Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Italy Part III: Florence

Hillary and I woke in our lovely hostel in Florence early since we had reserved tickets to visit the Galleria Accademia - home to the world famous sculpture by Michelangelo, "The David". I had read that the lines to get tickets to enter the museum could take up to 4-6 hours, since the museum has become more of a shrine than a tourist attraction, I didn't feel like taking any chances.

It was lovely to be one of the first persons allowed into the museum which held an impressive array of renaissance sculpture and paintings (I will keep my descriptions to a minimum as I am far from being an art expert!) I had read that people just gasped when they first saw David, and I was sceptical. But at over 9 feet of manly perfection, he did not disappoint. There were all kinds of digital computerised programs set up to show the stages of sculpting the artist would have gone through, as well as the sculpture's perfect proportions from a multitude of angles. He really was astounding- the intricacy of the work, the detail in every muscle, every contour left you with no other conclusion than Michelangelo was a rare genius. To be honest, after seeing David, the other sculptures kind of paled into insignificance.


After a few hours of art, Hillary and I wandered back towards the Duomo and got in line to walk the 461 steps up to the top of the basilica. It was really hot, and I put something around my shoulders and added the "pants" part to my shorts rather begrudgingly. Up we headed through the narrow and winding staircase which finally opened out onto an internal platform that circled the uppermost part of the painted ceiling of the cathedral. The painting was striking and depicted various tormented humans in hell, and those luckier few ascending to heaven. How on earth the work was done or completed is staggering to ponder.

Further on up more stairs led to a circular rooftop from which we could look over the entire city. We waned in the heat, but soaked up the views of the red roofed buildings, winding streets and the Tuscan hills in the background.


It was time for another Italian meal, and we both chose a different pasta dish and shared. I ordered a coke with my lunch, and was shocked to find that a 250ml bottle cost around $6!! The price of enjoying this place! (something that really bugs me about Europe- water is not provided in restaurants at no charge.)


We headed back to the hostel, but not before stopping for a bottle of wine in a grocery store. At the hostel, we booked a bicycle tour of Tuscany for the next day (very exciting) and found train times to Venice in the evening....all the while drinking our wine and getting lovely and sloshed. We had tickets for our next heavy hitting museum, the Uffizi at 4;30pm and we figured it might be more fun if we were a little inebriated.


And we were right. The Uffizi is enormous and overwhelming (though no way nearly as bad as the Louvre) and I did really enjoy the Bottecelli's (especially The Birth of Venus) as well as some rather bloody and grotesque works by Caravaggio. After finally finding our way out of the museum (one can only ascend and descend floors in certain sections!) we headed south across the river to the Piazza Santo Spirito for dinner, as I'd heard that this was the best place to hear live music in the city!


The piazza did not disappoint. It was packed with people, and bustled with a vibrant life that you can only find in Europe (I think, but I'm prejudiced!) We found a fabulous Trattoria and shared a gigantic steaming plate of Tagliatelle with fresh Seafood and wine. Delicioso. We then settled down by the fountain to listen to an incredible blues band who were playing some original and some classic standards like "Autumn Leaves" and "Caravan". I was in my element and soaked it all in with my glass of wine in hand.


An hour or so later, the band ended rather abruptly and a large crowd of people began to form at the north end of the piazza. It turned out to be a Catholic religious "Madonna" festival procession, and contained THOUSANDS of people singing and parading past us holding candles. We were so lucky to get a chance to witness this as the atmosphere was nothing short of electric.

Check out the video I've uploaded here...

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