Arrived in Florence on Friday, and while there certainly is nothing wrong with the town, it seems to mainly be a support system for its museums that honor Florence as the hub of the Renaissance.
One nice thing about traveling during the off-season is that sites that are normally packed are more managable. There is a reservation system in Florence where you can call ahead and reserve a time to enter their more popular museums, and thus bypass long lines to buy tickets. Which is a good idea, but they charge you 3 euros for the service. When it is crowded, 3 euros is a bargain, but otherwise, forget it. I called and made reservations, but when I got to the Uffizi and the Accademy, I saw that there wasn't any line and just bought a normal ticket.
So I saw Botticelli's "Birth of Venus." Similar to seeing Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, you realize that it's a good painting, but not so good to explain its status as an icon. I really think such status rests on the fact that both paintings are fairly simple and can be appreciated immediately as images rather than as works of art. In other words, there's not much more to be gained by seeing the actual artworks that you won't get from a good photo in an artbook. So they are infinitely reproducable in addition to being immediately accessible. You "get" them instantly. You don't need to spend any time contemplating them, Mona Lisa's famous enigmatic smile notwithstanding.
Not so with Michaelangelo's statue of David. My mother has metioned in this journal that when she saw it, she cried. While the statue didn't move me to tears, it is moving. We all know what it looks like. But the one thing that is never reproduced is the uncertain look in David's eyes. Seen from the front, David is looking to his left and seems to have either a calm or blank expression. But when you walk to his left and see him face forward, the expression changes. It is one (to my eyes) of doubt, of sadness. Granted, this might be my born in the late 20th century/interest in psychological complexity reading, but I spent time studying the face, and I can't see it any other way. It is not the face beautified by being God's instrument in slaying Goliath, it is not the expression of Renaissance humanstic pride in Man, but the face of uncertainty. The contrast between the ideal male form and the sadness in his expression makes this statue heartbreaking.
But perhaps I'm projecting.