A view of the Arno River, Florence. Photo: Visual Hunt
If you’ve received our June Smart Art box, we assume you’re an expert in creating frescoes by now! And since so many fresco masterpieces are found in Italy, which we owe in part to the country’s dry climate (ideal for fresco production), you’ll notice that our blog is a bit Italy obsessed this month (if you haven’t read our previous posts, what are you waiting for?)! So we bring you now… fun facts about the art in five of Italy’s most wonderful cities: Florence, Rome, Milan, Venice and Pisa!
The city of Florence is home to many artistic wonders, including the Duomo (cathedral)! Photo: Visual Hunt
Renaissance Florence – has there ever been a place or time as magical for art production? Just ask the millions of tourists who flock there every year to relive it. This production was due in part to the powerful Medici family who lived there and commissioned some of the artwork and buildings the city is known for. Many of these works are found in the magnificent Uffizi Gallery, which is a work of art in itself, with its dazzling frescoed ceilings to the view it gives over Ponte Vecchio and Arno River; not to mention it’s like taking a crash course in Art History. Ever heard of Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo? Speaking of Michelangelo, you’ll not want to miss his giant marble sculpture of David, perhaps one of the most iconic works of art, at the Galleria dell’Accademia! And on the way, don’t forget to look for architectural masterpieces, from the Gothic treasure Santa Maria Novella to the slightly older Palazzo Pitti or Palazzo Strozzi (which also houses wonderful modern and contemporary collections)!
The Sistine Chapel is home to the fresco to end all frescoes! Photo: Visual Hunt
It’s pretty impossible to know where to begin your art tour of Rome, which boasts iconic artwork from pretty much every period. You can satisfy your cravings for Roman art by heading to the Colosseum or lesser-known Ara Pacis, the monument, or “alter of peace,” built to commemorate Emperor Augustus’ achievements. It’s the epitome of Roman restraint, with its marble walls gloriously carved with friezes hailing the emperor, today housed in a modern shell by American architect Richard Meier. If you’ve come to Rome for Greek, Egyptian (yes you heard that right), Renaissance or Baroque art, get thee quickly to the Vatican! There you’ll regale yourself with the wonders of the Greek Laocoön, Pinturicchio’s Borgia Room frescoes, and Raphael and Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Just remember the dress code at St. Peter’s: no bare shoulders or midrift, short shorts or skirts! And don’t forget to check out the Caravaggio paintings and Bernini sculptures at the Borghese Gallery before leaving Rome.
A view of Milan’s Duomo at dusk. Photo: Visual Hunt
Although Milan is known primarily as Italy’s fashion center (the Via della Spiga street housing all the big shops and Giorgio Armani’s Silos museum can attest to that!), the city’s architecture and art are also second to none! Whether you’re in the mood for Renaissance (Pinoteca di Brera) or modern and contemporary (Palazzo Reale) art, the city will have something for you. But please don’t leave without visiting Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th century masterpiece, his fresco depicting the biblical Last Supper, which now decorates the wall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Does anything compare to a gondola ride in amazing Venice? Photo: Visual Hunt
If you’ve ever navigated the canals of Venice, you’ll know that there is no other city quite like it in the world. Marveling at the architectural masterpieces while lazing in a gondola should be the first item on every tourist’s itinerary. And afterwards head straight to the Piazza San Marco, where you’ll find the glittering architectural masterpieces – that tell the story of Venice’ links to Byzantium – St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. This is also the city that boasts the Murano Glass industry; works by the Late Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and 18th century masters Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto and Tiepolo; as well as Venice Biennale (every two years), an exciting happening and grouping of the best that contemporary art has to offer. Not bad, right?
Your art trip to Italy is not complete until you’ve gone to Pisa to take that prerequisite photo “holding up” the city’s famous leaning tower. Ok maybe there are several more things to do! Head to the Piazza del Duomo and start your adventure!