Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 2: A Room and Many Views

Near the Piazza del Duomo
Up at the crack of 8.30a to have breakfast at the hotel with our friends – a great assortment of delicious croissants, cereals, eggs and bacon, breads and toast and friendly service. 

We walk to the Piazza del Duomo – and it is a surprise. It is both massive and a little shabby. It is in the process of being cleaned and looks a little like an old lady with only a portion of her makeup on. The photo on the left was taken by R from a clock tower near Il Duomo.

It is 15 euros for the grand tour which we pass on and go instead to the Michelangelo Galleria on Via Cavour.  The exhibit consists of “interactive machines reproduced from Leonardo’s codices”. The others explore, I sit and write in my journal.

On the streets, the two teenage girls we have literally stop traffic and elicit remarks from the male passersby. Nothing too risqué but the girls are to shy too respond with their usual acidic come backs. And we, the mothers, are too far behind them to respond either. Welcome to Italy.

In the afternoon, we do the first of our tours to Fiesole on a coach bus. It resides in the hills above Firenze. From Via San Domenico we see the town and the Arno valley. It is populated by beautiful villas – converted convents and seminaries as well as a former residence of Queen Victoria’s. The valley is lush, fertile and green - a lovely contrast against the peach and lemon coloured villas. On the way back to the city we pass the English Cemetery of Firenze where Elizabeth Barrett Browning is buried.

Back in the downtown core our guide Alessandro shows us many of the architectural sights our friends have already shown us but the tour ends with a trip through the Uffizi and we get to see some of the classic paintings up close that we have only ever seen on TV or on coffee mugs and calendars: Botticelli’s “Venus on the Half shell” and “Primavera” as well as Tiziano's “Venere di Urbino” and DaVinci’s “The Holy Family”. But I see some beautiful paintings that I have never seen before: “Susanna nel Bagno” by Floris Francesco and “Amore e Psyche” by Spagnola. Our guide has a charming way of saying, "And now I would like to introduce you to ..." as he brings another painter to our attention.

Piazza Delle Signoria
In the long U shaped building of the Uffizi we pass a long corridor of statues in the Greek and Roman style – many of them male nudes. I jokingly ask thirteen year old J and her friend S not to look. S says to me with a mischievous smile, “But we are counting!” You can imagine what they are counting … Later I ask her how many and she replies, “Billions!”

The tour ends on the upper level of the Uffizi on a terrace facing the Piazza Delle Signoria. The guide says to us, “If you are not happy after this, I don’t know what to say to you!” He was lovely man. La Fontana de Nettuno (the Fountain of Neptune which is pictured above) can be found in the Piazza.

The Uffizi staff who man the exhibits are a surprising bunch. Their uniforms are unfortunate - they look like custodial janitors and they are a slovenly, undisciplined bunch guarding some of the most valuable art in the world. One woman sat in her dark sunglasses with a cellphone in hand and a trashy novel by her side and rose to take a call with a room full of people who were peering into a roped off room at some Rembrandts we were not permitted to see. Her role was to guard it.

After the Uffizi, we find another gelateria – the kids have been great and they deserve it.

The lobby of our hotel
Home to clean up – the tour has lasted four hours and the kids have been beyond good with a minimum of moaning. We are hot and sweating and in need of a good shower before dinner. To the left is a shot of the lobby of the hotel with some of the featured art.

We have dinner at Palatino just down the street from the hotel. The waiters act as if they have been raised from a good sleep and aren’t happy about it but the food is good: gnocchi, bruschetta, insalate caprese, tagliatelle – all well done at moderate prices.

Across the street from the hotel we find a little costume jewelry shop and J buys two rings: one for herself and one for S and then we bid all a goodnight.

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