My God. I don’t even know where to start for today. It was just a blur. The good kind. I think. Lord knows where the day went. We started out thinking we had a thousand things to see, but all day to see them in, and the next thing we knew, we were thinking, “Where did the day go??”
Today’s plan was supposed to be: Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, Accademia Gallery (David) at 11:15, more bus and whatever we wanted to do, then Uffizi Gallery at 4:30, then whatever we wanted to do till evening, pack everything we could into Mom’s suitcase, drain a bottle of Tuscan white wine, and pass out.
As I type this, I not only don’t know where the day went, I don’t know where all the wine went. I suspect my traveling partner. Hmm.
Locating the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus stops was not as easy as it should have been. We found one (we thought) across the Ponte Vecchio, but as we stood there, we realized we could be standing for up to half an hour before one happened across us, and the sign we couldn’t understand may have been suggesting that the first pass didn’t happen till 11:42, and every hour thereafter. And this was 8:15. No good.
So we ditched the bus plan and went to see what we could fit into the three hours before we had to meet at the Accademia. We chose the Bargello Museum, which Rick Steves recommended. It was…enh. We saw Donatello’s David, the girly one with the hat and the boots and the little poochy belly, standing on the giant’s head. Not a big fan, neither of us. Saw Mercury, as well as a few other statues that did impress us…along with some amazing ivory and bone carvings and some pre-Renaissance stuff…wood carvings with gold leaf…it was okay, but it seemed like the kind of gallery where woulda-been big important statues go to die. A lot of them were labeled as having been intended for big important spots…fountains, garden centerpieces of rich families, that sort of thing…but were damaged in some way or something. So it was strange to see Donatello’s David and Mercury there. They should be somewhere more prestigious. (I could swear I saw Mercury in the Louvre, but I guess I could be wrong.)
So the Borgello was…okay. After that, we went to the Duomo Museum, but decided to see the Duomo first. It’s amazing how a cathedral can be so ornate on the outside and so bare on the inside. Apparently, it was stripped of a lot of its treasures since its heyday. It was still beautiful, though…though they’re all starting to blur at this point. By the time we got out of there, we went hunting for Mom’s border tile pieces. Have I mentioned those? She found these beautiful number tiles…white with lemon borders…and bought the four numbers for her new house in Reno…got them in Cinque Terre. But what we didn’t realize till much later was that the shopkeeper was trying to point out to us that there were border tiles, to go on either side of the number group, that finishes them off and makes them look a lot nicer. And now we can’t find them in the same size and style as the numbers she bought. So we’ve been searching high and low for the right ones. We found others, but short of buying a new set, we can’t use them, because the borders are different than the ones we have. I’m supposed to keep looking as I head north. I have the “5” with me. God forbid I break it on the road.
So we hunted tiles and then headed for the Accademia. But then we happened upon a street market. Selling gorgeous purses. And I fell in love. I now have an Italian leather purse. It wasn’t even that expensive…not a quarter of what I told myself I was ready to drop on a real Italian bag. It’s probably nothing special to most of my fashionista friends…but it’s dove grey lambskin and I just adore it. My GOD. So…Italian purse – check.
On to the Accademia. Where I nearly got into a fistfight with some Italian jerk who yelled at my mom for accidentally stepping on his crappy art replica posters he had spread all over the street. Excuse me, but if you don’t want people to step on your posters, don’t put them in the street!! I swear to God, me and this kid (probably 19 or 20) were about to go at it. I was furious. Cheap crap anyway, that if you even look sideways at it, they pounce on you and start harassing you to buy it. The nerve, to yell at someone for walking in the street when you have your crap strewn all over the street.
ANYWAY. Accademia. Weird thing about the Accademia is that it’s a totally nondescript building. You’d walk past it if not for the crowds. And there’s nothing really of note there. Except him. Even the first room’s central masterpiece, The Rape of the Sabine Women, is just a plaster cast…the real, marble one is in a square where we had dinner the first night! Out in the elements! Is that weird to anyone else but me? Maybe. I guess the Trevi Fountain is out in the elements. Marble is probably fine in rain. Just weird that a replica is in the museum. Anyway, that’s a cool sculpture, and I like it. (I don’t know what it is about this trip, but I can’t be bothered with paintings and I can’t get enough of marble sculpture. Never knew I was so into it. But I totally am.) Next room…you have to listen to your guide go through all the talk about Michelangelo’s Prisoners, whom I really dig, but how can you listen about them when David is at the end of the room??? The Prisoners are five “half-finished” (they look perfect and friggin’ awesome to me) sculptures of men emerging halfway from the blocks of marble that “imprison” them, and they kinda guard David. They line the hallway leading to him.
And he stands at the end, under this brilliantly lit glass dome, up on a pedestal, all seventeen feet of him, too-big head and giant right hand and slingshot and marble buttocks and cocky-attitude “I can take this guy” look on his face. And he’s amazing. Totally everything he’s supposed to be. I sat down for a while and wrote…like I did in the room with Mona Lisa, like I did atop the Arc de Triomphe, like I did in front of St. Peter’s Basilica…like I wished I’d had a chance to do in the Sistine Chapel. The guide was blathering on about all his “imperfections” – his unfocused pupils, his too-big hand, his knuckles all wrong, he’s not circumcised, his age (he’s apparently supposed to be fourteen) – but I found him perfect. (The guide was actually really good…but she was pickin’ on my guy.) His giant right hand is the right hand of God. His head is out of proportion because he was designed to be way up high, and would’ve been seen from below at a great distance, and would’ve therefore been perfect. His pupils are unfocused because he’s looking far away, at Goliath. His knuckles are off because he’s holding his slingshot, maybe fiddling with it as he thinks about how to do this just right. As for his age and his…business…well, who cares. He’s beautiful. He could have a bit more quadriceps for my taste. Bit more calf. I’m a leg girl. But other than that, he’s perfect. =)
Okay, so that’s all I have about David. We left, I tried not to antagonize the kid giving me the evil eye any further (though I was dying to walk across his posters), and got some really bad calzones for lunch. We found the Tourist Information bureau and they told us to head for the train station to get the Hop On Hop Off bus, which we did. It wasn’t bad. There was recorded commentary in English, and though it was hard to match up the guy’s speech with what we were passing at that moment, I enjoyed both what he was talking about and what we were seeing. We crossed the river and saw some beautiful villas meant for diplomats and the like, and ended up in Michelangelo’s Plaza, which was on our must-do list. We got some amazing shots of the city from way up above…the Duomo dome was just overwhelming…the Giotti tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, even the old city walls and the olive orchards just outside it. Absolutely gorgeous view. Even better with a cup of gelato.
Somewhere on the way down from Michelangelo’s Plaza, and right around the time the bus passed the Cathedral of Santa Croce, we decided we didn’t want to live the next hour on a timetable, trying to make sure we got to the Uffizi Museum for the second half of our Accademia/Uffizi tour. Even though Birth of Venus was there, and lots of other paintings I’d actually studied before we left home (if you call Rick Steves guides “studying”), neither one of us cared that much to see more…more…art. And we did want to see this church. And its cloister. And do some more shopping, dammit.
So we decided then and there that we were ditching the bus and standing up the Uffizi. I declared it my reason to come back to Florence next time. (That, and not having climbed either dome whose presence I’ve been in this week.) We checked out the church, which was a bummer because the entire altar was covered in scaffolding…but was totally worth its 5 euro because in Santa Croce are the tombs of Gallileo, Michelangelo, and Dante. All of them beautiful, all of them breathtaking. I’ve assigned myself homework to read some Dante when I get home. (Kipper should dig that, if she’s reading.)
Outta the church. Right in the leather district. Got my head stuck on a leather jacket. Mom was exhausted. Declared we had to get back to the hotel to unload some crap before more shopping. Stopped in about five or six leather shops anyway on the way…looking for just the right coat. No dice. Sought out street artists in the Piazza de Repubblica that we’d seen earlier…also no dice. No tiles, either. Dumped some stuff at the hotel and headed back for the street market in the Piazza de Nuovo Mercado. Nothin’ for me, but Mom got a beautiful black-and-red cashmere wrap with a cashmere scarf to top it off. She’ll have to start going “to the theatre” now, just to wear it. =) We wandered back towards the leather district…went in several more shops, passed up one, got harassed by lots of jacket sellers…finally went back inside the first one, where we got accosted by a dude who said he was the owner, designer, maker.
Dude had me try on a few that weren’t my style, then pulled out one I kinda liked. The color was wrong, though. So he asked if we’d walk to his factory shop with him, two minutes away. Mom said she didn’t mind, so off we went. Turns out his factory was the one we’d blown off and walked by. It just looked like a tiny little hallway shop. It was a whole gallery in the back, and when he took us even farther back, it really was a whole leathermaking shop back there. Amazing. Lots of raw leather pieces and hundreds of jackets hanging in plastic. He said he sells to Nordstrom. He kept giving us the works on this one style of jacket I didn’t take long to fall in love with. He quoted me the original price and then worked the tax off and another chunk because I was “sweet” and came up with a number that was exorbitant, but do-able. It’s a three-quarter length, black, with a smooth, clean front and white trim on the lapels and cuffs. Really, it’s beautiful.
Then he started working on my mother. Who was in no way in the market for a coat.
I’ve been told not to go into a whole lot of detail till she gets home and tells my father. Let’s just say she got a two-for-one deal on a Ferrari. Okay, I got the go-ahead. It’s like buttah. Like, seriously, like buttah. =) It’s black…lambskin…double-sided. Suede on one side with leather trim…leather on the other side with suede trim…so light you wouldn’t believe…folds down to nothing…the most beautiful coat you’ve ever seen. It took some doing, but she bought it. Now we both have beautiful Italian leather coats. (Anyone wanna pay my rent next month?)
On the way home, we swore that was it. I volunteered to buy dinner…we went back to the place from last night and both got the lasagna. And a half-liter of wine, even though we had a bottle waiting in the room. Headed to Piazza Repubblica after that and found Florentine watercolor art, sold by the original artist…really nicely done. And then we declared THAT’S IT! NO MORE SPENDING!!
For her. ‘Cause she’s going home tomorrow. Tomorrow is my halfway-day. =)
I gotta start living dirt cheap. Like, backpacker cheap. It’ll be good
We’ve got everything in that suitcase that it’ll hold. Tomorrow morning I’ll send a package home…with art, our tiles, and my leather coat. God knows what it’ll cost.
She’ll leave the hotel around 0530…I’ll walk her out and do my best to go running immediately. I have till noon in the hotel before I have to check out. Trains to Assisi go every hour starting at a quarter after noon. I’ll catch one of those. Dunno what I’ll do with my morning. Or when I’ll blog next. Could be a while. NO plans in Assisi. Nowhere to stay, no one I know. The plan is to get to the station and talk to anyone with a backpack. I’ll figure something out, I’m sure. The lack of a plan is both frightening and exhilarating. I have about three days of adventure till I hit Vienna and find Christa. Wonder what this weekend will bring.
Wish me luck. I’ll write again tomorrow if I can. If not, as soon as I can find internet. ‘Night!
PS – travel partner spilled her last cup of wine on the veranda…I had to share mine…boooo!!! ;-)