There is only one person out there who knows what that title means, and he knows who he is. It will have to remain a mystery for everyone else because the reference was a rather funny moment. So here we are in Florence. Firenze. City of the masters and the great Medici family who were gracious enough to sponsor the likes of Michelangelo, Bruneschelli, Bellini, Caravaggio, Donatello, and many others who are simply plastered all over this city. In fact, if it were not for the richness with which the historical Renaissance period left its mark on this city, I'm not sure if it would have grown to the size it is today. Sure, it is definitely overtouristed, but man is it great in November! We literally walked right in the door at both the Academia (Where Michelangelo's superb "David" is housed) and also the magnificent Uffizi Gallery which houses a number of great renaissance works. It is also gracefully sunny with just a bit of a nip in the air - what could be more perfect than that?
I know what is more perfect - the food! Tuscany is heaven for food as everyone knows, and every night we've been gathering goodies from he local merchants along with a 4 dollar bottle of Chianti or Brunello or whatever, and having little feasts. It's great! We did try two restaurants while here though - both of them little holes in the wall (One stereotypically named "Mario's"), no menu, authentic Italian type places. The seats were always packed with locals and you had to share your table with someone you couldn't understand but it was great. As with all the food here, it is simple but fantastic. A true focus on the simple flavours that come straight out of the ground. I wasn't able to get my head around steak Florentine however - it looks almost like a whole side of beef! What we are trying a lot of is gelato. All kinds. All of it better than anything you've ever tasted in North America. One place claims that it makes only fresh gelato every day. Can you imagine fresh ice cream daily? Man, that's good!
The other thing that is just great about Florence is wandering around the streets aimlessly and looking at all the fantastic buildings. Along the river, there is the old "Ponto Vecchio", the only one to survive the wars, and just beyond there is a great view only a 20 minute hike from the river Arno. The viewpoint, which has at it's centre the inevitable copy of "David", this time in bronze, shamelessly contains a gelato shop right at the top of the stairs in order to provide the necessary medication after the hike up the stairs. Now that's marketing. The view is classic. You can almost see yourself standing over the city 500 years ago. It still looks very similar to all of the paintings you see. Perhaps most stunning is the size of Bruneschelli's dome on the Duomo, which dominates the sky line. The builders of the Duomo were so bold that they began on the church even though the dome technology was not known at the time, trusting that someone would come along and be able to do the job. Pretty gutsy - that wouldn't happen today. But it certainly was a time of rebel painters and engineers. Look at DaVinci for instance. And of course, Michelangelo hung around these parts quite a bit.
Looking at David (the real one, as there are a few copies around town) is visually stunning. You sense that the moment that Michelangelo has captured is instantly before David is about to take his sling off his shoulder and load it with the stone he's carrying in that gargantuan hand of his. As you walk around the statue, you can't help but marvel at the skill with which Michelangelo has been able to capture the human form. You swear that you can even see the tendons connecting the muscles to the bone. And as you move, it looks like he moves. It looks like he's breathing really. It's just one of those art experiences that you never forget. Almost as stunning are his unfinished "prisoners" which are also in the Academia Gallery. These are statues in various stages of completion emerging from the roughly hewn stone. I read somewhere that Michelangelo used to say that "...the statues have always been there, I am just removing the extraneous material around them..." What a great quote. Masterful.
The other thing that crosses your mind as you see these great works is the fact that these dudes were really rock stars. I mean, the music of the time doesn't seem to be the big deal - it's the art. And these guys were going around doing naked men and women in a time that was just coming out of the iconoclastic religious period surrounding the dark ages. It would have been cool to have been them. Can you imagine the competition? Michelangelo. Raphael. Donatello. Bellini. Botticelli. DaVinci was definitely the nerd - hacking up bodies for anatomy, and playing geometric games al the time. This list goes on and on. I wonder how much a ticket for a show to se their work cost back then. Whatever the case, these were the guys that first defined "cool". I'm convinced of that.
That's the thing about Italy. There is just so much. So much culture. So much architecture. So much food. So much history. There is never a dull moment, and if there is, a gang of Vespas comes around the corner and nearly runs you over. That's Italy. We love it. We were talking the other day about where in the world we could live other than Vancouver and how that question is such a tall order because Vancouver has so much in our humble opinions, and so far, our list is not very long. I guess we are spoiled. Today, I could probably substitute a number of places in New Zealand, Koh Samui in Thailand, Torquay in Australia, The hills of Tuscany, and I suspect somewhere in Provence in France. We shall see about that one.
OK, I'll tell you because I know you're not really paying attention to the rest of my stories. Last time I was here in Florence, Owen and I decided to climb the tower just outside the Duomo for the view of the city. Well, once at the top, we were surveying everything around us and there down below, amongst the throngs, were two women duking it out. This lasted for a while, and it seemed as though passers by thought the whole thing was normal, but from up above it looked pretty funny how everyone had to work around them as they were right out in the open. I think there were even a couple of slaps, and then one of them walked away in a huff. Having paid to climb the tower, we thought this was a great little add on bonus to the view, and dubbed the entire experience the "Lesbian Breakup at the Duomo"
Sometimes we are complete idiots.