Since 1997 we have taken the participants of our summer and fall art workshops in Tuscany to the Uffizi Gallery, and just a few days ago we were happy to discover the newly renovated museum, though with some deception. The Uffizi, annually visited by 1.5 million people, is undoubtedly one of the most important “temples” dedicated to Renaissance Art.
Firstly, the good news: 17 new rooms located on the first floor and painted on either intense blue or red have been opened since December 2011, more than doubling the museum’s exhibition space. The eight new Blue rooms are dedicated to foreign painters from Flanders, Holland, France and Spain from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries and the nine Red ones to Italian High Renaissance paintings by masters such as del Sarto, Fiorentino, Pontormo and Bronzino. Some of the magnificent works on display used to be packed on the second floor and others were confined to the museum’s deposits for lack of space. In addition, the beautiful octagonal Tribune in the West wing was finally reopened after two years of restoration. Finally, we had the opportunity to see the beautiful temporary exhibition Bagliori Dorati that displays more than 100 paintings, sculptures and illuminated manuscripts of International Gothic art in Florence from the late 14th century and early 15th century.
Secondly, the bad news: the Nuovo Uffizi is certainly not the Nouveau Louvre. The conservative Italians would have never dared to push the envelope as the French did in the 8O’s. Entrances, exits, washrooms, cafeterias and elevators remain a problem, not enough of them. Long line ups even for those with reservations are still part of the reality. For the more than 4,000 visitors a day, basic services and facilities for the disabled certainly lack.
What could the Uffizi have done better? Just like the Louvre, they could envisaged a modern and spacious entrance by building a glass pyramid on Piazza della Signoria (I hope they would have foreseen this avenue!!). Also, they could have built some washrooms on the second floor and create a services area on the first one. And why still accepting only cash at the entrance where thousands of dollars per day are transacted? No wonder why so many grey Guarda di Finanza cars on the road…
But the Italians are Italians; they call a simple priest “your excellence”, a bishop “your imminence” and a cardinal, “your Holiness”. So “Nuovo Uffizi” is a bit exaggerated. But, we cannot stop loving them… Long live Italia!