Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and of gelato, is renowned for its abundance of world-class art. The museums, galleries and architecture are a dream for art lovers and provide an opportunity to appreciate some of the most exquisite beauty ever created by the human hand.
Unless, as a rule, you happen to be under the age of 10. If you’ve ever suggested a day of art appreciation to children, you’ll know that being “dragged around” galleries and ancient cities is “BORING”. The ennui sets in early in the day, the feet become leaden, and parents steel themselves for a day of compromise and disappointment. Exhortations that the painting you are looking at is world famous, hundreds of years old and the epitome of its genre are met with rolled eyes and heavy sighs.
The dictionary defines art as: ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form…, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power’. Nowhere exemplifies this more clearly than Florence, from the ornate facade of the Duomo, topped with Brunelleschi’s iconic red-tiled dome, or the ramshackle beauty of the Ponte Vecchio at sunset, to the countless treasures of the Uffizi Gallery. But in Florence, where art is closely woven into everyday life, the extraordinary has become the norm. And this is what makes the art of Florence a family affair.
The streets are lined with gelaterie, their creamy fare decorated with fresh fruit and piled up in glorious, inviting mounds; pizzerie with rows of sumptuous pizza slices on display; and windows filled with confectionery that would delight Willy Wonka himself. The small side streets are a maze of beautiful window displays, with artists sketching and selling their work on every corner. Performance artists enchant children of all ages, masquerading as statues or filling the air with giant bubbles to chase and catch. It is not only a feast for the eyes, but for all the senses, and the artistry of the everyday appeals to children in a more accessible way than “proper” art.
However, even appreciating the beauty all around you, the lure of the formal art scene in the city can’t be ignored. Fortunately, the museums and galleries are accessible to all ages and there is something that will appeal to even the most reluctant pint-sized art critic.
For example, the interactive exhibits and the free information app at the Museo Galileo (www.museogalileo.it) keep little hands busy, while the giant globes and scientific equipment occupy the mind; the layout and design of the Uffizi Gallery, combined with excellent signage, allows for a truncated visit with weary children without missing the best of Botticelli, Michelangelo and da Vinci; and the magnificence of Michelangelo’s David makes the queue for the Galleria dell’Accademia well worthwhile. The sight of my children genuinely lost for words at the scale, precision and beauty of David was a moment to be treasured. For the first time I could see that they “got” it and aren’t destined to be complete philistines for life!
It can be easy to underestimate the ability of children to appreciate art, but there is no denying that tiring gallery and museum visits can try the patience of even the most laid-back parents and children. Florence is the perfect antidote.