Blog for Sunday, March 20…
We woke up for the first time in Montecatini – a small town that is the home of a health resort about 45 minutes from Florence. Our hotel was nice, the only problem is that the water is NOT good. It has an odor and a strange taste, but that is what bottled water is for – and they sell it for a good price at the hotel.
Breakfast was bread and pastries filled with nutella. We also had blood orange juice (a little strange to drink red orange juice, but it was very good) and delicious cappuccino. We were all ready (for the most part) on time, so we made our way for our only full day in Florence. I love how Annamaria and Giovanni always give us something extra. One of those extras came this morning. Instead of driving directly to the city center, we first went to a great photo location at the Piazzale Michelangelo – a famous square with a fabulous panoramic view of Florence. At this spot, you can see and photograph the entire city of Florence…so that was awesome. All of the postcards of the city of Florence have been taken there…and now I have some pictures of my own from there. It was a QUICK stop, so I didn’t get all that I really wanted to take, but today’s first photo is from that location.
After our quick stop we went again to the city center and met our tour guide Simone at the Duomo. The Duomo is a magnificent building, so ornate and large. It is actually called the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and consists of not only the cathedral, but also the baptistry and Giotto’s campanile. We visited the inside later in the day, but our first real view of the Duomo was amazing. Such a large and imposing building – and basically THE building you think of when you think of Florence.
Because we had spent some time in Florence the day before we had seen many of the monuments already, but it was nice to learn a little more about them. We talked about the Duomo and the baptistry, walked down the streets of Florence and saw some piazzas, the marketplace (the people of Florence call it Il Porcellino – Little Pig – due to the wild boar fountain located at the market). It is believed if you rub the snout of the boar you will return to Florence. We would return later to the market to shop and visit the statue.We went to the Ponte Vecchio – the bridge over the Arno river. We saw the Uffizi gallery again and also saw the locks of love – locks that have been placed by lovers declaring their love for one another and symbolizing the unbreakable bonds of their love. They must write their names on the lock and are supposed to throw the key in the river immediately after locking the lock. Tabitha and Josh placed their own lock at the locks of love area.
We saw many other famous spots on our walk through the city and then said ciao to Simone and went to a leather factory to see a leather-making demonstration. Thomas was our presenter and he was “very cute” according to Hannah. He was sweet and thought he wasn’t good at speaking English, but I thought he did great. the leather was beautiful, but it was also VERY expensive – so we chose not to shop there.
From the leather factory we all basically went our separate ways. Our group of seven started out all together, but when it came to eating lunch, we ended up being in two different groups and Tara and I decided to do a little shopping. We were near the “pig” market, so we began there. I had wanted a scarf (surprise, surprise) but I could not haggle well, so I decided to skip that for the moment. I found some gifts for family members and myself at the market and we stopped to snap a few pictures of the wild boar fountain.
The day before I had wanted to get some small paintings. I hadn’t really seen one that I liked at the price I wanted to pay. However, in the morning, Tara had found a lovely artist who I wanted to go back to visit. We went back and found more paintings we wanted. She was the best and even made one for Tara that she had requested.
We did some more shopping before grabbing a panini at a bar near the market and then heading for the Duomo. the panini we bought was also the traditional Italian panini. It was tomato, mozzarella and lettuce – the colors of the Italian flag. We anted to see the inside of the Duomo, so we got in line – which we thought might take awhile, to finish our lunch. We, we ended up shoving our food in because the line went fast. Once inside we were somewhat surprised to find that it was not as elaborate as many of the other churches we had been in – which was probably why it was okay for us to take pictures in there. Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful, but without all the frescoes we had seen before. We also went down to the gift show, and they had some cute souvenirs – including an umbrella that looked like the Duomo – well, I had missed the TINY sign that said “No Pictures” so the man yelled at me to erase the photo I took of the umbrella…so I did…
…I have more to write about our day in Florence…so feel free to stop reading if you are bored!
After visiting the Duomo, we walked around outside some more and then waited for our group. While we were waiting there were gypsies everywhere (I took a picture of them in Rome, so I may post a pic later). We sat on the steps of the Duomo to wait and something fell on us…they were tiny pieces of blue glass and could have come off of the facade of the Duomo because there were areas that were covered with blue glass. Of course they could have been a diversion created by the gypsies for us to let down our guard – but I will choose to believe the first.
When the rest of our group arrived, we headed to the Academia. I was surprised to find it in a very plain building – something I would not really notice if I saw it. Inside this plain facade is one of the great masterpieces, Michelangelo’s David. Around the city of Florence there are several David statues. One stands at the Piazzale Michelangelo in bronze. One replica stands in the town center, outside the town hall where the original stood. Then there is the original in the Academia. Even though I had seen the David multiple times, nothing is quite like seeing him for real – in Michelangelo’s original marble. Of course, there were no pictures allowed, so I will have to try to describe him.
The first thing you notice is that it is a very imposing figure, which is somewhat ironic because this is David before he takes on Goliath. Secondly, you notice the look on his face…not one of victory (as he has not yet fought) but one of worry and tension. This statue is one of the first times any artist depicted David, not as a victor, but as someone who was preparing to fight.
The detail in every part of the statue is amazing. Veins in his arms, his ear, even his fingers and hare are all so intricate. You forget you are looking at a marble statue. Another thing to notice is his hands are not proportioned. They are MUCH larger than they should be. Annamaria told us later that this is because he had great things to accomplish…much depended on what his hands would do.
Another part that seemed out of proportion…and yes…I am going there…was his…you know. Because Josh is an art major, we asked him about this. Well, it seems that back in those days statues and paintings served several purposes…one being propaganda. At that time, when people got married they were almost always virgins, meaning they had never seen a real man naked…only statues. Because the statues aren’t as well endowed as the traditional man, the woman would think her man was especially large. I found that really interesting and it really opened my eyes to the propaganda of the time.
We spent some more time at the Academia and then had more free time in Florence. We actually had a lot of free time there. We did more shopping at the market, purchased some gelato, did some people watching – where we witnessed the police chasing after a street “vendor” and a little boy come up and shove his older brother (a…sibling rivalry is universal). We did a little more shopping and made our way back to the Duomo where we caught up with everyone else.
From there we headed a short distance to our restaurant for dinner. At this restaurant we had the normal pasta course, followed by a meat course and dessert. For the pasta course we had farfalle pasta (which means butterfly in Italian, but what we call bow-tie pasta) with pesto. I am not normally a huge pesto fan, but that could be because I’ve never had it prepared the proper way before. It was AMAZING! I honestly wanted to lick the plate when I had finished eating. At dinner Annamaria told us that in Italy if you clean your plate with your bread when you are done, it is a very high compliment. Well, kudos to the chef that night! Following the pesto we had meat and potatoes, basically like a roast prepared in the crock pot.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel in Montecatini and I called home. Then we shared some wine and snacks in the hotel dining room with Jose-Luis, Rosaria and Giovanni. We had a fabulous time sharing our stories and cultures. It really might be worth it to study a language again – something I might actually use! It was a long, but fun day and I’m ready for more.