Santa Trìnita, and is decorated with panels long thought to have been painted by Agnolo Gaddi. Luca della Robbia or his family did the delicate glazed terracotta decoration of the vault (the crucifix above the high altar is also attributed to him) while the mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and St Minias was made in 1260.

Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix)

Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix)

The 11th century high altar supposedly contains the bones of St. Minias himself (although there is evidence that these were removed to Metz before the church was even built). The intimate raised choir, with its fine inlaid wooden choir stalls, and the presbytery contains a magnificent Romanesque ambo (pulpit) and screen, both made in 1207. The lectern is supported by a “column” composed of a lion, a monk-telamon and an eagle with outstretched wings.

Blessing Christ, the Pantocrator, flanked by the Madonna, St. Minias and the symbols of the four Evangelists

Mosaic o the Blessing Christ, the Pantocrator, flanked by the Madonna, St. Minias and the symbols of the four Evangelists

The bowl-shaped vault of the apse (c. 1260) is dominated by a great mosaic, dating from 1297,  of the Blessing Christ, the Pantocrator, flanked by the Madonna, St. Minias and the symbols of the four Evangelistswhich depicts the same subject as that on the façade and is probably by the same unknown artist.

Left nave

Left nave

The figures stand out Byzantine-style against a gold background in a field populated with oriental birds (symbolizing souls). The date palm, on the left, symbolizes Christ Resurrected, while the phoenix on the right, spouting flames from its beak, and the peacock on the left, both symbolize the Resurrection of Christ.

Right nave

Right nave

The great fresco cycle on the 16 stories of the Life of St. Benedict (taken from “Dialogues” of Gregory the Great and from “Golden Legend” by Jacopo da Varagine), illustrated in chronological sequence (almost like a film) by Spinello Aretino (1387-88), decorates the entrance of the sacristy, to the right of the presbytery. The first undertaking of the Olivetans, it was commissioned by Benedetto degli Alberti.

Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (1461-66) by Antonio Rossellino

Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (1461-66) by Antonio Rossellino

On the left of the nave, stairs lead to the Chapel of St. James or Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal (Cappella del Cardinale del Portogallo), a collaboration of outstanding artists of Florence.  One of the most magnificent funerary monuments of the Italian Renaissance, it was designed by Brunelleschi’s associate, Antonio Manetti (but finished, after his death in 1460, by Antonio Rossellino in 1461).

Madonna with the Child and Saints Francis, Mark, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, James and Anthony Abbot

Madonna with the Child and Saints Francis, Mark, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, James and Anthony Abbot

It was built by the Alberti workshop of Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino in 1473 as a memorial (the only tomb in the church) to Cardinal James of Lusitania, the Portuguese ambassador in 1459, who died in Florence on August 27, 1459.  The chapel was decorated by Alesso BaldovinettiAntonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo. The 5 splendid roundels representing the Holy Spirit and the Cardinal Virtues are by Luca della Robbia (1461-66).

Medallions by Luca della Robbia

3 of the 5 roundrels by Luca della Robbia

A fine cloister, adjacent to the church, also designed by Bernardo and Antonio Rosselino, was planned as early as 1426, financed by the Arte della Mercantia of Florence and built from 1443 to the mid-1450s. The fortified bishop’s palace, to the right of the church, was the ancient summer residence of the bishops of Florence from 1295- 1320.  It was later used as a a convent, barracks, a hospital and a Jesuit house.

Bishop’s palace

Bishop’s palace

Defensive walls, originally built hastily by Michelangelo during the 1529-30 siege and expanded into a true fortress (fortezza) by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1553, surround the whole complex and  now encloses the Porte Santea, a beautiful, monumental cemetery laid out in 1854. Carlo Collodi (creator of Pinocchio), Giovanni Spadolini (politician), Pietro Annigoni (painter), Luigi Ugolini (poet and author), Mario Cecchi Gori (film producer), Libero Andreotti (sculptor), Maria Luisa Ugolini Bonta (fine artist), Marietta Piccolomini (soprano), Giovanni Papini (writer) and Bruno Benedetto Rossi (physicist) are buried here.

Porte Santea

Porte Santea

When ascending the stairs of the basilica, the adjoining Olivetan monastery can be seen to the right. It began as a Benedictine community but was then passed to the Cluniacs and, finally,  in 1373, to the Olivetans who still run it. The monks here still make their famous tisanes (herbal tea), liqueurs and honey which are sold to visitors from a shop next to the church.

Olivetan monks

Olivetan monks

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte: Via delle Porte Sante, 34, 50125 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 234 2731.  Open daily, 9:30 AM -1 PM and from 3 – 7 PM; Sundays 3 – 7 PM. Visit the church on Sundays and feast days as the monks accompany Mass in the crypt with Gregorian chant at 10 AM and 5.30 PM. During week days, the Gregorian chant takes place at 5:30 PM in summer. This time might change to 4:30 PM in winter.

 

Piazzale Michelangelo (Florence, Italy)

Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo

This large, partly pedestrianized Florentine piazza, located across the Arno River from the center of Florence, was designed by Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi,  known for his creation of boulevards around the center of Florence, part of the so-called Risanamento (“Rebirth”), a late nineteenth-century urban modernization project which also resulted in the creation of the Piazza della Repubblica.  Under the loggia, in the wall of the balcony, is an epigraph in capital letters referring to Poggi’s work, turned into his monument in 1911.

Bronze copy of Michelangelo's David (15)

Bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David (15)

The piazza was built in 1869 on a hill, 104 m. above sea level (and 60 m. above the level of the Arno River), just south of the historic center, during the redevelopment of Oltrarno, the left (South) bank of the Arno River, as part of major restructuring of the fourteenth-century city walls.  Dedicated to Michelangelo Buonarroti (the city’s most famous Renaissance sculptor), the square has bronze copies, set on a large pedestal, of some of his marble works found elsewhere in Florence – the famous David (seen in the Galleria dell’Accademia) and the Four Allegories (seen at the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo, it depicts day, night, dusk and dawn), brought up by nine pairs of oxen on June 25, 1873.

Two of the Four Allegories

Two of the Four Allegories

Poggi also designed the hillside building with loggia as a museum for Michelangelo’s works which, for some reason, was not realized as it was intended. Today, the building is now a restaurant. The loggia, designed by Poggi the in the Neo-Classical-style, dominates the whole sumptuous, typically 19th century terrace.

View of the city

View of the city

A popular spot, most of Piazzale Michelangelo is a parking lot filled with vendors and locals and tourists, dropped off by busses, who come here to enjoy and snap photos of the panoramic and unobstructed views of the Arno valley and the heart of Florence, from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni (riverside walks) and the bridges crossing the Arno, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina. Beyond the city are the hills of Settignano and Fiesole.

The Arno River

The Arno River

Despite the overly touristy commercialism and its being crowded all year round, the piazza is still well worth a visit thanks to the magnificent views over the most important landmarks of Florence, with the Tuscan hills providing a scenic backdrop. The square is filled with a large number of market stalls selling souvenirs and snacks.

L-R: Cheska, the author, Kyle, Grace and Jandy

L-R: Cheska, the author, Kyle, Grace and Jandy

Kyle and Cheska

Kyle and Cheska

How to Get There:  From the city center, Piazzale Michelangelo can be reached by taking either bus 12 or 13 or the red, two-level sightseeing tour bus. On foot, from the Porta San Niccolò (a fourteenth-century city gate near the Arno River), it can also be reached by walking up the stairs or going up the steep winding path from Piazza Giuseppe Poggi (also known as the “Poggi Ramps”), found at the base of the hill upon which Piazzale Michelangelo sits. By car, it can be accessed along the tree-lined, 8 km. long Viale Michelangelo.

Porcelain Museum (Florence, Italy)

Porcelain Museum

Porcelain Museum

First opened in October 1973, the Porcelain Museum (Museo delle Porcellane), a section of the Silver Museum, is an internationally acclaimed institution in the field of ceramics and among the hundred most visited art museums in the world. It is housed in the Villino del Cavaliere, built in the 17th century at the top of the hill that overlooks the Boboli Gardens which was chosen as a retreat for the Grand Duke.

Porcelain Museum (4)

If you love porcelain, then you will be impressed by its extensive collection of mainly continental porcelain, encompassing almost every famous maker. The labels were predominantly in Italian.  As it is located on one of the highest points of the Boboli Gardens, you have a gorgeous panoramic view of the city of Florence from the terrace.

Porcelain Museum (3)

The over 2,000-piece, homogeneous collection comprises mainly porcelain tableware, from many of the most notable European porcelain factories, belonging to the royal families that ruled Tuscany and have followed one another at Pitti Palace, starting from the period of the Medici family, to the Lorraines (including the Parma-Bourbon dynasty), to the Savoys up to the unification of Italy.  One of the most important historical collections of its kind in Europe, the oldest pieces are those that once belonged to Gian Gaston de Medici (the last Medici Grand Duke, 1671-1737) produced in the Manufactory of Meissen.

Porcelain Museum (14)

Among the well represented manufacturers of origin on display are the Royal Factory of Naples (Capodimonte); the Tuscan Carlo Ginori from Sesto FiorentinoFrench manufacturers  Vincennes (founded in 1740 and transferred to Sèvres in 1756 under the direct ownership of King Louis XV) in ParisViennese porcelain, largely collected by Ferdinand III of Tuscany; the German porcelain factory of Meissen, near Dresden.

Porcelain Museum (17)

Many items in the collection, divided into three sections by periods, nations (Austria, Germany and France) and manufacturers, were specially commissioned by the Grand Ducal court, clearly reflecting their tastes, with several outstanding examples of Italian porcelain objects produced in Doccia (near Florence, founded by the Ginori family in 1737) and at the Royal Manufactory of Naples.  These were especially used by the Grand ducal family for large services of daily use.  All are very detailed, elegant and fine works of arts.

Meissen (1800-1850)

Meissen (1800-1850)

Others were gifts to the Florentine rulers from other European sovereigns. They include fine table sets from Vienna and from the German Manufactory of Meisse.  There were also French several large porcelain dinner services from the Vincennes  (later renamed Sèvres) factory, brought to the Pitti Palace by the Savoy House from the Royal Palace of Parma.

1750 Porcelain (Sevres)

1750 Porcelain (Sevres)

Table services, for daily use, constantly supplied to the Grand Dukes of Lorraine, from Doccia Manifacture, include a flowered porcelain with bouquet or tulip motifs, taken from the so-called “famille rose” Chinese porcelain; and lovely coffee cups with view of Florentine piazzas, from the 1800’s, made using lithographs by the Frenchman Philippe Benoist as models.

Naples Royal Factory (1785)

Naples Royal Factory (1785)

Some typical examples of French porcelain, characterized by various pastel-colored shades, includes some flower vases with scenes taken from Francois Boucher as well as 4 oysters stands from Parma, singular and unique of their kind, made up of 18 shell-shaped bowls and belonging to Louise Elisabeth de Bourbon, the Grand Duchess of Parma, who was, in fact, the daughter of Louis XV, king of France. Sèvres table services for the light first course and dessert, in two central display cases, were gifts to Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi (Grand Duchess of Tuscany, 1809-1814) from her august brother Emperor Napoleon I.

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In the first room is a collection from the Real Fabbrica of Naples.  They include, of particular note, a series of small biscuit figurines depicting personages from Classical antiquity; reproductions from the excavations in Herculaneum; 18 figurines reproducing ‘garments’ from the Kingdom of Naples, two dejeuner services (one decorated with Egyptian motifs and the other with Etruscan motifs).

Biscuit figurines

Biscuit figurines

A rich assembly of Viennese porcelains, in the second room, were brought to Pitti Palace by two Lorraine grand dukes – Peter Leopold (who maintained a constant rapport with the Vienna) and Ferdinand III of Lorraine (an impassioned collector of porcelains and, particularly, of ‘solitaire’ services). Cups and trays, decorated with views of Vienna, and a coffee service, with a trompe l’oeil feigned wood decoration, stand out.

A series of small porcelain statues taken from the Commedia dell’Arte

A series of small porcelain statues taken from the Commedia dell’Arte

Porcelains from Meissen and from other German manufacturers are in the third room. In the display case, towards the window, are 2 turtle-shaped butter dishes, a teapot in the shape of a rooster and a broth cup with scene inspired by a play by Molière, probably belonging to the collection of Gian Gastone de Medici.

Sèvres porcelain of Elisa Baciocchi (1809–1810)

Sèvres porcelain of Elisa Baciocchi (1809–1810)

Early pieces, from the Meissen factory, such as a splendid vase, are decorated with Chinese motifs such as gilded grape leaves and vines in relief. The Harlequin, a series of small porcelain statues taken from the Commedia dell’Arte, representing people in costume (ladies, musicians, putti, gardeners, etc.), was a source of inspiration for the Capodimonte porcelain manufacture in Naples.

Turtle-shaped butter dishes

Turtle-shaped butter dishes

Porcelain Museum: Palazzo Pitti, Piazza de’ Pitti, Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 238 8709

Costume Gallery (Florence, Italy)

Costume Gallery

Costume Gallery

The Costume Gallery (Galleria del Costume), the only National Museum in Italy exclusively dedicated to the history of fashion, is housed in a small southern building wing of the Meridiana (Palazzina della Meridiana),  a suite of 14 rooms (completed in 1858) of the Pitti Palace.

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Founded in 1983 (one of the newer collections to the palazzo) by Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti, it is home to more than 6,000 pieces, including clothing and fashion accessories from the eighteenth century to the present day.  They include a group of about 90 theatrical costumes belonging to the Sartoria Tirelli, gathered by Umberto Tirelli, founder of an important tailoring, and a collection of fashion jewelry of the twentieth century (dating from the 16th century until the present).

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The semi-permanent exhibition of the Lorraine/Savoy rooms display pieces from the museum collection of historical clothes and accessories, previously stored in the palace´s warehouses. They include court and gala gowns (including clothes from Sicilian aristocratic Donna Franca Florio, one of the most famous European personalities during the Belle Epoque), haute couture dresses; ready-to-wear clothes, custom-made Florentine and Neapolitan bridal gowns from the early 1900s; as well as Italian cinematic, theatrical and music divas costumes (including dresses of Eleonora Duse, one of the most famous Italian theater actresses), all organized in chronological and thematic paths.

Donna Franca Florio cape

Donna Franca Florio cape

The collections also feature whole clothes collections of celebrities, also of great historical and documentary value, creations of the most famous designers of the twentieth century – Lucile, Versace, Valentino, Loris Azzaro, Armani, Renato Balestra, Missoni, Roberto Cavalli, Ken Scott, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Gucci, and Prada.

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Some of the exhibits are unique to the Palazzo Pitti. Composed of clothes once belonging to members of the Medici family who ruled Florence during the Renaissance, they include the fine, recently restored 16th-century funeral clothes of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, and Eleonora of Toledo and her son Don Garzia, both of whom died 15 years before from malaria, worn while they were being displayed in state (they were reclad in plainer attire before interment).

 

Cosimo I de' Medici funeral clothes

Cosimo I de’ Medici funeral clothes

Don Garzia funeral clothes

Don Garzia funeral clothes

The richly-decorated galleries of the museum, equipped with air-conditioned display stands, display dresses on mannequins with female body structure (constricting structures such as corsets often changed the body) typical of the period in which the dress was made. The dancing hall, among other rooms, is used for temporary exhibitions of great interest.

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For didactic purposes and in order to represent the evolution of fashion, the exhibits are updated regularly every two or three years with different selections of clothes, a decision that originates from the need of guaranteeing their preservation.  It also offers the opportunity of displaying the patrimony preserved in the depository, mostly from public and private donations. Visitors can browse the story of costume, from the Renaissance to present day, through an extensive set of dresses and accessories, combined with contextual images and description panels.

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The gallery’s heritage is enriched by an archive paper with drawings, sketches and patterns of important figures such as Thayaht, Cesare Guidi, Simonetta Colonna di Cesaro and Alberto Fabiani. The gallery also exhibits a collection of mid-20th century costume jewellery and accessories. The Meridiana building, close to the gallery, is also the seat of a fabric restoration laboratory which is essential for the maintenance of clothing and accessories.

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Costume Gallery: Palazzo Pitti, Piazza de’ Pitti, 50125 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 238 8611. Amission: € 7.00. Open daily, 8:15 AM – 4:30 PM (November to February), 8:15 AM – 5:30 PM (March, winter time, October winter time), 8:15 AM – 6:30 PM (March, summer time, April, May, September, October, summer time), 8:15 AM – 6:50 PM (June to August). Closed on the first and last Monday of each month, May 1 and Christmas.

Palazzo Strozzi (Florence, Italy)

Palazzo Strozzi

Palazzo Strozzi

From Kandinsky to Pollock The Art of the Guggenheim Collections (3)Palazzo Strozzi, facing the historical Via de’ Tornabuoni, is one of the finest examples of Renaissance domestic and civil architecture.  It has, since World War II, been Florence’s largest temporary exhibition space and, today, the palace is used for the now-annual antique show (founded as the Biennale dell’Antiquariato in 1959), international expositions, fashion shows, and other cultural and artistic events such as “Cézanne in Florence, Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism.” During our visit, there ongoing exhibits were “Migrazioni” (Liu Xiadong, April 22-June 19, 2016) and “From Kandinsky to Pollock: The Art o the Guggenheim Collections” (March 19-July 24, 2016)

From Kandinsky to Pollock The Art of the Guggenheim Collections

From Kandinsky to Pollock The Art of the Guggenheim Collections

Designed by Benedetto da Maiano and begun in 1489  , the palace was built for Florentine banker, statesman and merchant Filippo Strozzi the Elder, a rival of the  Medici who had returned to the city in November 1466.  He desired the most magnificent palace to assert his affluent family’s continued prominence and, perhaps more important, a political statement of his own status.

Wooden model of the Palazzo Strozzi

Wooden model of the Palazzo Strozzi

To provide enough space for the construction of the largest palace that had ever been seen in Florence, a great number of other buildings were acquired during the 1470s and then demolished. A wood model of the design was provided by Giuliano da Sangallo. Italian architect Simone del Pollaiolo (il Cronaca), in charge of its construction until 1504, left the palace incomplete and the palace was only completed in 1538, long after Filippo Strozzi’s death in 1491.  That same year, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici confiscated it but it was returned to the Strozzi family thirty years later.

Cortile (Central Courtyard)

Cortile (Central Courtyard)

Cortile (Central Courtyard) (3)It remained the property and seat of the Strozzi family until 1937, after which time it was occupied by the Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni which made great changes to the building. Since 1999, it has been managed by the City of Florence. The Palazzo is now home to the Institute of Humanist Studies, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (Palazzo Strozzi Foundation), the noted Gabinetto Vieusseux, with its library and reading room, and the Istituto Nazionale del Rinascimento (Renaissance Studies Institute), the last two occupying the building since 1940.

The dominating cornice

The dominating cornice

StairFrom Palazzo Medici, Filippo copied the cubic form, designing its three floors around a cortile  (central courtyard) surrounded by an arcade,  inspired by Michelozzo. Its rusticated stone was also inspired by the Palazzo Medici but with more harmonious proportions. However, this free-standing structure is surrounded on all four sides by streets unlike the Medici Palace which is sited on a corner lot and, thus, has only two sides. The ground plan of Palazzo Strozzi, rigorously symmetrical on its two axes, with clearly differentiated scales for its principal rooms, introduced a problem new in Renaissance architecture (given the newly felt desire for internal symmetry of planning symmetry) – how to integrate the cross-axis.

The paired mullioned windows

The paired mullioned windows

Migrazioni (Liu Xiadong) (3)The three sides overlooking the street each have three arched portals. The palazzo, with its dominating cornice (typical of the Florentine palaces of the time), has paired mullioned  windows (bifore) and wrought-iron lanterns, done by an iron-worker named Caparra, decorating the corners of the palace exterior. As they rise to the keystone, the radiating voussoirs of the arches increase in length, a detail that was much copied for arched windows set in rustication in the Renaissance revival.

Migrazioni (Liu Xiadong)

Migrazioni (Liu Xiadong)

Palazzo Strozzi: Piazza degli Strozzi, 50123 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 264 5155. Open daily, 10 AM – 8 PM (Thursdays, 11 PM). E-mail: info@palazzostrozzi.org. Website: www.palazzostrozzi.org. Admission: €12.00.

Museum of Natural History – Geology and Paleontology Section (Florence, Italy)

Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History – Geology and Paleontology Section

Few museums in Italy can rival, in quantity and quality, the collection of fossils and rocks at the Museum of Natural History – Geology and Paleontology Section (Museo di Geologia e Paleontologia), the most important museum of its kind in Italy.  It houses about 300,000 specimens of animal and vegetable fossils, fossil imprints and rock specimens from the collections of noted geologists and paleontologists (Alberto Fucini, Giotto Dainelli, Olindo Marinelli, Carlo De Stefani, Giuseppe Stefanini, Cesare d’Ancona and Vittorio Pecchioli).

Museum entrance

Museum entrance

They include shells from Tuscan hills described by Leonardo da Vinci, the fossils that belonged to Nicolas Steno, the grand-ducal collections and those of Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti studied by Georges Cuvier, and the Central Paleontology Collection established by Igino Cocchi to serve geology in a finally united Italy.

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Medici interests again were responsible for its founding. The initial paleonthologic and geological collections were put together by the Medici Grand Dukes in the 16th century and placed among the works of art in the Galleries of the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi.  In the seventeenth century, Grand Duke Ferdinando II spurred on the collecting of the remains of vertebrates in the Monte Amiata area and other Tuscan neighborhoods of geological interest.

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Grand Duke Peter Leopold, on the other hand, sponsored the sciences and was the leader of the Observatory Museum, then the Imperial Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History, which formed the nucleus of the collection of fossils.

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They were further increased by the Lorraine family when a specific section was created in the great Museum of Physics and Natural History. In 1870, subsequent to the establishing of the Institute of Higher Studies, the collections were moved to the “Geology Cabinet” in Piazza San Marco.

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It was then removed to”La Specola” (Via Romana, 17), with all the scientific instruments, and it was only in 1925 did it find a resting place in its present day location. The museum’s collection was progressively incremented through the purchase of the collections of Pier Antonio Micheli, Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti (in 1845) and Strozzi (in 1895).

museum-of-natural-history-30The material held in the museum was also continuously enriched with new fossils recovered during recent excavations in numerous ambitious voyages of exploration and study of the kingdom and then the Republic of Italy.  The collection was rearranged in 1963.

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Our visit here allowed us to reconstruct, with evolutionary criteria, the entire paleontological history of Italy. Starting from the stromatolites (a finely laminated sedimentary structure, thanks to the activity of the first microorganisms, which date back to 3.5 billion years ago in the Precambrian Era), we switch to marine invertebrates of the Paleozoic Era; then on a journey through time through the Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, showing the first vertebrates, algae and ferns, the first amphibians and reptiles and dinosaurs and, finally, the coming of the mammals.

Arsinoitherium zitteli

Arsinoitherium zitteli

Some display stands and panels illustrate the paleonthobiogeography of the Mediterranean region (in particular that of Italy) during the upper Miocene, the theses on the origin of life and the evolution of vertebrates and, in particular, of primates. The museum has four main collections.

Horned cranium of Eucladoceros dicranios from the upper Valdarno

Horned cranium of Eucladoceros dicranios from the upper Valdarno

Of particular interest and of great importance in the vertebrate fossil collection of around 27,000 specimens, originating from the Medicean and Lorraine collections, are the lavish collection of Villafranchian mammal fossils from the Pliocene and Pleistocene, primarily recovered from Tuscany and upper Valdarno (with impressing Proboscidea). The most interesting curiosities are particularly “African” (antelopes, crocodiles, monkeys, the wolf-like Canis etruscus, etc.).

A mastodon skeleton

A mastodon skeleton

There are two mastodons – gigantic early elephants with long tusks from the Pleistocene Epoch. The first, Anancus arvernensis, was a gomphothere found at the monastery of Monte Carlo by Filippo Nesti in 1826. The second, an almost complete Archidiskodon meridionalis, was nicknamed Pietro (“Peter”) and recovered by Prof. Augusto Azzaroli at Borro al Quercio (San Giovanni Valdarno) in 1953.

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The author with Pietro, an almost complete skeleton of a male, 3.95 m. tall Archidiskodon meridionalis. It had an estimated body weight of 12 tons.

The museum holds a place of national and international importance due to the famous skeleton of the anthropoid primate Oreopithecus bamboliii, found in 1958 by Prof. Hurzeler of Basel in a lignite mine in Baccinello, a mining town 30 kms. east of Grosseto, in the Tuscan Maremma area.  Looking like a gibbon it was, for long, erroneously thought to be the missing link between man and monkeys.

Oreopithecus bambolii

Oreopithecus bambolii

The museum is also rightly famous for its collection of Equidae.  A whole room is dedicated to the evolution of horses and all the main representatives of the family are exhibited, from the small Eohippus Eocene to Oligocene Mesohippus, reaching up to Merychippus, from the Miocene Epoch, and current Equus spread from the Pliocene Epoch.

Evolution of horses

Evolution of horses

In addition to Italian vertebrates, the collections include several extraordinary examples such as remains coming from various places outside Italy such as the non-flying Moa bird from New Zealand; dinosaurs from North America; a small Cretaceous marine reptile from northwestern Nigeria; small, Late Cretaceous mammals from Mongolia; birds from Africa; glyptodont and giant ground sloth from Argentina; canids from China; and woolly rhinoceros and mammoth remains from Siberia.

Skeletons of flightless moas from New Zealand

Skeletons of flightless moas from New Zealand

Besides displaying vertebrates, the museum also offers a wide collection of invertebrates and plants that have been arranged in chronological order in the central gallery of the museum.

Leptobos etruscus (a large antelope)

Leptobos etruscus (a large antelope)

On the second floor, open to the public by appointment only, is also a collection of around 175,000 samples of fossil invertebrates from all continents and all the geological ages – trilobites, graptolites, brachiopods, ammonites and shellfish. Particularly rich is the collection of Pliocene molluscs from Tuscany, donated by the Dalmine Company, and of notable interest are the Fucini, De Stefani, Dainelli, Marinelli, Stefanini and Seguenza collections.

The Strozzi Collection

The Strozzi Collection

The Paleobotany collection has about 8,000 items coming mainly from Tuscany that show the evolution of the plant world from the marsh flora to that of the large trees up to today’s forests. The collection of phyllites from Monte Pisano, the Strozzi collection, and the collection of plant remains from the Santa Barbara mine (early Villafranchian period) are especially important.

Skeleton of Hippopotamus antiquus

Skeleton of Hippopotamus antiquus

The generic rock collection, of about 5,000 specimens, is composed of rocks coming from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tibet and Caracorum, and of rocks collected along the Sempione (Simplon) and San Gottardo (Gotthard) tunnels.

Ursus etruscus

Ursus spelaeus (cave bear)

Today, in addition to recovery and exposure and its educational and research function, the Section carries out salvaging and restoration initiatives. Restoration, carried out in the laboratory, consists of a series of delicate operations aimed at removing the artifact from the rock, cleaning it and consolidating it with special substances. The museum also organizes didactic activities, guided tours, lessons and temporary exhibitions.

Sus strozzii (similar to the extant Java warty pig)

Sus strozzii (similar to the extant Java warty pig)

A new, beautifully designed and permanent exhibit is “Tales of a Whale,” a product of 9 years of effort. Seemingly set in a deep blue sea, it centers around a 10 m. long, 3 million year old skeleton of a whale discovered in the hills of Tuscany.  The skeleton is surrounded by fossils of other marine life that were found in the same field.

Tales of a Whale

Tales of a Whale

Museum of Natural History (Geology and Paleontology Section): Via Giorgio La Pira, 4 – 50121, FlorenceItaly. Tel: 055-2757536. Website:  www.msn.unifi.it.  Open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, 9 AM to 1 PM, and Saturdays, 9 AM to 5 PM. Closed on  Wednesdays, January 1, Easter,  May 1, August 15 and December 25.

National Archaeological Museum of Florence (Italy)

National Archaeological Museum of Florence

National Archaeological Museum of Florence

The National Archaeological Museum of Florence (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze) was inaugurated in 1870 in the presence of King Victor Emmanuel II  in the buildings of the Cenacolo di Fuligno on via Faenza. At that time it only comprised Etruscan and Roman remains. As the collections grew, a new site soon became necessary and, in 1880, the museum was transferred to its present location within the Palazzo della Crocetta, a palace built in 1620 for princess Maria Maddalena de’ Medici, daughter of Ferdinand I de Medici, by Giulio Parigi.

Museum entrance

Museum entrance

Kyle, Cheska, Grace and Jandy

Kyle, Cheska, Grace and Jandy

The collection’s first foundations were the family collections of the Medici and Lorraine, with several transfers from the Uffizi up to 1890 (except the collections of marble sculpture which the Uffizi already possessed).

Base of a statue of Prince Merneptah, son of Ramses II

Base of a statue of Prince Merneptah, son of Ramses II

The Egyptian section, known as the Egyptian Museum, is the second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy, after that of the Museo Egizioin Turin. It was first formed in the first half of the 18th century from part of the collections of Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany (Pierre Léopold de Toscane), from another part of an expedition promoted by the same Grand Duke and Charles X of France from 1828 to 1829 and directed by Jean-François Champollion (the man who first deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphic script) and Ippolito Rosellini (the father of Italian Egyptology, friend and student of Champollion who represented the Italian interests). During the expedition, many artifacts were collected, both from archeological diggings and via purchases from local merchants. On their return, these were evenly distributed between the Louvre in Paris and the new Egyptian Museum in Florence.

Statue of a Pharoah

Statue of a pharoah

Officially opened in 1855, the museum’s first director was Ernesto Schiaparelli (who later went on to become director of the larger Egyptian museum in Turin) from Piedmont who, by 1880, had catalogued the collection and organized transportation of the antiquities to the museum.  Under him, the collection expanded with further excavations and purchases carried out in Egypt. Many of the artifacts were, however, later transferred to Turin.

Part of the statue of Uahibra, governor of the southern districts

Part of the statue of Uahibra, governor of the southern districts

After this time, the Florentine collection continued to grow with donations from private individuals and scientific institutions. Expeditions to Egypt between 1934 and 1939, by  the Papyrological Institute of Florence, provided one of the most substantial collections of Coptic art and documents in the world.

Pillar from the tomb of Seti I

Pillar from the tomb of Seti I

The museum, with a permanent staff including two professional Egyptologists, houses more than 14,000 substantially restored artifacts distributed in 9 galleries and two warehouses. A new, chronological and partly topographical system replaced the old classification system devised by Schiaparelli. The remarkable collection of stelemummiesushabtiamulets and bronze statuettes extends from the prehistorical era right through to the Coptic Age. There are statues from the reign of Amenhotep III; a chariot from the eighteenth dynasty; a pillar from the tomb of Seti I; parts of the burial equipment of Tjesraperet (a wet nurse of king Taharqo); a New Testament papyrus; and many other distinctive artifacts from many periods.

Spoked Egyptian chariot from the 18th Dynasty (1550–1292 BC) (2)

Spoked Egyptian chariot from the 18th Dynasty (1550–1292 BC) (2)

In 1887, a new topographic museum on the Etruscans was added but was destroyed during the 1966 floods. In 2006, the organisation of the Etruscan rooms was reconsidered and reordered and restoration was carried out on over 2,000 objects damaged during the 1966 floods.

Chimera of Arrezzo

Chimera of Arezzo

Notable items on display include the Chimera of Arezzo (discovered in 1553 at Arezzo during the construction of a Medici fortress), the statue of the Arringatore (1st century BC), the funerary statue Mater Matuta (460–450 BC,  returned to Chianciano Terme), the sarcophagus of Laerthia Seianti (2nd century BC) and the sarcophagus of the Amazons (4th century BC).

Bronze statue of Arringatore

Bronze statue of Arringatore

Etruscan sarcophagus of Larthia Seianti

Etruscan sarcophagus of Laerthia Seianti

Notable objects in the Roman Collection include the “idolino of Pesaro” (a 146 cm. high bronze statue of a young man, a Roman copy from a classical Greek original, found in fragments in the centre of Pesaro in October 1530); the “torso di Livorno” (a copy of a 5th-century BC Greek original); the so-called “Gallo Treboniano” (a late 3rd-century statue of a cockerel); and the Minerva of Arezzo (a bronze Roman copy of a 4th-century BC Greek model attributed to Praxiteles).

Idolino di Pesaro

Idolino di Pesaro

Torso di Livorno

Torso di Livorno

Early 3rd century BC statue of Minerva of Arezzo (St. Lorenzo Church)

Early 3rd century BC statue of Minerva of Arezzo (St. Lorenzo Church)

The huge Greek Collection of ancient ceramics is located in a large room with numerous cases on the second floor. Generally the vases, evidence of cultural and mercantile exchange with Greece, and particularly Athens (where most of the vases were made), come from Etruscan tombs and date to the period between the 4th century BC and the present.  The most important of the vases is the “François vase,” named after the archaeologist who found it in 1844 in an Etruscan tomb at fonte Rotella, along the Chiusi road.  This large black figure krater (c. 570 BC), signed by the potter Ergotimos and the painter Kleitias, shows a series of Greek mythological narratives on both sides.

The François vase

The François vase

Other notable objects on display include the red figure hydria signed by the Meidias painter (550–540 BC); the cups by the Little Masters (560–540 BC), named after their miniaturist style of their figures; the sculptures of Apollo and Apollino Milani (6th century BC, named after the man who gave them to the museum); the athlete’s torso (5th century BC); the large Hellenistic horse’s head (known as the Medici Riccardi head after the first place it was displayed, in the Medici’s Riccardi palace), fragment of an equestrian statue, which inspired Donatello and Verrocchio in two famous equestrian monuments in Padua and Venice; and two Archaic marble kouroi, displayed in a corridor.

Head of horse (Roman, 2nd.century.BC.)

Head of horse (Roman, 2nd.century.BC.)

National Archaeological Museum of Florence: Piazza Santissima Annunziata 9 B, FlorenceItaly.  Open Mondays, 2 PM – 7 PM; Tuesdays and Thursdays,  8:30 AM – 7 PM; Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday, 8:30 AM – 2 PM; Holidays and Sundays,  8:30 AM – 2 PM. Admission: €4.00.