Yet another attempt at travel writing…
I find that visiting Florence is as close to time travel as I will ever experience in this lifetime. However, there is a paradox of time periods overlapping at once. I do not only envision a past when I gaze out at the city through my bedroom window, but a present and a future as well. How do you look at Michelangelo’s David, setting the example for a perfect male figure in 1504, and say he is not still the textbook image of male physique? I remember the hype surrounding my visit to see the David. “You must see him! You’ll cry when you see him!” This was all I’d been hearing since I announced my acceptance to Lorenzo de Medici a semester and a half ago. It’s true that my expectations were high. Especially since sculpture is by far my favorite medium and I do have quite a taste for tall naked men.
The Galleria dell’Accademia is not as large of a museum as I had expected. There are several biblical paintings aliened in each room, each one more depressing than the last. I almost feel as though David doesn’t belong in this place. David is a renaissance man, a biblical character, yes, but reborn into the new age. I make my way past the hundred-year-old cellos and violins into a more brightly lit room. Another trend that I find in Florence, this city loves to catch you off guard. Down an isle so grand it is the length of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, stands the very tall and devilishly handsome man I have been longing to see.
The museum has him displayed in the grandest fashion, as he deserves. A headstrong man glaring hard at his target, he appears determined to take down Goliath. I am in awe, my eyes trailing the veins along his arm down to his full set of hands. They are his strongest feature. When I look at David I see something more than just a man. I see billions men throughout the ages. I see the primitive stare that a predator gives his target and I also see the modern gaze of a man in power. He exemplifies the sort of unique experience I was looking for. He, without even the slightest accent of green on his body, has made me more envious than any other piece of artwork I have seen here in Florence. I am envious of his appearance, of his persona, of his actions, and of the Florentine who brought him to life. However, if he were painted green he would belong to Florence, and in my eyes David is independent of labels.
David is so perfect that when you are not even a foot away from him you feel that at any moment he is ready to toss the stones in his right hand. I wanted so badly to reach out and touch his leg, to calm the nerves on his face. If only I could take him home, I thought. Nevertheless, David is not mine. He does not belong to one person, and he does not even belong to one city. Florence shares David with the rest of the world. He is timeless. He is born Florentine like the Duomo and like the other statues at the Piazza della Signoria, but he lives on as a man of the changing times.
As my adventures continue in this charming city, I grow to love and appreciate the minor details more and more. I have seen all of what Florence expects you to see, the Duomo, the David, and plenty more. I have bathed in culture from the moment I arrived. Now that I have witnessed such grand works of art, such beautifully crafted landmarks, I feel that it is time to go back to valuing the niceties that sold me within the first night. The vines crawling up the side of my apartment building and around the balcony edges, the charm of the always-delighted locals drinking cappuccinos, and the ever-present art that is not framed in a museum but is what makes Florence so unique and spectacular. I walk to class every day and the accent of green still stands out for me, but it has more of a personal value now than aesthetic. I will take home a piece of Florence whenever I see this particular shade back home in New York or when I look in the mirror and see my green eyes resembling those of most Tuscan natives. Most importantly, I have found a stronger sense of appreciation for Italy. I now understand why Florentines hold their heads up so high. A country that I once felt was a poorly designed replica of a much greater civilization, has a flavor of personality I would have never imagined before arriving.