by Melinda Gallo

Visiting Museo Orsanmichele

I had been wanting to visit the Orsanmichele museo (museum) since I returned from my trip to the US. Normally my Mondays are busy with things I need to do to start the week. Fortunately today was the first Monday I had time to to visit the museo of my favorite chiesa (church). I was even more fortunate because the sun was peeking out of the clouds this morning. The chiesa is in a tall building, which used to be a granaio (granary) and consists of three levels: the chiesa on the ground floor, the museo where all the original statues are housed on the middle floor, and a large room at the top that offers a 360° panorama of the city.

Living in Florence :: Visiting Museo Orsanmichele

On the two floors of the museo, there are tall windows that let the sun stream in and spotlight the statues under the terra-cotta brick ceiling. Compared to the chiesa, the first floor of the museo is bright. Today I finally went to the top floor where the views were spectacular and the sun was unhindered and entered the room with great force. With each floor there is more light as if I were rising above the city and hovering a little above it.

In the top room, the monuments of Florence are almost within reach, especially the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo. There was a cement step in front of each window where I looked out onto the rooftops and could see all the monuments near and far. Because Orsanmichele is in the heart of the city, the views seem to be even more impressive. It wasn’t that easy to take some photos because they are just too close. I tried to take a foto of the Duomo, but only was able to get a good one of the cupola (dome), which I’ve included here.

I wasn’t allowed to take foto (pictures) of the statues in the museo. I spoke to the custode (museum guard) who explained to me that the statues were built with shorter calves and longer thighs so that they could be seen from two meters below and not at our height.

We ended up talking for another fifteen minutes about other chiese in Florence, which I found fascinating. I asked him what his favorite chiesa was and he said it was Santa Trinità. I had only been into that chiesa a few times, but I have to take another trip there to visit it. He also told me that they are planning on putting more art work that is on loan to a few of the local musei back into the chiesa.

The only thing that I would’ve liked to do after visiting the museo was to enter into the chiesa. Unfortunately, it’s closed on Monday so I was unable to have a walk around. I did, however, walk around the outside of the chiesa to look at the statues. They are actually more spectacular in their nooks outside the chiesa to see as the custode explained to me. Seeing them up close in the museo might just be more fascinating though.

I was so happy with my visit that I think almost skipped home. When I got home, I read the back of the ticket I’d been given at the entrance to the museo. The words of a past mayor of Florence, Piero Bargellini, were written, “Orsanmichele è il monumento più fiorentino di Firenze. Orsanmichele is the most Florentine monument in Florence.” He explained that only in Florence could a monument that was once a granaio be transformed into a chiesa. I was touched by his words because I have always felt that Orsanmichele is very Florentine without any tangible evidence. It was just a feeling that I have always had.

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