David Kirby: “Negative Reviews of Famous Italian Cultural Sites”


Many reviewers begin by saying they don’t like long lines,

as opposed to those of us who do.

Yet once inside, these same reviewers are often

just as unhappy with the building’s contents: Travis D

says of the Uffizi, “Excellent if you are into sculpture

and paintings,” whereas Darya S says “99% of the Uffizi is religious art.

It’s all Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” But just because

you’re in Florence, does that mean you have to go to the Uffizi?

Savannah M thinks so. “Can I be that awful person

who doesn’t give the world-famous Uffizi five stars?”

says Savannah M. “Okay, perhaps it is five stars if you’re

really into this sort of religious art,

but my feet were hurting.” Assailed by a self-doubt

seldom present in on-line reviews, Savannah M admits,

“Sadly, I may not be as cultured as I thought I was”

but “I think this is one of those places you kind of have to see”

because “skipping it will probably

mean you’ll be berated by all your cultured friends.”

But even if you gush about the sculpture and paintings

in the Uffizi to all your cultured friends, surely one of them

will tell you that when he was at the Uffizi, Cosimo di Medici

not only dropped by but invited him back

to the Palazzo Vecchio for a cappuccino, and they swapped

e-mail addies. Just five minutes from the Uffizi

is the church of Santa Croce, which Michael B finds

“a disappointment: cold and humorless.” Michael B has a point:

the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo may amuse

some visitors, and that of Machiavelli has even tour guides

rolling on the floor, but there are many churches

in Italy funnier than Santa Croce. Wilsonia G says,

“It was hard to know what was what here as we didn’t get

a guide book, audio guide or guide. It would

have been very handy to have had one of these.”

And to think, all of these people had to wait in long

lines to get in. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re in that

long line because other people got into that church or that museum

before you did. Studies show

that air rage incidents are four times as likely

to occur if a plane has a first-class cabin and even

more likely if, instead of boarding in the middle

of the plane and taking a right, coach passengers have to walk

through first class in order to reach

their seats. Studies also show that even monkeys

feel the sting of envy: a monkey will hand you

pebbles in exchange for cucumber slices, but if you

give a second monkey a grape in view of the first monkey, the first

will be insulted and throw the cucumber back.

The ultimate museum critic is Benito Mussolini, though

he was also ultimate in other ways. During a three-hour visit

to the Uffizi with Hitler in 1938, the exasperated duce

was heard to mutter, “All these pictures!” No long lines for Hitler

and Mussolini, though. Bet they got

right in, huh? But look at how things turned out.

In the last days of the war, Mussolini fled Milan

for the Swiss border but was captured by partisans,

shot, and hanged upside down in a piazza, his body spat at

and pelted with vegetables. The phrase

“patience is a virtue” is said to have occurred first

in the Middle English allegory Piers Plowman

by William Langland, but I wouldn’t be surprised

if it had been coined by someone waiting in a long line to get into

the Uffizi, Santa Croce, or, to the south,

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to which

Christopher A gives two stars because he was

scolded for talking too loudly in the Sistine Chapel,

almost certainly because he failed to realize that it was

still a chapel and not simply a room

with a pretty ceiling, just as Julie N gives St. Peter’s

a single star because a café next door charged her

17 euros for two cups of coffee. Studies show

that coffee’s good for you, Julie N. It protects against type 2

diabetes, Parkinson’s disease,

dementia, arrhythmia, stroke, and several types

of cancer. Drink up! O dissatisfaction, you are

found in every country. Borders mean nothing

to you. John C says of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam,

“I’m not into art so I wasn’t expecting

to enjoy it and I didn’t,” and Raymond G says,

“Okay if you’re into Van Gogh.” You tell anyone that

your plane will land at Charles de Gaulle airport,

and that person is almost certain to say, “I hate Charles de Gaulle.”

But if your plane lands at Charles de Gaulle,

that means Paris is only minutes away.

Besides, what’s wrong with a long line?

It just means there’s something beautiful at the end.

David Kirby’s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please. 

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