florence, italy

Today is a three hour walking tour of Florence.  And while Mike and I might scoff at the big tour bus groups, we do see the validity of joining up for a group with an experienced guide.  It would be arrogant to think that we would walk around Florence and know all the history from our guide books.  Having a real live guide is one step up from reading a book and gawking alone.

Mike’s big soccer adventure is this afternoon.  I will let him do his own blogging about that.  Mike?

We meet our group in front of a big palazzo and it is clear that we will be keeping to ourselves.  There is this amazing light sculpture inside, all made of fluorescent lighting.  Adding modern touches to these ancient cities has quite the stunning results.

Our tour guide takes us through the streets of Florence that we explored yesterday, but this time with an explanation.  We walk to the Ufizzi to see its daunting lineup and see the replica of David in front of the city hall.  Thendown side streets to the Duomo, which is huge and impressive.  The Bapistry is next, with its beautiful gold doors and 8 sided walls.  True to its name, the Bapistry is where young Fiorentines got baptized, for they were not allowed in the church without being baptized first.

Our tour group keep asking the most ridiculous questions over and over, like when the churches are open and how much does it cost to get into the museums.  Mike is interested in the history, and I am interested in the art.  We take off our audiosets when the questions get too annoying.  Our tour guide is patient.

Onto David, the real one this time, in the Academia Galleria just north of the Duomo.  There are other paintings there – Botticelli and other Michelangelo statues, but you know everybody is there to see the real thing, the big guy – David himself.

Now having seen a million David souveniers all over Florence, I was worried David was a bit overblown. But rounding the corner of the museum and seeing David bathed in light from the dome above made me gasp.  My eyes actually welled with tears, as silly as that sounds.

There was a great amount of reverence seeing the most famous statue on earth.  David is not overrated and worth every penny to see.

Our tour guide clearly had a love of art history and became very animated in the gallery, explaining how David was not a symbol of religion.  He was a symbol of the Renaissance, a self made man who was setting about the world in utmost confidence.  David was originally created to sit high up on a church, so his feet and hands are unnaturally big.  But when the people of Florence saw him, they insisted he be placed in front of the city hall building (he was later moved to the museum, and only a replica remains in public).

So we ended our tour with a bang.

With the help of our innkeep, we had a discovered a favoured lunch place –Fratelli’s– a little window shop that served only take away paninos on the street known as Cinema street.  The two guys behind the counter served up 22 different kinds of paninis (panino?  Maria, help)…on warm buns, and beer and wine, which you ate and drank while sitting on the curb in the alley.  We ate there all three days in Florence, and my favourite was goat cheese, fennel and salami.

Then Mike changed into his purple jersey and was off to his soccer game.  I’d best leave it to him to regale you with stories because he does that so well.  I was very excited for him, and thought he was very brave to catch a bus full of crazed Fiorentina fans to a sold out soccer match of 40,000 people.

I finished the Birth of Venus book at the hotel and tentatively ventured out on my own.  The crowds made me nervous, but to buy a coveted bursa (purse), I’d have to negotiate in the market without my beloved shopping gigolo Mike.

Once I was outside in the sun, having procured a purple purse (for me) and a purple cashmere scarf  (for my mom), I got braver and I ended up walking about for three hours.  And not once did I get lost, or refer to my map.  I went to the train station to get Maria’s recommended gelati place and managed to get myself a hazelnut gelati by only speaking (bad) Italian.  I went along the Arno past the crush of crowds at Ponte Vecchio, to Santa Croce with its white church, food vendors and odd Mini car gathering.

Mike even beat me back to the hotel, having walked from the stadium because he is a madman.

We imbibe in the free wine again at the happy hour, have our last dinner in Florence at a recommended trattoria (warm chicken liver pate and pasta with fresh pesto – yum) and wander about for an overpriced gelati and a waffle with Nutella for dessert.  We sit in the square by the Uffizi and watch the crowds, including two young German guys polishing off a bottle of wine beside us and the guys hawking the blinking neon spinny things to the tourists.

And tomorrow?  Our last day in Florence.  We have tickets on the 7:30 pm train back to Roma to stay a final night in an airport hotel before departing home.


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