The first time I went to the Uffizi, I went with my mom and my sister. None of us are art buffs, but we were certain that visiting one of the oldest, most famous art museums in the world would have some sort of deeply spiritual or emotional effect on us. Instead, our gazes hastily flickered from one set of porcelain limbs to the next, while we made comments like ‘Wow, it’s so … Renaissance-y,’ before heading to the terrace, exhausted from overexposure to masterpieces.
The second time I went to the Uffizi, sauntering to the entrance with a visiting friend who had taken art history, I was certain this visit would be different: I would learn all about chiaroscuro and sfumato and walk away experiencing an epiphany about the human form. Instead, I was informed that, since I’d lost my Amici degli Uffizi membership card, I would either have to go to the police station and fill out some paperwork to get a new one or stand in an endless line to buy tickets. So I abandoned my sophisticated and artistic guest to explore the Uffizi on her own while I marveled at Italian bureaucracy.
The third time I went to the Uffizi, I brought both my newly printed card and another visiting art history student. I paused pointedly at the Birth of Venus so she could reveal to me its famous attributes. But she informed me that her class had glossed over it. ‘Our teacher wasn’t really a fan of the Renaissance,’ she explained. (I had never realized you could support periods of art like you could soccer teams.) ‘He thought it was too sexist—men shouldn’t sit around criticizing the shape of naked women’s bodies.’ Rather than leaving with a new appreciation for Renaissance masterpieces, I left with a surefire way to infuriate native Florentines and art historians.
The fourth time I went to the Uffizi, I accompanied a Jamaican guest. ‘Whenever I go to museums in Europe, I like to count the black people in the paintings,’ she commented. I was grateful that she wasn’t expecting me to wax poetic about the culture, history and artistic skill behind each painting because I still hadn’t figured out how. By this point I had my favorites, but I didn’t analyze or dissect them, I just looked at them for a few minutes and then moved on.
The fifth time I went to the Uffizi, I went in my pajamas at eight in the morning, which is probably some sort of sin. I used my museum card to help my aunt and uncle skip the line, then tried to exit as quickly as possible so I could go back to bed. On four and a half hours of sleep, I drowsily wandered through the museum, following signs that promised an ‘uscita’ (exit) in 18 minutes (yes, I timed it), though I did pause to look at the works that I liked. I didn’t need a full night of sleep to know that I liked them, much less a textbook on their history or a tour guide explaining their significance.
If I go to the Uffizi a sixth time, I will no longer hope to emerge from the building a changed person glowing with the secrets of Renaissance art and an aura of knowledge and sophistication. All I expect from the visit is a few minutes with each of my favorite paintings.
The Uffizi Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 8.15 am–6.50 pm. Tickets can be bought online or at the door. (Entrance is free for guests under 18.) On the first Sunday of every month, entrance is free for all visitors.
Michela Castiglione via Flickr