(photos: around Florence: scooters as far as the eye can see, and a beautiful door knocker)
Yesterday we were in Florence, packed up our bags to move to the last night’s Bed & Breakfast (since our first B&B had to do work on their water pipes), then headed over to the Duomo.
Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore. The facade was typically overdone, though the baptistry across the steps was quite nice. The doors of the baptistry are panels of reliefs showing bible scenes. Inside of the Basilica is oddly empty. It’s a huge space. Huge. But not a lot of decoration or interesting art. The dome, while impressive, was not an option, given my mother’s bad knee and blisters. Besides, we’d had a spectacular view from Piazza Michaelangelo the day before, and had limited time to see Florence.
Second stop was the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, where relics, architectural bits from the church, Etruscan finds, and a few other things were on display. An interesting museum. Highlights were Michelangelo’s unfinished sculpture of the Pieta, which he intended for his own tomb, but mutilated and left unfinished. (12/25 note: Michelangelo has actually done two or three Pietas, but I found this one to be particularly striking and emotional. The other is in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and was done by a much younger Michelangelo around 1498. An even earlier one is in Milan) Also, the reliquaries, bits of saints’ fingers, arms, jawbones, and so on were very colorful. The actual panels from the doors to the baptistry, Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise” are on display here individually; beautiful reliefs showing stories from the old testament.
After lunch, we headed over to Santa Croce, another huge church, this one filled with tombs and memorials. Massive reconstruction work going on here prevented us from seeing several of the most important works. Michelangelo’s tomb is here, not not with the Pieta he’d started and intended, but a memorial by Vasari. I see art weeping, sculptures that will never be let out of their marble without the master. But maybe they were supposed to be the muses. We couldn’t get up too close since the area was roped off for restoration of a nearby memorial. But it was quite beautiful. Dante’s memorial was scary. Not a nice or good-looking guy, from the looks of it. (he’s not actually buried there) Poked around at tombs and memorials downstairs.
Dinner was at a place called Napa Leone, near our B&B in San Frediano. It was really good. I recommend! Hemingway was, sadly, closed, so no chocolate.
Thus far, I’ve not been impressed with most of the food. Also, a few other things are kind of funky: Door latches/knobs. God forbid there be a fire in the B&B. Italians have a different sort of latch mechanism for every single door in the country. Push buttons, turn knobs, push buttons ON the knobs (WHY?!??!!), pull a latch, slide a lever, and so forth...
Locks. In the US, you turn your key, generally 360 degrees or less, hear a click, and it’s locked/unlocked as necessary. Not so in Italy! Insert the key. You may or may not have to also the key in (like an ignition key, but much harder), the turn the thing several time. Maybe as many as four full circles. Nothing happens? Go back and try it the other way, and at all degrees in between. Good luck getting your key out after. Keep in mind that you need the key to lock your room from the inside, so I hope you’re ready for this drill when the place goes up in flames.
Toilet. OK, first of all, the number of toilets should be ONE. Not zero, like in San Gimignano, where there was a flushable porcelain thing in the floor to squat over. If you’re going to put the plumbing and fixtures in, WHY NOT JUST PUT IN A TOILET?!? And with the bathrooms as tiny as they are here, let’s skip the bidet. It seems there’s a toilet shortage (see San Gimignano), so how about we just share the wealth? One bathroom, one toilet. Also, again like the doors. There’s no reason to have fifteen different types of flush-activators.
Cold medicine. The pharmacies are very, VERY charming, but this shit just does not work. I am so goddam sick of being sick. I just want Nyquil.
Today we got the train to Rome. Not a long trip, really. Upon arrival, we wanted a taxi, and got offered a 30 euro taxi ride, which seemed high. When I pressed him, the guy said it was a “private taxi,” and that the official taxis were on strike. Uh? There were people getting in and out of permit-ed taxis all around us. Ri-ight. Told the guy no, we’d just take the bus, grabbed our bags back (which he was already trying to whisk away) and headed to the (official) taxi line. Whatever. the cab ride in the real taxi cost 16 euros including tip anyway. Rome is a giant big stinky city. I’m not feeling well enough to deal with it, so we ventured out to a shitty dinner, poked into a couple of churches and headed back to our apartment to rest. I’m pretty sick, feel like ass. Italian cough medicine doesn’t do shit, and I pretty much wish I was home right now. Been sick for over a week now and not getting any better. And Rome seems stressful to me. Probably should have reversed the order of our trip, to taper off into a relaxing countryside vacation. Oh well. Tomorrow, I hope to feel well enough to scurry between the sights with the rest of the multitudes, filling up on art until it all blends together and I just don’t even want to stop to see a Botticelli. Hmph.
On the other hand, our apartment is nice. I have skylights to wake me up at an ungodly hour, but other than that, it’s nice.