Santa Maria della Scala

Santa Maria della Scala is a former hospital in Siena, Italy, which is now a museum.

The hospital was dedicated to caring for abandoned children, the poor, the sick, and pilgrims and is one of the oldest hospitals in the world.

The hospital gets its name from the Piazza Del Duomo from Siena Cathedral. Santa Maria della Scala refers to its position across from the steps that lead to the Cathedral.

Pilgrims Hall is the main hall where pilgrims were lodged. It also served as a location for public festivities. In the 1330s, Santa Maria della Scala commissioned many important interior and exterior frescoes as well as several altar pieces. While exterior frescoes no longer exist, interior frescoes have survived for centuries. The majority were alter pieces that were created after the Black Death. The principal artist is Bartolommeo Bulgarini.

Around 1335, the church commissioned a series of frescoes depicting the life of the Virgin. The scenes were chosen both to honor Mary and to also give recognition to her parents, Saints Joachim and Anne, the subjects of special devotion at the hospital during the 1320s and 1330s. The scenes became a valuable model for iconography.

Firenze Ufizzi

Make sure to scroll to the bottom and select page 2 for more photos at the Ufizzi!

The Ufizzi is one of Italy’s greatest art galleries. Art includes Florentine paintings, Byzantine icons, early Medieval works, as well as Renaissance masterpieces and Mannerist paintings.

The museum was built in 1560-80 to house offices for Duke Cosimo I. Iron was used as reinforcement which enabled Buontalenti to create an almost continuous wall of glass on the upper story. The Medicis use this will lead space to display the family are treasures creating what is now the oldest gallery in the world. Today the paintings are hung chronologically to show the development of Florentine art from Gothic to Renaissance and beyond.

Botticelli paintings are the highlight of the museums collection. Renaissance artist often experimented with new pigments. One painting is a celebration of spring with goddesses and 500 species of plant.

Michelangelo’s The Holy Family Is a round paintings with bright colors and unusually twisted pose of the Virgin Mary. Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch shows earthquake damage from 1547. There are also works by Titian including the Venus of Urbino, which is said to be one of the most beautiful nudes ever painted.

London – Off the Tourist Trail

At the end of our Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe Trip, we were lucky to visit with long-time friends Mark and Tom in London.  Apart from some fun times catching up, we visited the Tate Modern for views from the tower, had fish & chips in an old pub, slid down the gigantic new slide at the Olympic Park (one slide = GBP 22 or so!) , had dinner in Islington, spent the day walking around canals and Brick Lane, and reminisced about days in my 20s when working there.  There is a picture here of my old KPMG office (where I worked in 1997 and 1998) right next to Blackfriar’s Bridge (which is now a glass covered bridge but used to be open air).  The city is alive with construction everywhere and nearly as many cranes as double-decker buses!  Somehow, it always feels so good to visit that city.