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Eric: Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens

June 2, 2010

Florence was once one of the strongest city-states in Italy, thanks to the Medici family. The Medicis came into power in the 15th century, when the Medici Bank was the largest in Europe. Because of the bank, the Medici gained political power and became the unofficial rulers of the Florentine city-state. During the Medici’s rule, the city of Florence was the center of arts, science, and placed emphasis on Renaissance values. Walking around the city today, the crest of the Medici can still be found on a lot of the buildings. While the Medicis were in power, they bought and expanded the palace known as Palazzo Pitti (started by the Medici’s rival, the Pitti family, but left unfinished due to insufficient funds) on the south bank of the Arno River as their residence (while the Uffizi was their office). Since it really doesn’t make sense not to visit where the family that made Florence Florence lived, most people on the program went for a side trip this afternoon.

Being the richest family in the city, or Europe, the Medici obviously weren’t going to live in a small place. The palace alone is a massive building, while the Boboli Garden outside of it is around 11 acres. We started out at a small side door of the palace which very few tourists know about, and got into the garden without even waiting in line. Like a maze (a really big one), there were walls made up of trees and plants, and it is really possible to get lost in the place if you don’t have a map. With a group of people, I walked around the outskirt of the garden, passing through their lemon house (this building is about the size of the Transportation and Parking building on U of M campus, and it was only used for storing lemons!), multiple statues, a fountain, and lots and lots of trees of any kind, shape, and size.

As the place is pretty big, and it’s not entirely a flat surface, we got plenty of walking/exercise done. Going on to almost the high point of the garden, we got a beautiful view of the city of Florence (again, I know, but it really was beautiful). Toward the north side of the garden was the porcelain museum, outside of which was a garden full of flowers. The porcelain museum was, well, full of porcelain. They had pretty pictures/decorations on them, and that was my only insightful artistic comment of the day.

We then kept on walking, passing the statue of the goddess of agriculture and many other people/things I could not name. We also saw an Egyptian obelisk at the amphitheater near the palace. No idea how it got there, but it looked pretty cool. At this point, we were all pretty tired from all the walking, but we continued into the palace, where we toured the costume exhibit and the silver museum. My personal reaction to those was that I felt the fresco on the ceiling and walls of the rooms of the exhibit were a lot more impressive than the things on display. If there were not people in every room telling tourists that photography is not allowed, I would love to spend times just taking pictures of the ceiling (the picture below is one of the less impressive ones).

As our tickets didn’t include other parts of the Pitti Palace (Italians are really good at making money off museums/churches/other tourist attractions, as pretty much going into any building that’s slightly famous would require a ticket, ranging from one to fifteen euro, depending on how famous the building is), and we were really tired and hungry from all that walking, we said goodbye to each other. I went back to the apartment, fixed myself a big bowl of spaghetti, and felt a whole lot better afterwards.

On a side note, if you are considering visiting Florence in the near future, bring some bug spray. Who knew the most beautiful city in the world would have such a thriving mosquito population…

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