Monday, May 02, 2005
5/1 Day 9: Florence
(actually, 5/2, 5:30 am)
I’ve been up for an hour coughing and shit, so I’ve given up on trying to sleep. Just getting sicker, or at least, not getting any better. Right now I just wish I was at home with my trusty bottle of nyquil. Yesterday, we set out on a bit of a walking tour of Florence, and got sidetracked. It’s really warm and sunny here, which doesn’t suit us all the well.
Saw a few churches and interesting buildings on the way over to Piazza di Signoria, and even bought a few pashminas from a little street market. Remember that it’s a national holiday, and the museums are all closed. So the Piazza is pretty mobbed. Here is where the David was supposed to be, before it was moved into a museum. But there’s a copy, and several other copies of well known works, so the throngs of tourists make do with what we can. The fountain doesn’t do all that much for me, though I do like the centerpiece of it. The piazza contained between the two wings of the Uffizi is neat because it has statues commemorating great artists, architects, and thinkers of Florence. The Pont d’Vecchio was crowded but all the shops were closed. Throughout this whole area, there were vendors peddling junk: very dark-skinned African men sell knock-off purses and sunglasses. Asian men and women sell these folded palm leaves, folded to make crickets, frogs, cranes, etc. Asian women of a different nationality (I’m not going to try to guess) sell these ugly crocheted/beaded shawls. And Asian men selling these weird little Pokemon and other character things that dance to music. And these other guys sell crappy art posters laid out on the sidewalk to step over (dark-skinned, perhaps Îndian or Middle Eastern, though not clearly so) I thought it was interesting how each nationality had it’s own crap to sell. And that, besides maybe the folded palm fronds, it wasn’t in any way a representation of traditional culture.
As we sat at a café with our sub-par gelato, a police-escorted, but very convoluted parade of cars came through. Mostly VW’s, bugs and vans, with a Carmen Ghia, a trike, and a few other oddities. They seemed to be having a lot of fun, but we couldn’t figure out the significance.
We headed toward Piazza Michelangelo, because it didn’t look that far on the map. It wasn’t, but it was uphill. On the way up, we detoured to the Japonese Garden, which, besides the Koi pond, didn’t seem all that Japonese to me, and then to the Secret Garden (so secret that there were 5 other people there!), for a stunning and tranquil view over Florence. Then up to Piazza Michelangelo, a bustling vista point, where we found the VW parade parked. I’d read that the church of San Miniato was pretty, and again, didn’t look that far away on the map, so we hiked. Up a lot of steps (my poor mom!) But, it was beautiful. The prettiest church I think I’ve ever seen. (I’ve seen a lot of churches) Sat and looked around and admired the interior for quite a while. There’s also a rather charming old cemetery and book shop there. The whole deal is run by monks still.
(pictures of San Miniato outside cemetery, interior, and floor)
Back in town, stopped at Santa Croce, but my mother was too tired to tour it. We had tried to have lunch at a restaurant on the piazza, but, like many other places we’ve tried to eat here, they told us the kitchen wasn’t open when we got there. We’d been looking for food for quite a while at that point, and settled for cheese plates, wine, and bruschetta. The whole food things has kind of sucked this whole time. We’ve had a lot of overpriced not very good food, and we’ve had a hard time finding even that. There is some bizarre system of opening and closing restaurants, and certain hours you can eat. Dinner places don’t open until sometimes after 8. You can’t have a meal between 3 and 7:30 or so. I guess. And all of this “you’re going to love the food in Italy” stuff?????? Dinner in Florence on night #1 was like mushy gnocchi in spaghetti-o sauce. Frozen ones from Trader Joe’s are better. I’ve made better Italian food myself, and I’m one of the worst cooks I know. Good things? Gelato, and Hemingway’s chocolate in Florence. Wine is cheap by the bottle though I didn’t try any of those bottles. We had a decent meal one evening in San Gimignano. And some decent sandwiches at bars. By decent, I mean: bread, a piece of lettuce, a slab of mozzarella, and the occasional slice of eggplant. If you want good Italian, go to San Francisco. You’ll pay less and get more, and much better. Anyway, having said all that, we finally did have a good meal tonight by returning to one of the places that was not open last night. It was pretty good. Not omigod good, but very edible. Finally, a decent Italian meal, check that off the list.