Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo’

Who knew? Fun Facts about the Sistine Chapel

As I wrote the headline for this blog post, I chuckled. Fun facts about this famous religious structure, the Sistine Chapel? Shouldn’t I be more respectful, a bit more reverent? Actually, adding some joy and mirth helps me take something overtly intimidating and venerated and bring it down to a human, touchable, enjoyable experience.

I first visited the Sistine Chapel when I was 13. I remember my parents “dragged me” to see some church that had “famous” paintings on the ceiling. Growing up, I had red geraniums on my bedroom’s ceiling, so I thought maybe this would be amusing. I allowed the crowd of tourists to move me through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel as I daydreamed about having great pasta for lunch.

Fast forward past a couple more attempts of awe at the splendor of the Sistine Chapel, eventually understanding the enormity and genius of the creation, and we arrive at April, 2012, where I had that OMG moment of awe.

Andrea Grisdale, Managing Director of IC Bellagio, our partner for exceptional Italian experiences, led a group of Virtuoso-affiliated Travel Advisors ( read that as extremely well-travel, hard-to-impress travel professionals) through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel AFTER HOURS! Say good-bye to long lines and crowds and say hello to an up-close-and-personal experience.

When we entered the Sistine Chapel we were allowed to wander and take photos, with no flash (apparently a no-no according to the list below), then find a seat along the edge of the chapel. A man slowly walked to the center of the chapel, looked around the room at all of us, cleared his throat, and began to sing the Ave Maria, a Capella.

Sorry for the blurry photo! A tenor singing the Ave Maria a Capella

I was transported to some mystical world, a world where I was a fortunate noble who could enjoy listening to a talented tenor sing one of my favorite songs – just because. As I recall that moment now, I am immediately overcome with gratitude, even non-prosaic goosebumps.

The Sistine Chapel came alive! It became personal and relevant. So, in the spirit of bringing something so special to my soul, I invite you to delve into these facts!

15 Lofty Facts About the Sistine Chapel

Ciao!

The Sistine Chapel

 

Ceiling at the Sistine Chapel

 

Fall in love with Florence

 Guest post by Damien Martin, Italy Specialist, Great Getaways Travel

 

“C’è tanta storia,” I said to my guide, Cinzia, and really to anyone else who asked my impressions of Florence. “There’s so much history.”

Florence is rich in history

And you can’t help but walk though it every day you spend there. Founded by Julius Caesar and the Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence absorbed Roman culture and was the first to replicate civilization as Europe awoke from the middle ages, bursting with art and international commerce.

Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

Florence means “flowering”

The name means “flowering,” and that’s just what Florence did, going from a town of 50,000 at the start of the 13th century to a city of 120,000 (plus another 300,000 in the surrounding countryside) by the 14th century. Through banking and trade, Florence fast became an international power, allowing its leading families to patronize such artists as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Brunelleschi and Botticelli. The most powerful family, the Medici, established themselves as dukes of Tuscany and built the magnificent Boboli Gardens to showcase their wealth and the talent of Florentine sculptors.

Florence and the Medicis

The gardens stand behind Palazzo Pitti, the last of three Medici palaces in the city, across the Arno River from the heart of the city. Legend has it that the palace was commissioned specifically by Luca Pitti to surpass Palazzo Medici, the first Medici palace. But Luca Pitti died with the house unfinished, and his family eventually sold it to the Medici, a testimony to their unrivaled status as Florence’s top dogs. The sheer number of buildings featuring their family crest proves their legacy lives on.

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

The second Medici palace occupied the most important address in medieval Florence. Named Palazzo Vecchio — “the old palace” — ever since they moved out, it serves as Florence’s city hall to this day. Before it was moved inside after centuries of exposure to the elements, Michelangelo’s David stood out front. Today, a replica statue stands in place of the original, and David gazes out with the famous combination of fear and confidence in his eyes. There’s plenty for you to look at, too, as cafes line the Piazza della Signoria surrounding the palace, providing first-class people-watching. Watch out for the plaque marking the spot where Savonarola was burned at the stake in 1498.

b-florence-3-ponte-vecchio-at-sunrise

How jewelry shops came to adorn the Ponte Vecchio

Around the corner, the Medici kept their business offices, the Uffizi, now home to one of the world’s pre-eminent art museums. The Medici didn’t like that fishmongers hawked their wares on the bridge near their offices, so they kicked them out in favor of goldsmiths. This is why the Ponte Vecchio (which was thankfully spared when the Nazis blew up all the other bridges in the city) is now adorned with jewelry shops. That still wasn’t enough for the Medici, who had Giorgio Vasari build them a private suspended corridor across the river over the bridge to the Pitti Palace.

b-florence-4-duomo

The Duomo – an engineering marvel

A few steps in the opposite direction from Palazzo Vecchio, and you come out in front of the Duomo, with its massive engineering marvel of a dome and separate bell tower and baptistery. As Cinzia explained, only the baptized could enter the Duomo, so believers first had to enter the baptistery through the golden doors Michaelangelo dubbed the Gates of Paradise to be christened.

Birth of Venus

Birth of Venus

That barely scratches the surface of the myriad places of historical significance in Florence, and contributions the city has made to modern times. The language I spoke to Cinzia, now recognized as Italian, is the language spoken in Florence in the middle ages, popularized by native son Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. But you need only walk around to be transported back in time to — as a plaque in the Pitti Palace describes — “that beautiful but turbulent city” which Medici patriarch Cosimo I “found and left peaceful and resplendent.”