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Published: August 28th 2018
Now I’m in Florence in my shared hotel room. Sue seems to be a nice person. I arrived about 2:30 just before the tour meeting started at 3:00.
This morning in Assisi I walked down to the City bus with an Australian couple who were also staying at St Anthony's Guest House
(different form the first Australian couple when I arrived). They are making their way around many places in Italy but are not taking tours. They like to be early for things, so we chatted for nearly an hour at the train station in Santa Maria degli Angeli. Nearby were two Japanese women, one who was sketching in a small book with Japanese ink. Jim and Ann began chatting a little with them while I went in search of the toilet. When the train arrived, Jim and Ann went off to their first class car, while the Japanese women got on the second class car. I sat nearby in the realized hopes of getting to know them a bit.
They had been in Italy before and were on their way to Arezzo
, where a guide would take them for three days on an Agriturismo
farm. They were looking forward to a
change of pace. The woman who spoke English had been in Calgary to take the Banff-Jasper tour to Vancouver. After a little hiatus in our conversation, she came to sit beside me to show me a package of tiny books. They had actually been made by her friend, and as with all Japanese crafts, they were exquisite. Folding out from covers about 1-1/2” square was an accordion of pages, each with a different cutting from a page that had been much bigger. Fortunately, as she chatted, I managed to find a couple of Calgary pins – right where I was about to safely stow the tiny book. She and her friend were very pleased with the exchange. Then she showed me her photos on her camera, because she was so excited by having flown over Siberia and the Swiss Alps in the daylight. The photos of Siberia were amazing – deeply cut ravines in deep snow banks glittering in the sun.
When in the conversation I mentioned that I had studied Italian for this trip, she called her friend over. Her friend spoke about the same amount of Italian as I did, so we scraped through some friendly conversation.
Impromptu performance on the train
The English speaker is quite good at a basic level.
About then a teen (Gypsy) boy came into the car playing an accordion. Usually I am not generous, but I thought the poor kid should at least earn his fare on a Sunday, so I gave him a Euro. As did the Japanese, so he played for us, and we took pictures. Just after that came Arezzo and they all departed.
Arriving in Florence, I memorized the map and route to the hotel, which only sort of helped. My sense of direction has deserted me in Florence, so I had to walk with the (folded) map in hand. The walk took a good twenty minutes but was just as described.
The Torre de Guelfo hotel
is on the top floors of a tower building – reception on the fourth with rooms on 1-3. This is awkward for returning the key, an important issue when sharing with a stranger. Our group is about 25, all Americans except me. Chris, our guide is an American who has lived a lot of places in Europe and who considers Florence one of his homes.
We started off right by going to see the original David in the Galleria dell'Accademia
. Oddly, or maybe intentionally, the David can be seen from the street through the partly frosted doors of the museum. Perhaps this is an attempt to provide both free access and responsible preservation.
All original art works exude emotional magic. The statue is displayed in a cupola–like room, which has a “parade” of unfinished pieces by Michelangelo leading to the beautifully lit masterpiece. The unfinished pieces show clearly how Michelangelo considered that his statues were fighting to be free of the stone. This contrast of the rough, grey-brown straining, unfinished mythological creatures and the white, gleaming languid David is the epitome of museum displays. I found the best approach was to look at some of the interesting but much inferior pieces in the museum and then to look again at the David, renewing my sense of wonder, catching several perspectives. Distance enhanced the proportions, as meant by the sculptor.
Dinner was a group affair in a restaurant where Rick Steves, his groups and our guide were well known. Some time after our arrival the owner came to greet us and then again came to say goodbye. Chris said the wine was provided by the owner. The menu was good: penne in tomato sauce and gnocchi in meat sauce (very good gnocchi), sliced steak (way too much) with arugula and roasted rosemary potatoes, and a choice of cakes or fruit from the trolley. I had a small piece of chocolate hazelnut cake with a few strawberries – stuffed!
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