From the city to the hills

National Geographic Traveller | February 2015

The city break

“Who was the little boy who broke his finger?” asks my daughter. “How did he do it? Michelangelo’s David stands an imposing elegant figure at 14ft tall, surrounded by tourists. Sculpted between 1501-1504, this famed Renaissance marble statue depicts the Biblical hero as a standing nude. “What was his name? How old was he?“ some the barrage of questions — not about the great master that was Michelangelo. but about the little boy who broke the finger. David was originally carved from one piece of flawed white marble to be positioned in the niches of the Cathedral of Florence (Duomo). Deemed too exquisite to be hoisted up and hidden away, it was exhibited in the political heart of the city, the Piazza dell Signoria, as a symbol of Florence’s strong government and willingness to defend itself. It finally came to rest at the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1815 for preservation after a series of incidents — including a small child climbing up and breaking the middle finger, explains our guide Michael Lee. I’ve not been able to find the actual details of this event, though I did discover the statue has had a few knocks: its left arm was actually broken in three places during an uprising in 1527 (at one point at chair was thrown at it), while a hammer was taken to its left foot in 1991. A replica now stands guard outside the Palazzo Vecchio) — like the one at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. “Have you heard the story? David and Golliath? No. Oh.“ I say. One quick RE lesson to a five-and-seven-year-old and they’re actually paying attention “l liked the statue because of the story”, says Luca, aged five. “I like all of the Michaelangelo statues.“ attests his sister, Rae, seven. It feels like we’ve turned a corner and they finally ’get it‘. As much as they ‘get’ a museum experience that is. Since this clicked they’ve been running round the Galleria reading the information plaques; my daughter is excelling at uncovering the ‘stories’ behind the exhibits. It is always curious to see what piques their interest. For my son. it’s counting the steps up to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio — 249 to be exact, although he counted 189 — following a Secret Passages tour that takes in some nifty nooks and crannies otherwise not open to the public. Fur us, as parents it’s finding the balance between ensuring we can appreciate our whirlwind city break to Florence, while making sure the children enjoy it, too. Front cathedrals to museums, culture to pizza, the kids have done surprisingly well to pound the streets of Florence with us and we finally refard them with a knock-out gelato. And a pig splat. That’s a plastic gel-like pig that splats on the floor — the latest craze on the Ponte Vecchio, apparently. Well, it can’t all be highbrow, can it?

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