Birth of the Renaissance

This is my last day-trip out from Rome, a day in Florence, known as the birthplace of the Renaissance. After the train ride, I start my time in Florence watching a short 3D movie about Florence – my guide book recommended stopping at the place above the visitor’s center to watch this, saying it’s “often overlooked”. Sure enough, I shuffle through an incredibly packed visitor’s center to get to the stairs, go up, and find a large room with a lot of empty chairs and I watch the movie entirely alone. It gives a nice overview of the city and informs me a bit on what I should try to see. The movie is in 3D, using polarized glasses, and is pretty good, however the subtitles have horrible vertical convergence. Usually with the two images of a 3D movie, any content will appear shifted only left or right, since it’s simulating images going to your left and right eyes, but for some reason the text was shifted vertically instead of horizontally, so gives me a headache trying to focus on it. It is so bad I have to take a picture. After that, I start making my way to the Cathedral, but continue my tradition of slipping in to any open church for a moment along the way.

I arrive at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which has a fanciful facade. Of important historical note are the bronze doors to the baptistery across from it – these doors are considered the start of the Renaissance. At the time, they held a competition among all of the city’s best artists to create the most artistic doors, and this was the start of an era of strong patronage of the arts in Florence, and soon other cities as well, but all of the famous renaissance men – Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, etc – lived or worked in Florence, at least for a time.

I follow a walking tour of renaissance Florence, which takes me by a lot of sights, all sorts of statues by famous artists I’ve actually heard of (though, perhaps I owe that to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), many out in the open. However, often there are now replicas where the originals stood and the originals are stored more safely somewhere, but I do pass by what are described as some “minor Michelangelos” – only in Florence is there a “minor” work by Michelangelo. I stop in an interesting church which was originally constructed as a granary – there are still iron rungs in the ceiling to which equipment used to attach, and some small holes in some of the columns that used to dispense grain, but it’s now a beautiful church.

I next pass by Palazzo Vecchio, see the spot where both the fanatic monk Savonarola burnt the people’s art and books and later the people burnt Savonarola. In the plaza in front of the palace, there are a lot of famous statues as well, and I see a group of police officers and gawkers around the scene of a rape. Well, specifically the famous statue Rape of the Sabine Woman. Though it is a well crafted statue, it bothers me quite a bit that any “enlightened” culture would ever glorify a story of rape. During the Renaissance, a lot of stories and ideas from ancient Rome will resurface and be re-explored.

My walk concludes with the Florence’s most famous bridge Ponte Vecchio, and a wonderful 2 course meal.

1202 Uffizi Courtyard
Uffizi Gallery Courtyardd

As I’m traveling to all of these cities in Italy, which have funny English names (and different names in all sorts of languages), I wonder why we have to rename every city to something else in English? Why don’t we just call it Firenze? That is, I think, its actual name. I appreciate that Google Maps, even when in English, shows me the Italian names, not the English names (though, luckily, I can still search for the English name if I don’t remember its real name). This seems to be one thing the French, ever sticklers about their language, got right. Though we horribly mispronounce Paris, and most Americans would not have a chance of correctly pronouncing Bordeaux (unless they drink wine ;), we at least don’t change the spelling to some completely different names. I’d start calling it Firenze, but I’ll probably misspell it or confuse people.


I next visit the Uffizi Gallery, which hosts an enormous collection of Renaissance art.

At the door, they say photographs are allowed, however we’re only able to reproduce them in “low resolution digital”. What resolution is that? I have no idea, but I’ll take my best guesses. Let’s try CGA (320×200 6 garish colors).

Maybe that’s a bit too extreme, I’ll jump forward a few years and use standard VGA (640×480 16 color).

Photoshop’s “smart diffusion” dithering looked so good I had to switch to a stupider setting to better capture VGA graphics.

Maybe 16 colors is not enough, so maybe they mean MCGA (320×200 256 color)

Again Photoshop’s palettizing was so good that if I didn’t use a fixed palette, this actually looked just like the original (after resize), so this is using my fixedOS palette.

Well, maybe I’m just being ridiculous, I guess I’ll just use the resolution of SD television for this one. I quite liked the use of two different kind of marbles to give this statue a gorgeous scarf, or top of a toga, or whatever this is.
1210-SD Uffizi Great Use of Marble

From the top of the Uffizi gallery, the views are quite nice, however after I am over-saturated with art, I spend quite a while wandering around unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to leave the place…

On my list of things to try to see are the Galileo Museum of Science and the Academia Gallery, however I realize that I have a very low tolerance to museums, and one was more than enough, so I decide to explore more of Florence on foot. Seeing a very large garden on the map, I walk across the bridge and go that way, however upon getting there I find no way in, and upon reading a bit more I learn that it was made private and is now the largest private garden in Europe. I walk along it’s outside walls heading back to Pitti Palace which is also supposed to have a nice garden that is included in admission to its museums.

I get there and learn that, due to “technical difficulties” all of the museums are closed, however the garden is still open, and for just 1 Euro instead of the 12 Euros I was going to have to pay to walk past the museums and into the garden! I spend quite a while walking in Giardino di Boboli, which is about a mile from one end to the other.

In the garden is a hill, which I climb, to find many other relaxing visitors enjoying the nice views of Florence. Seeing the dome of the cathedral from here, I feel better about opting not to climb to the top of it when I was there – it would also have had great views, but similar to this.

A few days after my trip to Florence, Steam notifies me that a game, apparently on my wishlist, named “Painters Guild” is on sale for a couple dollars, and I pick it up for a short distraction. In the game, you run a guild of painters, in Venice, Rome, or Florence (I choose Florence), through the Renaissance. I am amused to find that I now recognize all of the people and events (such as Savonarola coming to town and wanting to burn all of the art) and even some of the family names of the randomly generated apprentices. Had I played this game a week ago, I might have assumed a lot more of it was fictional =). The game isn’t particularly engaging, nothing much to do in it other than train painters and have them paint things, so I probably wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s an amusing distraction for an hour or two, and especially resonates well with me this week.


2 thoughts on “Birth of the Renaissance”

    1. Heheh, yeah, I had too much fun making those ;). The pictures mostly didn’t turn out well because of the low lighting, and I was so amused by their “low resolution digital” restriction, that I couldn’t resist =). I was also very impressed by Photoshop’s ability to palettize things really well, I think computing power and algorithms in image perception (as well as the popularity of the palettized animated .GIF) have really improved things since the 80s 😉


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