Alright, so Venice was amazing, but we left early monday morning and took another train to Florence. We arrived in the afternoon and started walking to our hotel. As we walked into the streets, I noticed all the shops…and they weren’t just any stores…these were high end fashion stores and as we walked further, the names got bigger…Prada, Gucci, Dior, Louis Vuitton…all on one street, Via Tornabourni…one of the most famous streets for fashion in Italy, let alone the world. And this is the streed we turned on to get to our hotel. I was in shock when we stopped at a hotel right next door to Armani and across the street from Prada! The high life, all for a bunch of math nerds!! Haha. The hotel was amazing, but the city and the experiences we had there were priceless. The first day there we ate an amazing Florentine lunch and walked straight over to the famous Doumo (dome), at the church Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The dome, designed and built by Brunelleschi, the famous architect, is one of the largest domes in the world, surpassed only by that of the Pantheon by a mere foot or two. It is the largest brick dome however, and is in the shape of an octagon, with pointed arches. There were almost 500 steps up to the top, of which we climbed all to see an amazing 360 degree view of Florence and the Tuscany region. Florence is such a gorgeous city, almost completely Renaissance in style, while Rome is full of architecture from all centuries. We were also able to go inside of the church itself and view all of the murals and statues. Every single church in Italy is a work of art, absolutely gorgeous.
The next day, we went to Basilica di San Croce, where some of the most famous Renaissance artists and scientists are buried, such as Galileo and Michelangelo. Again, it was beautiful. Afterwards we got lunch, where we tried more specialties of Florence. For the appetizers we had cheese and pear, with spinach. It was SO good. Then we tried rabbit, yes, rabbit! It is truly a Florentine favorite, and it was actually pretty good! Kinda tasted like my mom’s pineapple chicken! Ha. Afterwards, we walked over to the famous Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. There we were able to see Masaccio’s famous artwork, “The Trinity”, which is one of the first truly perfect works in perspective, meaning that he perfected the 3D realness of the work.
The next day, Wednesday, was probably the most memorable of all. In the morning, we went to the famous Uffizi Museum, where we were able to explore on our own. We saw the famous work “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, the painting of Medusa by Caravaggi, and many other masterpieces. No photography was allowed inside, and rightfully so, since it is already hard enough to slow down the decay of the art without thousands of flashes a day. We then had lunch, where we tried the other famous Florentine dish, wild boar. It was served in a homemade pasta and was actually very good! Just like pork. Afterwards was the real treat. Our professor set up a private tour of Palazzo Vecchio, the Florence town hall, by Maurizio Seracini, the man who is the head of the project for finding Leonardo Da Vinci’s lost work of art, The Battle of Anghiari, which was known at the time to be more important and grandiose than both the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Seracini is an incredible man, and if you have ever read the Da Vinci Code, he is actually the only real life character mentioned in the book. What makes him so amazing is that he is able to beautifully weave together both science and the importance of cultural heritage. He actually introduced us to the mayor of Florence who was exiting the building as we stood outside. He was on his way to catch a train, but stopped long enough to tell us that we were very lucky to be with “the genius of Florence”. Seracini was born in Florence, then moved to San Diego to attend college at UCSD, where he got his degree in bioengineering and a minor in art history. At that time, UCSD did not offer enough art classes, so he shuttled to UCLA twice a week to take his classes there. After college, he had to go back to Florence for his army duty, in the 1970’s. Shortly after, while he was standing outside of Palazzo Vecchio, he randomly saw a professor of his from San Diego. He approached him and the professor asked him if he knew of any scientific ways that they could use to find the lost Da Vinci painting. He told us that he went home and spent the entire night writing a proposal for the professor of all of his ideas, wanting to intern with him on this quest. Ever since then, it has been his job and passion to solve this mystery.
Our tour was amazing. He showed us thermal images he took of the many of the rooms, to show the original structure of the building which was remolded multiple times. Then he took us to the “Hall of the 500”, the main council room that he believes the painting is located in, within the walls. To read the main skeleton of the information he shared with us, here is an article from time magazine that describes why he believes the painting is here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1584801,00.html
What the article doesn’t mention is that in just a couple months they will be using a nuclear technology to try and detect organic molecules (paint) within the wall that he believes the painting is under. He described every single precaution they took, because like he said, this building is not a lab where you can make mistakes, it is a historical site where you cannot afford to do an procedure unless you have every single base covered. He not only discussed his work, but he gave us one of the most inspirational speeches that we have heard, encouraging us to look for opportunities in life and not restrict ourselves to one area of study, but to channel the wisdom of the great people in past, who were interested in all areas of life and how they were intertwined. At the end of the 3 hour tour and lecture, many students had tears in their eyes, because we were so inspired and in disbelief of the amazing opportunity that we just had.
Well, sorry this was so long! Here are some pics and I will write about our small trip to Pisa in a new post! Enjoy!