Here are a few more individual photos of the Palazzo Pitti.
The first one is another version of the rear view of the Palazzo, from the Boboli Gardens. There’s a vast difference in quality between this one and the one I took with the Belair X6-12. The Belair has its charms, but I still prefer the sharpness and contrast of the Rollei version.
Here is the panoramic version from the Belair for direct comparison.
Out front of the palace there are these massive granite bollards, carved with the Medici coat of arms. While they’re kinda-sorta the equivalent of a traffic cone, they don’t really qualify for my “portraits of ordinary objects” series, do you think?
A marble bust of a man in a stylized Greek helmet. This would be a 16th or 17th century piece, so the ancient Greek style helmet would have been done to make him appear heroic and classical, an idealized noble warrior type.
The stairs from the Palazzo Pitti courtyard to the Boboli Gardens pass through this upswept curving space, creating a rather dramatic view of the sky:
This is the Medici residence wing of the Palazzo Pitti, where the Grand Duke and Duchess had their suites, and Napoleon’s bathtub can be found.
This is a view from the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti out the main entrance. The bell tower in the distance belongs to Santo Spirito, a church with an ornate interior designed by Brunelleschi, the man who created the dome of the Duomo.
A wrought-iron gate in the Boboli Gardens.
This fountainhead is found in the courtyard to the Palazzo Pitti. And no, Ayn Rand had nothing to do with it.
As you’re probably aware if you read this blog with any frequency, I’m fascinated by ordinary objects that we tend to ignore. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to capture a Renaissance storm drain cover and inlet in the Boboli Gardens, along one of the gravel paths ascending from the amphitheater to the Neptune fountain.
And finally a view of the Duomo from the Boboli Gardens. You don’t really realize how big the cathedral dome is and how much it dominates the landscape in and around Florence until you stand on the hill a good mile away and realize that it’s the biggest thing between you and the mountains some fifteen or more miles beyond.
The architectural folly known as the Kaffeehaus (Coffee House) in the Boboli Gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti. The Coffeehouse was built by Maria Theresa while she was the Grand Duchess of Tuscany (she would later become the Hapsburg Empress of Austria-Hungary). Thus the German spelling of the name for the building, which comes from its purpose- it was a refreshment center for visitors to the gardens to stop and get a coffee or tea or other beverage – exploring the 110 acres of the Boboli Gardens is thirsty work.
This is a bronze door handle on a well-weathered door in the gardens. I forget what structure it is attached to – it might be one of the servant’s entrances to the Palazzo Pitti.
An allee of tall hedges in the Boboli Gardens, leading to a staircase. The gardens themselves are built onto the slope of a hill, so they have many changes of elevation.
A tower set into the hedges along the ramp from the amphitheater to the Neptune fountain. I’m not sure what purpose it serves- it could be just a garden shed for storing tools and groundskeeping equipment, or it may relate to the water control systems for the myriad fountains in the garden.
A view of the Palazzo Pitti from the top of the amphitheater stairs. The title comes from the boy in the lower edge of the frame taking a phone selfie. A very modern take on a very old palace.
TC is a friend I’ve known for gosh, probably 10 years now. When we met he was a grad student working on his PhD at MIT. He’s now a full-fledged Doctor in Physical Chemistry, and working in Zurich. When I told him I was coming to Florence, he offered to pop down and hang out for a day or two. He was a real godsend, as I was still in the throes of a really bad allergy attack triggered by down pillows on the bed of my apartment in Rome, and he stopped at a pharmacy and got me some European Benadryl.
We went to the Uffizi the first day I was in Florence, then grabbed dinner at a restaurant he found on Yelp. The food was quite good, but what shocked me was the size of the portions. I was used to these small portion sizes per course that I had been getting in Rome, so I had a pasta course, a salad, and an entree. The pasta wasn’t too much bigger than I was expecting, but the salad was entree- sized! I had only had maybe 1/3 of the salad when the waitress stopped by and asked about it. I told her it was very good but just too big. She offered to cancel my entree, which I was glad to accept. Half and hour later, we’re sitting chatting and the entree arrives after all!
The next day, we met up again and walked over to the Palazzo Pitti via the Ponte Vecchio. The Palazzo Pitti is gargantuan – it was the Medici family’s main residence in the 16th and 17th centuries, and everything about it was designed to overawe. The Vasari corridor connects it with the Uffizi over the Ponte Vecchio to provide a secure passage should the Medicis need to escape an angry mob, or just not want to mingle with the hoi polloi on their way to and from their private box seats at the Santa Felicita church.
The Boboli Gardens back onto the Palazzo Pitti. They were once the private playground of the Medici family, but now are open to the public. This is the garden facade of the Palazzo Pitti.
After touring through the Pitti and hiking up and down the Boboli gardens (which are on the face of a fairly steep hill), TC and I grabbed lunch at a little cafe across from the Palazzo Pitti’s main entrance. I had my first ever cappuccino there. I’m now a devotee, provided there’s enough sugar.
So thank you, TC, for the Benadryl, the companionship, and for the swiss chocolates – they were delicious!
Here begins my Italian saga. I got back less than a week ago from my Italian excursion, having spent 12 days in Florence and Rome. I posted an odd and end from my phone while on the road, but now that I’m home I’m working my way through the 79 (yes, 79!) rolls of film I shot. I’ve got 16 processed so far, and will try to develop some more after work during the week so I don’t have to totally binge on the weekends.
If you’ve been following the blog, shortly before I went away I got a Lomo Belair X/6-12 panoramic camera. I posted a few shots I took with the 58mm super-wide lens, and that lens is, well, marginal at best. Very soft, very low-contrast, and horrendous barrel distortion. Not the kind of lens I would want to shoot a lot of architecture with, and that’s what I’d be shooting a lot of in Italy. I brought it with me just in case, but kept the 90mm lens on the camera and ended up shooting exclusively with that.
This is the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, as seen from the Boboli gardens behind it. As you can see from this shot, the 90 is sharper than the 58, but still not up to the standards of a glass lens (the 58 and the 90 are both plastic).
The 90 is better, but better is a relative term. Certainly, I wouldn’t have been able to take these shots without the camera, and I genuinely like them, but they’re not what I normally think of when I think of my style of photograph. If I’m going to stick with the camera, it’ll be a mental adjustment to apply the tool to tasks appropriate to it. It’s very good at transforming the time of day of a shot- while this is titled “Ponte Vecchio Evening”, it was actually shot around 10AM.
This has also been a lesson for me in making peace with cropping. I’ve been for the most part a full-frame kind of guy – I try to compose to the edges of my frame so everything shows the way I want it to and I don’t need to crop. But sometimes, the best of intentions when composing in the heat of the action don’t always work, and you learn to crop after the fact. This shot, for example. In the original full frame, the obelisk was dead center in the frame. I think at the time I pushed the shutter button I thought the little girl was out of the picture, but there she was. On the left, the edge of the fountain in front of the obelisk was intruding into the scene. Looking at the image actually captured, all the action in the scene included the little girl playing off against the obelisk, and the edge of the fountain was a real distraction. Cropping to get rid of the fountain completely changed the dynamic and makes the image go from being a record shot to something actually interesting.
This is the facade of the Palazzo Pitti, originally home to the Medici family, later a residence for Napoleon Bonaparte, then the administrative center of the Italian government for the first few years after unification, and now an art museum. The shutter has a maximum speed of 1/125th of a second, which is fairly slow all things considered. I don’t know how fast an exposure this was – the camera doesn’t tell you what speed it is using – so I’m guessing somewhere in the 1/60th range given the amount of movement in the cyclist. That’s another thing you have to make peace with with this camera – unpredictability. I don’t know that I’m there yet. I’ve got about 12 more rolls of film from this camera to process in my black-and-white film, so we’ll see how I feel after getting through those.
Sometimes the panoramic composition works phenomenally, like this one of St. Peter’s Basilica as seen from inside an arch on the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Other times, the panorama gives you compositional challenges that provide serendipitous solutions to themselves, like shooting the bridge in front of the Castel Sant’Angelo. The landscape around the bridge provides an S shape through the composition that leads your eye around and through the entire scene, not just pulling you from lower right to upper left and shooing you out of the frame at the end.
Another argument in favor of cropping – the original of this included the heads of the patrons of the Castel Sant’Angelo cafe (yes, they have a cafe in the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo, which began life almost 2000 years ago as the burial monument to the Roman Emperor Hadrian).