Venus de’ Medici
Once upon a time there was a woman who was the most beautiful in all of Florence. Men and women from all across the lands would travel to the city to see her. Of all the attractions in Florence, she was the one people most wanted to see.
Venus de’ Medici was her name. And for centuries she would stand, unmoving and serene, as crowds gathered around to admire her every feature. But over the years, she lost her lustre. Age did not weary her, nothing in her face changed and her pose remained unmoved. It was the views of the populous which altered and in their eyes she was no longer the most beautiful in the land.
The crowds stopped coming to see Venus de’ Medici – or, at least, they no longer came specifically to see her. And today she is to many tourists unknown, a faded star in one of the greatest art collections on the planet.
Made of marble in the first century BC, it’s not known when Venus de’ Medici arrived in Italy – although we do know she was sent from Rome to Florence in 1677 because the pope of them time thought she was too lewd. She now resides in the Tribuna room of the Uffizi gallery, a room that currently is closed to the public while restoration work takes place. There would have been a time when a visit to the gallery would have seemed almost pointless if Venus de’ Medici was not on display. Today it seems no one even notices.
Michelangelo’s David, in the nearby Accademia Gallery, is now the star of Florence. It’s his version of beauty which the crowds now come to the renaissance city to admire. Not that the Uffizi is without its own attractions, of course.
Another Venus – in this case Botticelli’s – hangs in pride of place. Light-footed on a shell, she modestly covers herself with gold flowing locks as zephyrs blow her towards the awaiting nymphs. The painting of her hangs centre stage, surrounded by other works of the great master and in this room the visitors seem to linger longer, considering the works in silence except for the quiet explanations from guides of various languages.
Visiting the Uffizi
Most of the greatest Italian painters – and the world’s greatest, for that matter – are hung here in the Uffizi. Michelangelo, da Vinci, Caravaggio, to name a few. So it’s no surprise there’s a long queue to enter. The length of the wait is notorious and every guidebook will give you different advice on how to try to avoid it. The best way seems to be to prebook tickets (for an additional fee) for a specific time. I tried the trick of turning up first thing in the morning but, despite the line being the shortest I saw it my whole stay, I still had to wait for an hour.
After everything, though, it’s all too much to appreciate in a single visit and at times I felt bad simply walking past some of the priceless masterpieces. But even for a true student of art it’s impossible to absorb everything. A trip to Florence’s Uffizi Gallery leaves you feeling like sometime you’ll want to come back and learn more than is possible in just one day. Hopefully I’ll return in the future and hopefully Venus de’ Medici will be on display that time. It would be nice to see what all the fuss was once about.
* For more information on the Uffizi and how to prebook tickets, click here.
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