Friday, December 14, 2007

Florence, Day 2 (with comments from Matthew)

OK everyone – here’s a new layout for posts, starting now! While we have internet here in Italy, I will be typing up my own posts, and Matthew will be adding his commentary in italics. Sometimes he’ll write first, sometimes I will – we’ll see how this goes! It’s funny how different our two perspectives can be! And hopefully, it will provide some comic relief for all you viewers back home ;)

I like italics.


No, that’s what I wrote. (Actual exchange we had.)

Anyway, today was Day 2 in Florence/Firenze! We had a pretty incredible day (although, there was no Rob Lowe).

Says you. I saw him everywhere. He was my own personal (mental) tour guide.

We started off with a walk down to the Piazza del Duomo. We visited the outside of the Baptistry, a large octagonal building with three sets of beautifully carved doors – two sets of dark brass doors (through which sinners would enter before baptism), and one set of beautiful golden doors (through which the newly baptized ‘pure’ would leave the building).

The golden doors (cast by Lorenzo Ghiberti) were – are – so beautiful that when Michelangelo looked upon them he said that they were fit to be the doors into paradise (heaven). And forever since they have been known as “Porta del Paradiso” the Gates of Paradise.

Next was the Duomo itself, the main Cathedral/Church at the heart of the city. The church is known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Formosa, but more commonly referenced as ‘Il Duomo.’ It is, on the outside, exceptional in every way. Its face is made up of white, pink and green marble in the most beautiful patterns and combinations you can imagine. Add on top of it Brunelleschi’s dome (an architectural feat that was the largest ever built at the time) and a beautiful blue sky, and the entire experience was fantastic.

The dome was actually left uncompleted (church done, but with a giant hole in the center) because the builders at the time did not have the engineering know-how to span it. Until Brunelleschi came along.

Inside we managed to hook up with the cutest little Italian woman giving free tours. It was only Matthew, myself, and a Spanish guy (who was a lot of fun) but the tour was information and entertaining. It really helped add to the experience. She was so cute!

“Ok, we go now. (shuffle about ten feet) STOP!”

Next we decided to ascend one of the tallest structures in the city – Giotto’s Campanile (or, Belltower). It’s a large tower that looks like part of the Duomo, but is technically separate. 400-some stairs later, we reached the top and were rewarded with some beautiful views of the Florentine landscape. The best part was that there were barely any other people up there with us – the trip through Italy in the winter is fantastic because there are so few crowds and tourists! It made for some very beautiful views of the city...

We weren’t quite hungry, so we opted to skip lunch (or at least, delay it) in favor of heading South toward the Uffizi gallery, which is described as the greatest art collection in the city. Randomly, I bumped into one of the professors from Harlaxton! What a small world! The Uffizi was fantastic, and we saw art from some of the great Florentine masters – I’m sure Matthew will have more to say about the gallery itself, so I’ll leave that to him…

The gallery was magnifico. Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera” are both there (in the same room) and there are hundreds of masterpieces throughout. The few Leonardos and one Michelangelo are almost afterthoughts given the size and scope of the collection. The whole museum is U shaped with a sculpture gallery running along the outside. We even saw a special exhibit on Neapolitan art that was a great way to end the day. Nothing like dark, heavy, realistic landscapes, portraits and devotionals to put you on an up note. :-)

Inside we also got some great shots of Ponte Vecchio, the "Gold Bridge" (a bridge over the River Arno that is lined with gold/silver jewelery shops - not for the low-on-credit-limit). This isn't the best shot, but the sunset was indeed very beautiful!

After we left the gallery (near 6:30 – we spent quite a bit of time in there!) we were ready for dinner, and opted to stop at this little Trattoria near the gallery. It was in the touristy heart of the city, but hey – everything in Florence is kind of a touristy district, so it really didn’t matter. I had some tortellini and a great chicken breast (not to mention some fantastic Red wine!) and Matthew had Penne Arribiata (spicy red sauce over penne noodles) and chicken with a gorgonzola sauce. Not to rub it in, guys, but it was a pretty awesome dinner! And for some reason, one of the waiters really got along with us very well, and helped make the experience fantastic. Matthew and I took the opportunity, even after dinner was done, to sit around and chat for a long time (I think we were there for over two hours) and after Matthew had signed the receipt for the bill, that waiter brought us out two glasses of Limoncello for dessert – on the house! What a fantastic experience!

The nice waiter made light of Christine cleaning her part of the table (wiping off crumbs and stacking plates). As he was taking the main course dishes away, he asked Christine if she was “Ready?” i.e. ready to go back and wash the dishes. “You make my job very easy,” he kidded.

And now tomorrow we have the Accademia on our slate (which houses Michelangelo’s David) and Santa Croce Church (the resting place of some of Florence’s most famous artists) and Palazzo Pitti (which should shine more light on the powerful Medici family, who basically ruled Firenze for years and years and years). Then Saturday we’ll hit the train station for a 9:00-ish train down to Rome and spend our last five nights in Italy there. Hopefully there’ll be internet available for updates!

Till next time, folks, tata!


Oh, and photos from today – again, no captions, but eventually we’ll post an updated version complete with captions and stories! Check out the photos at:
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KJ said...

Bon Natale a bit early you two! I'm loving the "2 for the price of 1" blogging - keep up the good work!


Emily Sue said...

So glad you two are having fun, even though I miss you both!

p.s. Matt - you would have Rob Lowe as the tour guide in your mind...