by Melinda Gallo

Museo di San Marco

I must have walked by the San Marco church hundreds of times and said to myself that I must take a tour of the Museo di San Marco someday. The more permanent my stay is here, the more difficult it is to go to museums and other places to visit. So, this morning I made a cultural date with myself and was out of the house at 8:30 a.m. to go to the museo (museum) for a visit.

Living in Florence :: Museo di San Marco

I walked down via Ricasoli and past the long lines that sprout in both directions out of the Accademia. I was happy to see all the tourists because that might mean that not many people will be at the Museo di San Marco.

Outside the Museo di San Marco is a crowd of people waiting for buses. I jaywalk to the middle of the piazza to take a few pictures. I then dodge the cars and motorini (scooters) speeding around the piazza to get to the museo. The stoney pavement is so uneven that I have to watch my step as well as the traffic.

I walk inside the double glass doors and pull out my Amici degli Uffizi tessera (card) so my entrance is free. The woman hands me a ticket that she has already torn beforehand and says nothing to me.

I walk into the main courtyard under the frescoed cloisters. San Marco is an amazing church with an adjoining convent, like Santa Maria Novella.

Bright green grass was growing in the middle of the courtyard and there was only one other tourist there besides me. He was carrying a guidebook and looking around. I have a tendency to read after I've been even though I think I miss things. I do have the luxury of going back any time, but I do enjoy just looking at everything and reading whatever signs they have up and taking in as much as I can.

I was surprised by all the artwork they had on display in a few large rooms with light-colored walls. Occasionally the other tourist and I would be in the same room, but mostly I was able to look at all the art by myself.

I went upstairs to the convent's celle (cells). Each cella was shaped like a box with one fresco and generally one small window. There must have been about forty or so celle with the one created for Cosimo de' Medici being more like a small loft.

The hall in the middle of the celle were filled with students writing in their notebooks. A few times I had to step in front of them to get a good look at the fresco in the cella. All the chairs that were provided for tourists to sit down and take a break were filled, which was unfortunate, because I wanted to sit at the end of the long hall to get a good feel for what the convent must have been like many centuries ago when the celle were probably all full.

I make my way through the crowds to the biblioteca (library), which is dimly lit because of the Fra Giovanni Angelico exhibition in the middle of the lengthy room with grey columns lined up on both sides. I take my time walking around because I enjoy seeing Fra Angelico's work.

Afterwards, I think about going to look at some of the celle, but am discouraged by the ever-growing crowds of people.

I walk toward the exit signs and through the libreria (bookstore) which is in the old refettorio (refectory). It is probably the brightest room in the entire museo, but at least I can sit down and study the cenacolo (The Last Supper fresco) on the wall.

I was hoping to go back to the cloister again, but the tour of the museo goes in one direction and there's no backtracking. The walls of the last room before arriving to the uscita (exit) were chock full of interesting frammenti (fragments). There were so many of them that I couldn't see much of the wall behind them.

The uscita is on the backside of the museo where many tour buses unload tourists. When I got outside, it was raining and men holding umbrellas in both hands were accosting everyone to see if anyone wanted to buy one. I had one, but couldn't get it out of my purse until I got past all the people.

I walked back along via Cavour to the front of the church and was very content with my visit. I'm now planning my next cultural date in the weeks to come because I love visiting Florence almost as much as I love living here.

Share your comments for this blog post on the Living in Florence's Facebook page. Grazie!