Not terribly interested in art

Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 08:54 AM
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Not terribly interested in art

Hello. My husband has planned a trip to Rome, Florence and Venice this summer. He is very interested in architecture, but neither of us are terribly interested in spending hours in a museum looking at framed art (no offense to anyone, it's just our preference). Reading these posts I see a lot of recommendations for museums. Are these museums all filled with art? How else can we spend our time?
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:00 AM
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You'll still find plenty of interest. Do you appreciate sculpture? The Accademia, in Florence is the world's greatest 45-90 minutes art museum; 10 minutes for the paintings - - the rest for the sculptures.

The Doges Palace is a "museum" of architectural form in function- - and how the city-state of Venice governed itself, and helped define what democratic government meant.

And in Rome, well, of course, there is sculpture everywhere. Lack of interest in "framed art" (painting) should surely not deter you from going to St. Peters Basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Pietro in Vincoli, the Pantheon or Trevi fountain - - though you will get plenty of "art" at all of these.

Best wishes,

Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:01 AM
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We've been to Venice maybe 6 times and have yet to enter the Accademia. Just walking around is more fun for us. Sometimes we find the museums we do go to more interesting for the architecture than the displays. All of these cities are museums in themselves. The Pantheon in Rome may be my favorite building in the whole world. It gives you an incredible feeling of peace and harmony. There are many, many things to see without ever setting foot in a museum if you'd rather not. You can always sit at a sidewalk cafe and just watch the people. If they happen to be strolling by statuary as they will in the squares of Florence, so much the better. Enjoy.
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:08 AM
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Hi Vicki
In a nutshell, you're going to the right country.
Buy a Michelin Green guide for your cities, in addition to more general guidebooks. The Michelin guides are useless for practical information like restaurants, or when things are open, but they give wonderful detail on architecture and walking itineraries.
There are many other good guides as well. If you do a search here on guide books or just books you may find some past recommendations. One of my favorite books about Venice is called "Venice for Pleasure" by Links, and it is practically a step-by-step guide to walking around Venice. Venice is an experience that is unequalled, even if you don't step inside any museums. Consider going to one of my favorite places, the island of Torcello, with its cathedral and mosaics dating back to the 7th century.

Rome has architecture that dates back more than 2000 years. The Roman Forum and the Colosseum can easily take half a day to explore. If you like, book walking tours in Rome with They take no more than 6 people at a time, and their guides are art, architecture, and history students and profs. Rome also has art in many of its churches. It is also the city of Bernini, and his breathtaking sculptures in the Borghese Gallery and in some churches should not be missed imo. They are practically living creatures.
Florence is art museum heaven, if you see only one, consider going to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David. It's a very small museum. A good part of Florence' art is also in its beautiful churches--magnificent tombs and frescoes, etc.
In addition to the plazas and buildings of Florence which date back "only" 500 years or so, you can take side trips to places like Siena which has memorable architecture and a well-preserved medieval ambiance.

I have files on those cities; if you'd like to see them, email me.

Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:23 AM
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If you areinterested in ancient architecture, while in Rome you should visit the Domus Aurea. The former Golden Dome of Emperor Nero, this is fascinating purely for its strucure. There isn't much left of the art and decoration that once filled it.

Also, you may still want to check out one or two museums. I haven't always been that interested in framed art either, but I enjoyed going through the Accademia in Venice and the Uffizi in Florence using Rick Steve's guidebook, "Mona Winks -- a guide to the great art museums of Europe". His tours make sure you catch the most important paintings in the museum, without wandering aimlessly, and are kind of amusing as well.

Oh yeah, and here's a second recommendation for Scala Reale in Rome. We went on their tours of Ancient Rome, and the Vatican and thought the guides were terrific. And they were very helpful with other odds and ends during our trip (made dinner reservations for us, and made our reservations at Domus Aurea). They were great.
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:23 AM
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To me, the art and the museum is always on the street. The street cafes are something one can't really experience elsewhere in the world. I loved all three of those cities and did not spend time at all going through museums. The parks and piazzas and just life on the street kept me busy enough. Enjoy!
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 10:17 AM
dan woodlief
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Lots of architecture to be found inside as well as out. Someone has already mentioned the Doge's Palace. The Vatican Museums in Rome do include lots of framed art and sculpture but also such areas as the Sistine Chapel that are of more interest to you perhaps. The Borghese Gallery in Rome (fabulous sculptures along with paintings) and the Pitti Palace are set in wonderfully decorative buildings and are enjoyable to even non-art fans (especially the Pitti). Both have nice large gardens. The many churches around all three cities contain a wealth of art pieces but are also wonderful for their architecture. The Duomo Museum in Florence is wonderful; it contains old models and other items associated with the building of the cathedral, along with art objects. You would probably enjoy the Accademia in Venice the least of the major museums in these cities, based on your comments. I don't know that the Uffizi is all that great other than the art, but it does offer great views of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. If you find that you like Italian sculpture, the Bargello in Florence is also top notch.
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 01:02 PM
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We were delighted with the Museum of Pasta in Rome near the Trevi fountain. Nicely done and different. In Venice, the navel museum in Castello has a lot to offer about this maritime city. Also, a boat over to Murano allows you to visit the glass blowing factories.
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 01:53 PM
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If your husband truly loves architecture, then he will be like a child in a toy store when he views ancient Rome. Venice? The entire city is one big museum. And, Florence? He'll be bowled over by the Duomo.
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 03:01 PM
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More suggestions: give up one day in each of these big cities for Verona, Assisi and Orvieto. Oh, and no lover of architecture should travel to the "Palladio district" (all of the Vento) without seeing la Rotonda or any of the countless other villas.

But the suggestions here have still not scratched the surface in the cities you have named: Santa Croce church in Florence, Burano in Venice and Ostia Antica, outside Rome.
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 03:05 PM
Book Chick
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Vicki, you've been given some really good advice throughout all these posts. You can also make a trip out to Hadrian's villa and Villa d'Este when you're in Rome. And don't forget Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, which definitely impressed me as NOT being like a museum at all!

Buon Viaggio,
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 04:14 PM
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Hey bookchick, what is the answer on the city with the most books per capita?
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 05:52 PM
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Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 08:27 PM
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Where is Vento? Where is la Rotonda?
Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 09:03 PM
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Do not miss a fabulous palazzo that's been restored in Venice, the Ca Rezzonico. You'll both love it!
Old Apr 24th, 2002, 05:29 AM
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Lucky you! By going both to Rome and to Florence on the same trip, your husband has the chance to study the relative achievements of two master architects, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo, in detail.

First, though, let me mention that when you look at the Coliseum in Rome, you are looking at mastery of the arch, the Roman architectural contribution that allowed aqueducts and coliseums to have survived both earthquakes and bombs for centuries.

In Rome, one can view Michelangelo's beautiful work at the Campidoglio and compare it to his work in Florence at the Medici library and tombs. You will see many of the same design elements.

Best of all, visit the Pantheon in Rome after reading "Brunelleschi's Dome" and make sure you crawl up into the Duomo of Florence to see how Brunelleschi unlocked the Pantheon's secrets and applied them centuries later against tremendous opposition to this Florence cathedral. The book describes the secret of the brickwork, and when you're ascending the space, you can see it vividly. Visit the nearby museum to see an intricate model of the Dome--and compare it to the models submitted by his competitors.

It's too bad that Michelangelo's dome, St. Peter's, is obscured by the front. If they had stuck with his original design, your husband would have found it breathtaking. Nevertheless, walking into the interior will give you an idea of what Michelangelo had envisioned.

Don't ditch all the framed art, though. Framed art is of great interest to architectural students at the Uffizzi in Florence. In the first few rooms, one can visually walk through the reawakening throughout the Renaissance to the lost art of foreshortening, better known now as perspective. Suddenly, artists had to know math--and you will see several paintings where the artist becomes lost in the math of perspective and loses his artistic judgment.

Even if you don't like framed art, please don't miss the sculpture. The Borghese Museum in Rome is worth visiting just for the works by Bernini--ignore the rest if you like; study what he achieved.

And missing The David in Florence would be a crime. Since we were in Florence during free museum week (accidentally), my kids insisted in popping in to see the David whenever we were within two blocks of it--once we went twice in a day.

I hope this summary gives you a launching pad with which to focus your tour (I could go on for hours...). Again, reading a biography of Michelangelo, reading "Brunelleschi's Dome" and studying the impact of the Roman arch on civilization are all exciting starting points.

Hope you have a delightful trip!
Old Apr 24th, 2002, 11:45 AM
how i spend my day
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Vicki` I have been to Europe 3 trips recently & haven't set foot in a museum yet! (I know some people find this nothing to brag about, but I personally think they're boring). How else to spend your time? Walk, walk, walk around different parts of town. Sit in sidewalk cafes drinking wine and smoking cigarettes Go to the local post office, grocery store, pharmacy, green grocer, florists, etc. Sit in a church. Visit an open air market. Buy food from a bakery and have a picnic, and people-watch on a park bench.

And the interest in architecture alone could 'structure' your days. Decide a building(s) want to see. Figure out how to get from your hotel to that part of town on public transporation (part of the adventure). Use your map. Ask your hotel desk. Then scout out an attractive looking restaurant and sit outdoors having a 2-hour lunch.

All these suggestions are authentically European, I promise.
Old Apr 24th, 2002, 03:24 PM
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to the top

Old Apr 28th, 2002, 02:57 PM
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I would recommend the Blue Guides for each of these cities as a guide to the architecture. They are relatively expensive, incredibly detailed and sometimes uproariously stuffy. But they have details you will not find anywhere else. (They are very thin, and also very stuffy and sometimes out of date, on hotels and restaurants, but that is not the point.)

The Veneto is the mainland area once controlled by the Venetians. It contains a large number of villas designed by Palladio or his disciples. There are boat trips from Venezia to Padova that stops at seven (six?) of the villas and then drops you in Padua, from which you can return by train. You can also find the tours on line. is the website of I Batelli del Brenta, which is the one I took. If you really want to see Palladio, you should go to Vicenza; he redesigned it. But it sounds like you are doing the Big Three.

I'm always looking for places that give me some idea of how people really lived--so I recommend the Palazzo Davanzati in Firenze, which is a restoration of a medieval tower house. Much better than the towers in San Gimigniano, which are more empty.

San Marco in Venezia is a pastiche--but splendid. Tour the Doge's palace. Take the #1 with the Blue Guide in hand and look at all the palazzi on the Grand Canal. Take the boat to Torcello and see the perfectly wonderful duomo there.

A lot of the wonderful ecclesiastical architecture in the cities was "baroquen up" in the 17th and 18th centuries, so the interiors and soemtimes the exteriors were occluded and the original simplicity overloaded with gilt and detailing. Some of the smaller churches in Firenze--ss. Apostoli in Firenze and San Miniato al Monte--retain a lot of their original detail and are quite delightful.

Don't miss the Forum in Roma. The Domus Aurea was, I found, disappointing. San Clemente in all its layers was much more interesting. You can go to Ostia Antica if you can't get to Pompeii.
Old Apr 28th, 2002, 07:51 PM
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Italy.....without seeing the great art
What a pity............
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