Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Europe: Florence

I have visited this city before, but only for the three hour tour.

This was immersion. We checked into our hotel and then took a Renaissance walk before dinner. Florence is a very busy, vibrant city aware that there is more to life than the tourist business. We stayed in the historic centre, half block from the Midici Chapels. Our guide has been giving us great history lessons and cultivated a great appreciation for the varied and vast architecture and history of the places are visiting. You know, it doesn't matter how many documentaries you watch, books you read or pictures you see, you have to be there in person to really appreciate the masterpieces.

Our dinner was truly Italian and I would have enjoyed lingering over a coffee, but we had to do laundry and the night was getting away. We found the laundrymat just down the street from the hotel. The nearby Minimarket had cold water and the laundrymat became a very social hub as several of our tour members gathered there.

The next morning we headed for the crown jewel: Uffizi Gallery - our private guided tour started as soon as the doors opened and we got to spend the entire morning. Such masterpieces (Bottecelli, Rembrandt, Michaelangelo and so many more). Such history. Such depth. I was taken by surprise at my own depth of emotion while viewing Botticelli's Annunciation and the interpretation of Mary's reaction as depicted by our local Florentine guide. This gallery is the oldest known museum collection in the world. Google it. Better yet, visit it. Soon.

We had the afternoon free and ended up exploring the Market and the street market kiosks. The ones further from the piazzas had the best prices but I said no to the leather jacket and yes to a couple of cashmere scarves and silk ties. AGB had fun bargaining for sunglasses for Katie, one of the teens on the trip. At closing time around 7 pm, the vendors folded up and rolled their kiosks home or pulled it into a truck or rolled it up into a parking garage of sorts. And I thought carrying a briefcase home was hard work!

I was appalled by the begging gypsies. Pitiful pictures of humanity, my heart goes out to them.

We had a great lunch on our own at a pizzeria in air conditioned comfort. Brent asked for ice in his drink. I miss ice. Very much.

We had a late afternoon appointment to see Michelangelo's David in the Academia Gallery. There are so many sculptures, but he dwarfs them all. I am so glad to have seen it in person and to have unlimited time to study it. A 360 degree digital David on a nearby computer display entertained the kids and gave an amazing close up perspective of the detail of this magnificent work. This museum also included a large room of plaster models - prework for sculpters' masterpieces. There was a musical instrument exhibition that I found facinating as well. With two music teachers on our tour, we found it a great visit. Then we went to dinner outside the market and finished the evening with a walk to Ponte Vecchio.

The night was alive with African men trying to sell designer handbag knockoffs, entertainers, accordianist duo sounding like a pipe organ, artists drawing masterpiece copies (quite accurately) in chalk on the street.

We walked to the bridge, took pictures at sunset, then hunted down the best gelato in town. Met an interesting family from Arizona whose son is a goalie and wants to live in Banff (and snowboard). We rubbed the snout of the wild boar at the former straw market, posed in front of Giotto's bell tower (Campanile) beside the Duomo, photographed the Paradise doors of the Baptistry, checked out the Farmacia and dollar store. Bed was pleasant that night!

There are a ton of vehicles, even more motor bikes or mopeds. You take your life in your hands crossing the street. Yet they are all passionate and expressive. Even the locals were exclaiming about the heat... it was 38 degrees here today. I'm sure glad for air conditioning.

Wish you were here. See my limited photos at this link.

1 comment:

  1. I visited Florence once, many years ago on my 'Europe Cure.' It was after I had taken a History of Art class too so despite no guided tours, I actually recognized many of the things I was seeing. It was one of my favorite cities.

    Sounds like a fabulous trip. I wish I were there too!