Truth be told, this was not Terry’s first visit to Florence. More than forty years ago he spent his junior year of college in Switzerland and during the break between sessions he traveled for a few days to Florence and slept on the floor of someone’s apartment. It was three months after the flood of ’66 and when he mentioned it on this trip he was invariably asked if he had been a “mud angel”. (The swarm of students that arrived to help with the clean-up.) Art work is still being restored and like our fires and earthquakes in California, the flood seared the collective consciousness. This is the entry of our apartment with a plaque well above Terry’s head on the wall. These plaques are on many walls in buildings throughout the city indicating how high the water rose on that fateful day.
As you walk the streets of Florence you can be surprised by this type of view
where the Duomo looms up over you suddenly. Each time that happened I was struck by my original awe. The Piazza del Duomo contains the Basilica, the Baptistry of Saint John, and the Campanile di Giotta.
And just where are the photos from inside the Duomo? As you get near the end of your stay you begin to realize how many sights you haven’t seen yet. The day we went to the Baptistry, we had already been to the Museum of the Medici Chapels, marbled paper with Gianni, seen the Museo l’Opera del Duomo and had our reservations at the Academia for 12:30. We thought we could fit the Duomo in before the reservation, but when we got to the Duomo the line looked so long we didn’t think we would have much time inside even if we got to the front of it. So we implemented Plan B.
Repair to a nearby cafe and sip a cappuccino or hot chocolate and rest your weary feet and knees. The hot chocolate is quite something…and I know someday we will return to see all the things we missed…
Our first tour of a basilica was Santa Croce. As we walked up to it I was again struck with awe at the ornamentation on these edifices. (Oh, the whole trip was me being in awe of what I was seeing…) Pattern and ornament, mosaic and fresco, basalt and marble to create color contrast. Masterful combination of materials. I could take pictures inside (without flash) so I used my iPhone to catch what I could.
Cleaning mosaics with a tooth brush, preserving surfaces with a tiny brush, restoring stained glass. Yummy!
This was my first introduction to pietra serena (serene stone), a beautiful grey blue stone in this instance combined with gold
As we walked to the inner courtyard, we came upon a small chapel that when I think about the entire trip it was one of my favorite places we visited. It was designed by Brunelleschi and had lovely columns, pilasters, arches, and vaults. Plus constellation frescoes. This chapel was begun in 1441 and completed in the 1460’s and is called Capella dei Pazzi (the family that financed it, second to the Medicis). The acoustics inside are beautiful.
Good read: Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King
Good flic: A Room with a View
The Uffizi is one of the museums where you can not take pictures in the galleries. We visited on our second day and the museum is massive. It may have been the heat, it may have been the tourist groups (believe me, the groups own the territory), it may have been the jet lag, but it was the only place where I did not gasp in wonder at my first sight of a favorite piece of art. I thought in my mind that Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was going to have a pearly glow about it but in reality it was dark and ill lit. So I bought a post card that is pearly and glowy and took some pictures out the window hoping for unusual angles.
After a lovely meal, we strolled home by way of the bank of the Arno in the dark of evening. (I did have to tutor Terry on the fine art of Italian strolling from my keen observation: gentleman with hand in pocket, lady with relaxed arm through crook in elbow, resting lightly.) We passed in front of the Uffizi enjoying the gentle evening and lights.
By the time we got to the other side of the piazza we were being serenaded by an accordion player. We kept strolling toward our apartment thinking it could not get much better, when organ music started to fill the neighborhood and reverberate off the walls of the buildings. We came upon Chiesa di Santa Maria de Ricci where every night at 9:15 there is a free organ concert. We took a seat in a pew and listened to Bach. Magic, Firenze is magic…
My brain’s ability to process all of the art I have seen and the museums I have visited is going to be delayed until I can get some perspective on this astounding place. Until then, small stories-starting with Gianni. Two days ago Terry cheered when I said I was done with paper stores. But then, today, we passed one more, a branch of one we had already been in (multiple times, even) and I almost walked right past but something tugged me. Last day…when will this ever happen to me again…what if there was something I missed? As luck would have it, Gianni was working the store today, even though he usually does the marbling. (He could own the place for all I know. It is called Johnson and Relatives.) He asked where we were from and then declared that San Francisco was his favorite place (all Italians say that) and then said, “Come look” pointing to his vat of thickened water. I say, “Is that carrageegan?” He explained that in the studio that is what they use, but in the store they use wall paper paste so that it doesn’t start to smell. They use acrylic paint so that it dries quickly. (Oh, I could do a lesson plan right now!) Then he invited me to comb the colors, all because I mentioned that I had been an art teacher. After we had gone off to see the owl in Michelangelo’s “Day and Night” (for Terry) we dropped by again to pick up my now dry paper to take home. I told Gianni that I would make a book from the paper and remember him. The process:
The thing about the sidewalks of Italy is that there is only room for one person wide while walking. This wrecks havoc with stopping to take pictures since anyone trying to pass you has to step into traffic. There is never a time when you are alone on the street so if you stop for any reason there is a lot of risk involved. I am quick at taking the gorilla type shot with the native camera on the iPhone, but I haven’t risked HDR shots except when I know that I will not be risking anyone’s life. You have to stand absolutely still while the Pro HDR app analyzes the image and then takes two images and blends them together. These are HDR shots I have taken when I could stake out firm ground and clear vistas.
Now, officially, my brain has exploded. Sitting in a cafe thinking how easily I could get used to the cap and pastry routine every morning (no offense to Peet’s and Starbuck’s, but there is quite a bit of charm connected to those rush seated chairs and having to trip along the cobblestones to earn the cappuccino)