Saturday, 27 February 2016

Florence, day three: There's Melodrama in Them Weaves (the Legacy of Cosimodough)

Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia)
October 2015
Our third Firenzical day began with a wounded bus. We had attempted to catch it into the centre, but determined it to be out of action once we saw that the driver was not in their seat, but rather walking around and around the bus looking at the tyres (they were all still there). Luckily another bus appeared quickly and we were able to enact our original plan. Having our Firenze cards, we rocked up to the duomo hoping to be able to enter the 'fast line', only to find out that because the duomo is free to enter, we would have to wait in the longest line ever. We decided to take a rain check on that and climb the not free duomo dome. For all duomo-related sights, we first were required to visit the ticket office, show our Firenze cards, and be given separate tickets. Trust Italian bureaucracy to provide you with supplementary documents you don't really need. In the ticket office, it turned out that the 'fast line' was actually slower than the non-Firenze card line because a troubled lady had engaged the cashier in a drawn out and heated discussion. With everyone's tempers rising at the stalled lines, the cashier finally started to write out what looked to be a cheque. Or perhaps it was an epic poem. It took a long time. The seasons changed, the earth spun, and eventually the document was written. Both the cashier and the lady seemed pleased. Perhaps world peace had been solved in the interim. 
The duomo line was still unfathomable when our eyes saw the light of the sun once more, yet the line for the duomo dome was quite small for Firenze friends. Though we waited in no line to get inside the dome, we were plagued by frequent traffic jams on the steep climb to the top. Often we stalled in narrow spiral stairways, where other tourists helpfully discussed claustrophobia and attacked each other with umbrellas.

Once we eventually emerged into the large expanse below us, we felt a little less cramped - only a little because we were stuck on a thin pathway around the edge of the dome with a smudged plexiglass wall separating us from a very long fall. Unfortunately this was the only good angle I could get from that vantage point - when pointing the camera upwards to the inner dome the plexiglass reflected the light badly. What we saw were beautifully painted scenes depicting heaven and hell, and all that goes between. 
Following the procession along, we breathed fresh air again as we traversed the outside of the dome. The views out over the city were breathtaking. Our relief was short lived as we were marched down a narrow ledge and oppressed by sunlight, sweat and selfies until everyone was finished taking photos. What we hadn't expected was that the exit was the same as the entrance, so all the people in front of us had to squeeze themselves past in order to leave. Clever planning! Most were polite and muttered apologies as one does when finding your seat to be in the middle of a crowded cinema. It was quite ridiculous.
Like the ascent, it took a considerable time to make it back to the level of mortals once more. Quickly refuelling on Grom, we entered the battistero of the duomo.
The dome here was even better than in the duomo itself! Gleaming saints peered down on us as we spotted a small old well in the corner. Aha! The baptismal font, where Dante was allegedly dunked as an infant. I was starstruck to be in the same room as it. 
The next stop on our whirlwind Firenze card tour was the Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele. Originally a grain market, the building was converted into a church in the 1300's and now also contains a museum (open only one day a week) to house the wonderful sculptures that depict the patron saints of the city's guilds. 
Now the exterior is graced only with replicas, while the originals are on display inside. Some held books in a concerned manner (the Children Who Can't Read Good guild), while others discussed matters of much seriousness (the Children Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too guild).

After a cappuccino break, we carried on to the Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall, which overlooks the Piazza della Signora). Its name translates to "old palace", which is a bit of an understatement as it was opened in the year 1299. Fun fact: that was quite a long time ago. Its many rooms were filled with detailed frescoes and intricate floor mosaics. 
A special exhibition was on display showing a series of tapestries that depicted the many adventures of Joseph in the Bibble. Cosimo I de Medici commissioned the series specifically for that very room, and the palace had borrowed the tapestries from various museums and collections in order to exhibit them as a whole once again. We particularly enjoyed a scene in which Joseph is solicited by his boss' wife and when he rejects her, she accuses him of trying to seduce her. He has to run away. It's so typically soap opera, but I guess the trope had to start somewhere! It was for these tapestries that Cosimo I began Florence's tapestry workshop, which continued for hundreds of years with great success. 
A climb to the top of the boxy Torre d'Arnolfo afforded us the second spectacular view of the day. Thanks for building so many tall things, old Florentines! From there you could look down into the piazza below and we spied on some horseback police officers. I also found a trapdoor and tried to open it out of excitement! It was locked.
Running out of time in the day, our last visit was to the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi which was the main residence of the Medicis until 1540.

Like many palaces, we walked through a magnificent inner courtyard where a policewoman was busily adjusting her helmet. 
Through to the garden, we were captivated by this statue. A much more modern creation than the classical statues littering the area, this piece resonated with liveliness while also highlighting the shift in ideal body shapes through the ages.
Upstairs we wandered through grand rooms where important historical conversations had been held. We quickly discovered that the palazzo was not simply a museum, but was also host to some kind of political conference - in one room there were chairs and a TV showing a live stream of some boring looking official proceedings where an Italian lady barked loud Italian things into a microphone. People who looked like politicians and reporters milled around and the volume was much too high. Police and guards also stood around signifying that there might have been important Italians in the vicinity. 
Before heading off, we strolled around the completely empty Galleria di Luca Giordano, which was absolutely stunning (though opaque chairs may have been a better choice). 
After Yannick's selfie in the warped mirror, we dined at Pizza Man. Though the cherry tomatoes and bufala were applied after the pizza was removed from the oven, and therefore uncooked, the experience was wonderful (and helped by the half litre of house wine).
Got peaches, went home.

Today's post was almost called: Give it Up For Dante's Dunk Bucket