Tuesday, November 8, 2011
One of the things I love about Florence (along with most of the world) are the museums. But one of the things I can’t stand about Florence are the crowds. Waiting in line to visit the David or gawk at The Birth of Venus? No thanks.
There is a way, however, to get my art fix - and then some - while seeing almost no one else. Florence has a treasure trove of small, exquisite museums that most people almost never step foot in. It’s not even as if they are off any beaten track. Most are right in the center of town, so there is no excuse not to go.
I’m up in Florence this week, updating Eat Florence. Between portions of tripe, ribollita and focaccia I’m trying to get myself into as many of my favorite small museums as possible. (It’s not exactly exercise. But at least I’m vertical and moving).
One of my all time favorites is the Bardini. Located across the Arno, just off Via dei Bardi, this palazzo was donated to the city of Florence by one of the great art dealers of the 19th century, Stefano Bardini. Even though he donated his showroom with specific instructions not to change anything, the city immediately changed his display to reflect more ‘modern’ ideas of exhibition spaces.
I always liked the Museo Bardini, with it’s quirky collection of architectural elements, stone sculpture and colorful wood carvings. But it was a bit cold and off putting, with it’s beige-colored setting full of cold white stone.
Not anymore. The museum has recently undergone an huge restoration to restore Bardini’s original design. The walls - almost all painted incredible shades of bright blue - make the symmetrically arranged carvings pop - just as Bardini intended. Pieces are arranged according to subject and size, rather than chronology. Some pieces are rare works of art (like the two Donatellos) others are architectural pastiches that Bardini cleverly pieced together. But in the end it’s all about the setting, which is what Bardini - ever the clever art dealer - had in mind. Completely seductive.
And did I mention empty?
Museo Stefano Bardini
Via dei Renai 37 (Just off the Lungarno)
Monday 11-5; Friday to Sunday 10-5
There is a great ticket that will get you in to eight of the small museums of Florence for only 10 euros. It's part of Le Stanze dei Tesori, which lasts from now until April 12, 2012.