Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Florence Gets Festive; TRAVEL

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Florence Gets Festive; TRAVEL

Article excerpt

Byline: SEAN HIGNETT

CHRISTMAS is born again in Florence," the tourism flier promised, " with numerous unique events". "Mai Visto" (Never Seen) was "works of art never before seen from the storerooms of national museums, especially the Uffizi". There would also be works of young artists "throughout lively parts of the town"; "a massive Christmas tree, an aluminium architectural structure" with thousands of Christmas lights, high up on the hillside - visible, it was claimed, from every corner of the city; a " multimedia centre" in Piazza Repubblica providing comprehensive information on these special events; and "masterpieces by the performance artist Giulio Paolini" in Piazza Signoria.

All began promisingly. My hotel, the Brunelleschi, even had its own museum in the Roman catacomb discovered in its basement. More, it was in the heart of the city, hidden in a tiny alleyway between the Signoria and the cathedral.

As I took an evening stroll, a different view of Brunelleschi's dome appeared up each narrow street, brightly floodlit and almost two-dimensional, like an operatic backcloth. Down one street the church where Dante worshipped advertised an artists' and writers' mass. Down another I found I Ghibellini, a trattoria so welcoming I decided to make it my own for the stay.

But when I met Lucia Montuschi, my guide, early on Christmas Eve, she'd heard nothing of the "unique events". We looked hard, "from every corner of the city", but could see nothing of the "massive Christmas tree". The nearest Piazza Republicca came to a multimedia centre was a chalked sandwich board.

And as for Paolini's performance art in the Signoria, not a sign of him.

But Mai Visto was to be seen and there were indeed some gems: a Da Guardiagrele Virgin and Child with Angels; a Tintoretto; and a masterly Filippino Lippi of the Virgin and St John with the infant Christ holding a bird. The real Christmas gift, though, was across the street in the main Uffizi galleries. …

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