I woke up at 4 in the morning and stepped out on the ancient streets of Florence, Italy to beat the Uffizi Gallery‘s famously long line. After drinking an espresso for only the second time in my life, and innocently overwhelmed by it’s influence, I was surprised to find two girls from my tour group, Erin and Kelly, already waiting for the musem to open. I quickly joined them and waited eagerly to view the masterpieces I had, until then, only seen in pictures.

We were quickly joined by the girls’ AP Latin instructor and some other students from the tour. What I appreciated about tagging along with this class, was their teacher’s impressive historical and linguistic knowledge. When the doors opened, I listened to every word he said as he began deciphering the texts painted on an array of paintings depicting the Annunciation, which included Leonardo da Vinci‘s famous masterpiece.

Leonardo da Vinci's depiction of The Annunciation

When the group decided they wanted to hurry along to see as much as possible in other areas of the city, I opted to stay in the museum and take in as much I could. I must have sat in front of Botticelli‘s Birth of Venus for nearly an hour before I continued on. This wasn’t necessarily because I was so in awe of the beautiful painting. Although arresting and captivating in person, I sat and listened to about seven different tour guides give varied stories about the painting. One pointed out that while Venus is in a classic contrapposto stance, the weight she held on her left foot would cause her to tip over along with the shell she travelled on. I found this observation, while true, to be humorous. Here are all these people speaking so seriously about how this anatomically incorrect woman is about to fall over, yet, she was just born out of sea foam created by the castrated testicle of the mythical deity Zephyr after it splashed into the ocean. I mean, maybe superior balance was just one of Venus’s many supernatural talents.

Another guide pointed out that in classical antiquity, the sea shell represented a vulva, while the next guide pointed out that it was very likely that Sandro Boticelli’s students aided in the creation of the Birth of Venus, suggesting we check out the poorly painted waves. For an hour, my eyes were drawn to every imperfection these docents, teachers and tour guides pointed out. From the “poorly positioned flowers” to yet another comment on Venus’s elongated neck and torso, I still couldn’t deny the majesty and beauty of this work of art. Not that any single person suggested that I or the other museum guests do so, but you would think that after someone pointed out dozens of flaws on something or someone you were previously interested in, you would change your mind. I finally pulled myself away from the disproportionate goddess and the vulval vestibule from which she came and continued through the Uffizi Gallery.

After four hours of perusing and studying some of the world’s greatest treasures, I realized that sometimes true beauty lies in the imperfections- in the blatant and obvious flaws that we are stricken with. I felt enlightened and energized as I walked down toward the Piazza della Repubblica where I found my friends Danielle and Aubre riding the carousel, both with gelato in hand.

“Where have you been?” yelled Aubre with a chuckle, “we’ve been looking for you!”