Florence part 2
Nov 6, 2007
|Well, our time in this fantastic city is almost up and we are very sad. We have had some really interesting experiences here and have adopted a relaxing holiday routine. Spending 6 nights and 5 full days in Venice was perfect. Our daily routine of getting up around 10ish, walking around sightseeing until about 2-3, then having a relaxing lunch, followed by a walk back to the hotel for a siesta has given us a chance to enjoy this city, without getting overwhelmed by its spectacles and interesting history. The night routine then follows:finding some outstanding restaurants near the historical markets, then heading for our icecream fix at THE BEST icecream shop in the world.
Most important things first:
This icecream has blown away all other forms of dessert we have ever tried (could be a slight exxaggeration, but it definitely feels like this when you eat it). The icecream actually tastes real:the passionfruit has the tart, bite that a passionfruit actually has, rather than a sweet fix. The lemon, strawberry and rasberry also actually taste like the fruit (they have seeds, small bits of pulp within the actual icecream). Finally, the chocolate icecream tastes more like a cup of solid cocoa, rather than sugar. As you can probably tell, we have often frequented this establishment to sample the different flavours (to be completely honest, we have been there 5 nights out of 6. We only missed the 6th night because it was closed on a monday). If you ever come to Florence, first and foremost come to this location: it is on a sidestreet leading off from the historical markets, near some good italian restaurants. It is tucked into the corner of the square and there is a fish restaurant next door. We will put up photos soon. All other icecream is now incomparable!
Our next greatest find in Florence is the restaurant, Mamma Toscana, which is off another sidestreet of the historical markets. We have eaten there twice and it has been exceptional both times. There is about 50 people jammed onto 14 tables (that are separated to cater for different sized groups) in a tiny brick-arched roof building. The food highlights were the ribollita (a tuscan soup made from beans, vegetable and bread-more like a porridge than a soup, but tasted so good), a warm seafood salad, a sirloin steak, cooked perfectly with rucola and parmesan, excellent pizza...I will stop now, I think you get the picture, it was very good.
Apart from our culinary highlights, believe it or not, we have seen some sights in Florence that also make the list of great experiences in this city. On Monday, we headed to the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Maria. This church (and 'house') was built with a very different style to those we saw in Venice. The interior was modest, with each wall having only one major painting depicting different religious occasions. The floor was marble and the ceiling had a very simple patterning. The marvel of this place seemed to really be from the outside. The marble, stone and brick work on the external walls of this building are exquisite. It really is the major building icon of this city and it has been preserved in very good condition.
On Tuesday, thanks to the reservations that the 'receptionist' at our hotel had made for us, we were able to see the Uffizi and the Accademia, without having to line up in the ridiculously long queues. We were shocked that this is how busy Florence was in the low season (the high season would be an absolute nightmare!)
First was the Uffizi: the grandeur of this building is amazing. Each room of the gallery comes of a u-shaped corridor, which is a spectacle in itself. Each 5square metre of the corridor has a different painting on the ceiling, that either depicts a major religious event, or a major event in the history of Florence. Along the side walls of the corridor are portraits of important people/families in florences history, along with many sculptures that line the walls. As for the actual rooms of the gallery, we found that by the end, all the paintings were a blurring of major religious events. There were about 50-100 different artistic portrayals of Jesus on the Cross, and about the same number of images of Madonna and Child. To be completely honest, there were few paintings in this gallery that we were able to connect with. Neither of us were big fans of the painting styles of the periods on display and our sparce religious knowledge meant that many paintings lost their meaning. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed browsing through the rooms and seeing the works of Leonardo, Michelangello and Botticelli...along with so many other Italian artists that I have forgotten the names of. One room that we found really interesting, was an exhibition of black and white photographs depicting how Florence was affected by World War 2. The major focus was on how pieces of art were protected from attacks by bombs. Most of the paintings were smuggled to safer areas, but for many of the sculptures, the Florentines actually bricked around each piece, then covered the brick with sandbags for protection. It was interesting to see the efforts they went to, and how lucky we are that they did. In 1945, the Germans bombed sections of Florence for 'strategic reasons'. Most of the bridges were destroyed, apart from the Ponte Vecchio, which further highlights its importance to the history of Florence.
After getting a bite to eat, we headed to the Accademia to see the much awaited Statue of David,and he definitely didn't disappoint. After heading into a room lined with sculptures produced by Michelangelo in the early years of his career, we were hit by the foreboding figure of David. I think his position in this gallery further emphasises his prestige and grandiose figure. It was interesting to see how quickly Michelangelo's skills in sculpting developed. His early sculptures were quite rough, and often key elements of the body or facial features were rushed through or did not display his fine skills. Also, in the second Pieta (which is situated closest to David), which Michelangelo did at the end of his career for himself also showed signs of disinterest on the part of the sculptor. David, definitely is an amazing work of art though-the size of his thighs and the definition of the muscles and veins in his limbs was remarkable. There was also a cool digital machine in the gallery which allowed you to view the statue from all different angles (some which are impossible to see from standing on the ground). One thing we found pretty funny in this part of the museum was the tour guides descriptions of some of the events surrouding this statue:
When describing the man who tried to hack off David's left foot in 1990:
'A maniac of a man came to the museum and leapt at David with a hammer and bashed off half of his foot. That's why they have metal detectors now, to stop fiends like him re-entering the building. And to think, he was only sentenced to 2 years in jail, now there's a crime'. It seemed like the tour guide would have preferred a life sentence for such a crime!
That was pretty much our museum and gallery day and I won't bore you with any more details.
Overall, this city has been very cruisy, but also interesting to walk around. People are friendly, the Italians are entertaining and this place will definitely need another visit. We are off to Sienna next for three days, before Rome.