Friday, 14 June 2013

Florence: Great art, great food, great friends, great discoveries

I made a few fabulous discoveries Thursday when I dashed up to Firenze, but I also enjoyed some  old favourites.

I wanted to spend the day with Ottawa friends Marcie and David, and we began with a lovely lunch at one of my favourite restaurants: the ever-reliable Osteria Pepo on Via Rosina, just around the corner from the Mercato Centrale. As always, I had their brilliant pappardelle al cinghiale (I love wild boar!) The sauce had surely been simmered for several hours to become so rich and flavourful.

But first, on my way their apartment, I stumbled across a tiny gem: a museum dedicated entirely to Umbrian master Perugino, the space dominated by a striking and dramatic fresco of the Last Supper. The Cenacle of Fuligno museo is located  in the refectory of the former convent of St. Onofrio on Via Faenza, once home to the Franciscan nuns of Foligno.

After the nuns were evicted in 1803, the Last Supper fresco in its refectory was covered with a layer of plaster. In 1845 the fresco known as "Il Cenacolo di Foligno" was cleaned, and the discovery was published as a work by Raphael. Debate raged for decades over the attribution until more recently, it was deemed to be a Perugino work.

This little spot seems to be open about four hours per week, and entry is free if you can guess when to arrive. I do love stumbling across art unexpectedly.

We were all interested in visiting my old favourite, the Galleria Palatina in the Palazzo Pitti, which also had an underwhelming exhibition on the role of dreams in Renaissance art. To me, the show failed to meet its brilliant premise.

But Santo Spirito more than made up for the lacklustre exhibit. I had never before been able to get inside this great basilica in the Oltrarno section of Florence but on this day, I finally arrived during opening hours and was richly rewarded. The enormous space, based on designs by Filippo Brunelleschi, is crammed with great frescos, paintings, and of course, the wooden crucifix sculpted by a 17-year-old Michelangelo and bearing an equally young, slim, fragile Christ.

Even better, after I made my way back across the Arno to meet people for a drink on the rooftop of the Hotel Continental (great views, shocking prices)  I also was amazed to find I could get inside Santa Trinita. This is another of Florence's stunning churches that closes for most of the midday, making it hard for careless travelers to get inside.

I was gobsmacked by the rich beauty of the Ghirlandaio frescos (Michelangelo was one of Domenico Ghirlandaio's apprentices) in the Sassetti Chapel depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi. (No photos but above is The Resurrection of the Boy from the Web Gallery of Art.)


Jane said...

I am jealous of you getting into Santa Spirito. We have been there many times over many years and are yet to find it open. I believe it was totally closed for some years. Maybe this year. Love this post.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...


DeeBee said...

Happy memories for me Sandra. I think Santo Spirito had just reopened in 2008 when I was there and I actually caught the tail-end of a sung mass - wonderful accoustics. Thanks for your wonderful blogs. Dorothy

sandrac said...

Thanks, Jane! I was pretty thrilled to finally gain entry after many false startes.

Dorothy, sounds like you must have had a beautiful visit there!