Friday, July 15, 2011

Florence 1

Our hotel in Florence was very nice.  It was located in a quiet old cobbled street.  Part of the old town, but not the noisy crowded touristy part.  That said, it isn’t a long walk to that touristy part.  It was fairly hot when we arrived, and we had a quick drink at the hotel’s terrace bar, and then set off to look for dinner without asking for a map.  As a consequence we walked a long way out of our way before finally finding ourselves in the Piazza next to the Cathedral.  Thus we first laid our eyes on the confection that is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.  I say confection because it is made of white, green and pink marble, set with statues and a couple of mosaics.

We found a restaurant with Ossobucco on the menu (one of my favourites), so climbed down a narrow set of stairs with medieval (or so they looked) frescos decorating the side of the stairs and found ourselves in a vaulted undercroft.  Unfortunately the Ossobucco wasn’t as nice as the architecture and I think I can make a nicer version.
Next day started with our pre-booked trip to the Uffizi Gallery.  I’m glad we had the tickets pre-booked – the non-booked queue looked awful.  Unfortunately half of the exterior was covered in scaffolding, which has become something of a theme on this trip.  We got audio guides to narrate our way through the gallery.  At first that seemed a very good idea, but after a while Andy and I got very sick of the art analysis (“this painting exhibits the juxtaposition of form versus perpendical shading and shows a flow through the picture, illuminated by the afternoon light…”).  If you were interested in art it would be ok, but I’m just a philistine.  Since they already have multiple languages, they could easily have different versions within each language – one for the art ponce and one for the art philistine (“see that ugly face on the bottom left corner sticking out his tongue in a suggestive manner?  People have said that makes this painting rather perverted”) in the same way they have adult and child versions of the audio guides at Hampton Court Palace in England.  (I’ve only every listened to the childrens’ versions, and they are great and not at all patronising.)  Although I liked a lot of the paintings, the only one I recognised was Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  Most of them were Biblical, and I have to say that most painters of the Madonna and child can’t paint a baby.  None of them look like a real baby.
It had been feeling hot in the gallery, but that was nothing compared to what it was like when we got outside.  I gather the day got to over 40⁰ and it must have been about 150% humidity.  We had some lunch and then headed to the Palazzo Vecchio.  Very beautiful, but very hot inside (strangely enough there is no air-conditioning in medieval palaces).  Out the front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a copy of Michaelangelo’s David.  This is where the original (now in the Academia) was located.  What is there now is a very good copy, and Tommy preferred to see the copy in its original location, which we were happy about as it saved us having to queue up for another art gallery.  We then treated ourselves to a horse and carriage ride, although it was awfully expensive, but Tommy had never done anything like that before.
Next sight to see was the Ponte Vecchio.  It’s amazing how the back rooms of the shops on the bridge stay up with the wooden supports.  It was very crowded on the bridge, and someone didn’t want me looking in the windows of the jewellery shops.  Funny that.  We then wandered around for a bit trying to decide what to do next and eventually decided to give up for the rest of the afternoon as it was so hot, and Andy was suffering – probably from a mild case of heat exhaustion, despite the fact that we had been drinking water almost non-stop for the day.  In the end we decided not to go out for dinner that evening, and I just went out and got us some bread, cheese, salami, prosciutto etc, which we ate in our room.

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