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Il bisogno si conosce l'amico.

You know a true friend when in need.

By: Gina DePalma

SPRINGTIME AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

I am a city girl at heart. As much as I have tried to embrace my inner country-maiden, I know that my heartbeat moves to the rhythm of a bustling, noisy, crowded, and vibrant environment. This is why, despite the ever-climbing rents and jam-packed subways, I make New York City my home.

A big reason why I love my life here in the Grande Mela is the access I have to its world-class museums. When I pause to consider that people actually travel here to see the art collections that happen to be in my own backyard, I get a little chill up my spine. Sure, I pay $6.99 for a box of cereal, but I can hop a subway to The Met whenever I want. On really good days I seem to be able to rationalize this reality perfectly. A lot of folks tend to think of a museum trek as an activity for a dull, dreary day. I think springtime is New York is the perfect time to take a trip across town, or uptown, or downtown, to check out some of our city’s greatest art collections, especially when combined with an al fresco lunch, a stroll on a city street, or a hike in the park.

If you are a New York resident, pause to consider that The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the most important museums on the planet, and you live in the same town. Located on Fifth Avenue at 82 nd Street (see here for visitor information), it is one of the most breathtaking buildings in the city. The entire collection is far to vast to see in one day, or even a month, so I try to make a more focused trip by concentrating on a small part of the Permanent Collection. As soon as I walk into the Great Hall, I can’t resist heading straight for the European Collection, which includes master works by major Italian, Flemish, French and Spanish artists, from the 12 th through the 19 th centuries. One of the stars of the European Collection is Duccio’s Madonna and Child ca. 1300, acquired in 2004. The Robert Lehman Wing is another of my favorite haunts; this extraordinary private collection includes works by Botticelli, Hans Memling, El Greco, and Rembrandt.

The spring of 2007 is an exciting time for The Met. On April 20 th, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will unveil a brand new space devoted to its priceless collection of Greek and Roman Art. The plans for this reinstallation have been underway for over ten years, and the advance previews only hint at how spectacular this new setting will be. Expect the celebration of this achievement to be big, and long, as well it should be. Another great exhibit to check out this spring is Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797. If you have ever been to Venice and wondered why the city has such a unique flavor to its churches, art and monuments, this exhibit will shed some light on the question. It runs from now through July 8, 2007.

One of my very favorite New York activities is to take a trip to The Cloisters, at the very tip top of the Manhattan Island. This amazing and unique branch of the Met is dedicated to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages, housed in a recreation of a medieval abbey. The museum sits on four lush acres overlooking the Hudson River, on the edge of Fort Tryon Park. A tremendous incentive to visit in the springtime is to have a chance to view the beautiful gardens that contain herbs and flowering trees planted according to a medieval design. Tours of the Gallery as well as the Gardens are conducted daily or weekly, and they really do make the collection come alive. I had already visited The Cloisters several times before finally indulging in a tour, and the experience was truly memorable.

Getting to The Cloisters can be fun if you have a bit of time to kill. Simply take the M4 bus from any location in mid-town Manhattan all the way up to the Museum’s front door. If you have an out-of-towner friend in tow, it is a good way to get in a $2 tour of Manhattan. When you are short on time, take the A train to 190 th Street. You can exit the station and either walk for about 10 minutes, or hop on a passing M4 bus.

For more information on The Metropolitan Museum of Art, including directions, programs and how to become a member, visit their website