A Travellerspoint blog

Day 7: The duck chaser, the meat chaser, and the wang police

....and 500 steps!

semi-overcast 20 °C

Sometimes, like when I’m looking at my bank balance, I’m quite appreciative of a hostel, and other times, like at 3am in the morning when three new roomies decide to arrive, or at 8am when a jackhammer renders your alarm clock redundant, the thought of a quiet, private hotel room is a little more appealing.

This morning was dedicated to my favourite Florentine piece of architecture, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Il Duomo as it is commonly known. I wanted to see inside, including the museum showing the various renovations since the roman times, climb the dome, and climb the bell tower. Ambitious!

Inside the cathedral was similar, albeit proportionally much larger, as the church of Santa Maria Novella from the previous day. Beautiful mosaic and tiled floors, impeccably decorated ceiling frescos, and stained glass windows. The view of the interior of the dome, completely painted, makes you wonder how on earth this monster building and decoration was constructed and executed so many years ago. The engineering behind the dome is quite incredible, and was the largest dome in history until recent times, and was the first octagonal dome to be constructed without supporting beams. I went downstairs to have a look at the museum of Il Duomo, which shows the recently excavated original foundations of the church around which Il Duomo was constructed, dating back to Roman times.

My interest thoroughly piqued, I thought it was opportune to start my ascent up the bell tower before my legs knew what was going on. Four-hundred and fourteen steps to the top terrace for the most spectacular view of Florence I could have imagined! And as I climbed the final few dozen stairs, the time struck midday and I got to hear the echoing bells toll.

Next it was the baptistery, a smaller octagonal building which contains one of the most ornate and impressive ceilings of gilded art I’ve seen so far (and I’ve seen quite a few impressive ceilings in the short time I’ve been in Italy!). The floor mosaics are incredibly as well, however I must admit that a lot of my interest surrounds the Dan Brown Inferno story, a dramatic part of which takes place in the baptistery at the holy water pedestal. Unfortunately the line to climb the dome was too long, and in all honesty my spaghetti-legs protested to the thought of 500 more steep steps, so I gave them a break…by making them walk several more hours through the Uffizi gallery! Mwa ha ha.

I strolled to the Piazza della Signoria, of fake-David and giant golden turtle fame, stopping at the square for a lunch of salami and mozzarella toasted Panini (amazing!) waiting for Alyssia to join me. I witnessed the perils of cobblestones first hand between bites, with a poor old lady on a bike coming a croppa and spilling onto the road, but thankfully several well-meaning tourists got her back on track fairly quickly.

The Uffizi is one of Italy’s best art galleries and did not disappoint. Alyssia and I did all of the 1st and 2nd floors, with a quick coffee break between ‘religious painting number 482’ and Botticelli’s ‘Spring’ and ‘Birth of Venus’. These two Botticelli artworks were beautiful. I particularly liked the frock of the lady assisting Venus. It is a shame however, that with such a crowd of tourists all wanting to get up close and personal, that there really is only a moment to absorb the image, take a happy snap, and attempt to read the accompanying information before you are jostled towards the door by the throngs. Nonetheless, a moment in front of those great works was well worth it.

Hundreds of statues, portraits, and paintings later, and we were ready to move on. I know I have only been doing this European travel thing a short time, and I am still in my first dozen of no doubt several dozen museums, churches, and galleries, but already many of the religious paintings have blurred together, and whilst they are all quite striking, particularly when in situ I can recount only two images: Madonna with the baby Christ (with Christ on her left), and Christ on the cross. Similarly with the statues; David is obviously an incredibly memorable image to see for yourself, but many of the other statues blend together into a conglomerate of naked or semi-naked, blokes (half of which have lost their junk through supposed modesty back in the day), or ladies (and a couple of hermaphrodites, who I learnt was (and I wouldn’t reference me in any academic articles here) the incarnation of Hermes and Aphrodite who’s love was so strong they wanted their bodies joined together??? Something like that anyway.) My favourite statues so far, and every time I see one I get a warm fuzzy feeling, are the ones with the girls holding their pet duck. Or goose. Ah the ‘duck chaser’ from my high school years is alive and well!

From the Uffizi I did just a touch more shopping, then walked lemon-gelato in hand across the Ponte Vecchio with all the gold merchants to visit the Pitti Palace. I really wanted to see the costume gallery, with over 16,000 costumes from the Renaissance and no doubt other eras, and the Boboli gardens, but alas time was running out and I was only able to see the palace and the ‘modern’ art (still effing old though!). It was particularly apparent that in the palace, wangs were not appropriate, and the vast majority of the male statues were not packing.

Walking back, my mind, almost unable to be distracted from the immense pain in my legs from the hours and hours of walking and stair climbing, turned back to an incessant urge which had begun upon arriving in Italy. That of buying ‘loafers’. Approaching the Ponte Vecchio, there were quite a few Italian shoe and handbag stores, and I found a delightful pair of navy loafers...in which I shall loaf. That urge sated, I will now focus my attention to the ‘handbag’ and ‘beautiful winter coat’ projects of 2016.

Alyssia and I have been talking about sharing a bistecca al Florentina (i.e. super fat delicious juicy rare steak) since meeting the other day, and tonight was the night. Having negotiated to try a restaurant other than Mercato Centrale, we (post nap) headed towards a nice little restaurant I found near Il Duoma and settled in for a feast of epic proportions. Wine, martini, salami, polenta & porcini, and obviously the bistecca, chased with limoncello and santo e biscotto (biscotti dipped in some Italian alcohol). Absolutely phenomenal! We delighted in chatting with the French couple - Daniel and Brigitte - sitting next to us, aided by my Google translate app. They invited me for dinner at their apartment in Montpellier in a couple of weeks’ time, which I am very much looking forward to. And by sheer coincidence, the Spanish couple from last night strolled past and said hello! What a small town…

Daily Summary:
Stairs climbed – circa 500
Religious paintings – 1,290….or 2, I’m not sure
Missing wangs – 430
Grams of bistecca – 600

A conversation purely conducted via Google translate resulting in a dinner invite…priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 15:31 Archived in Italy Tagged churches art statues palace italy florence cathedral ducks steak uffizi il_duomo limoncello wangs missing_wangs pitti_palace

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