Mellowing in Italy - Florence, Monday 2007 May 21


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Europe » Italy » Tuscany » Florence
May 21st 2007
Published: September 4th 2018
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Our morning was a “Renaissance Walk”, guided by Chris who, since he isn’t licensed for Florence, was accompanied by the silent Sylvanna. We used the “whisper technology” to save Chris’s voice, that is, head-set microphone and individual listening devices. This technology is far superior in every way. Everyone can hear and wandering around a bit to take pictures doesn’t risk losing the tour commentary.

Our first stop was at an old, terribly pruned olive tree a couple of streets from our hotel. It has some new growth on it, which was the point. It is a memorial to many people who were killed or injured in explosions by the Sicilian Mafia about ten years ago. The sign points out the hardiness of the olive and of justice and memory. Around the corner was the Uffizzi Gallery, which we will visit soon.

It’s startling how compact Florence is. Down the street is the Piazza del Duomo. We learned about the various statues - mostly replicas for preservation reasons. We saw the plaque about Savanarola’s bonfires. The first occurred in 1497; all vanities such as cosmetics, artworks, books and anything that might tempt one to sin were burned in public display. Even some master painters
OrsanmicheleOrsanmicheleOrsanmichele

A most graceful building
threw their own works onto the fire.

A short distance from the Piazza, we saw the thirteenth century Orsanmichele church. The building was originally a granary, but because of all the rats, a second floor was added (looks like two more by counting the windows). The first floor became a church. To keep the merchants from traipsing through the church, a bridge was built to the wool traders' building next door (like a Plus 15). Orsanmichele's exterior is fascinating because of niches, statues and bas-relief dedicated to and sponsored by various guilds. In one shallow niche was an early Donatello bronze statue of St. George ; he was allowed to use this inferior spot only because of his youth.

We walked to the Piazza della Repubblica and “Il Porcellino ” at the Straw Market. The large bronze statue of a muscular pig has become a good-luck charm, thus its oft-rubbed nose is highly polished. The market itself sells a few straw hats and bags and lots of souvenirs. Continuing our walk, we passed the department-store-with-the-good-bathrooms, seemingly a landmark for all travellers.

This brought us back to the Piazza del Duomo. The exterior of the towering Il Duomo is made of green and white
Il PorcellinoIl PorcellinoIl Porcellino

Of course we had good luck - we were in Florence after all!
marble; later, in the museum, we learned that the façade was not actually begun until the later part of the 19th century. Only the building and the Dome are Renaissance.

The story of the Florentine dome gradually became clearer to me – Brunelleschi turned his mind and pride to designing and building the dome on the great cathedral of Florence after losing the design competition for the doors of the Baptistery. In the museum they had examples of tools from the period, mainly a lot of pulleys. According to the text, the builders had to invent ways of lifting bricks so high and invent how to sustain the closure of the top of the dome (or reinvent, since the Romans already had done it). Chris told us that they had a kitchen in the dome to avoid lost time from workers travelling down for meals.

After the museum we were free for the rest of the day. Three of us wanted to go to the market and have lunch. Two markets are side by side. The San Lorenzo market is full of fine leather goods, sending wafts of that rich tanned-leather smell out beyond its pillars. The Mercato Centrale faces
Il Duomo, Santa Maria del FioreIl Duomo, Santa Maria del FioreIl Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore

The dome is Brunelleschi's magnificent achievement of art and engineering.
on a square with half a dozen restaurants. We took one step into the Mercato Centrale building (a huge steel and glass building with lots of red trim and redolent with the aroma of cheese) and all agreed that lunch was necessary before being able to do the market justice. We ate at Za Za’s, recommended by Rick Steeves – not great but reasonable. I had Fettuccini Bolognese, and we shared a bottle of water – 10 Euros for my share.

Fortified, we returned to the market to enjoy the sights and aromas of deli-meats (salami), prosciutto, and cheese, including a whole parmesan about 2 feet in diameter and a foot thick. Olive oil and wine were sold in the same shops, and there were many shops. One shop was devoted to dried, sweetened fruit of every kind. We tasted the fruits later, and they still had their original flavours, including mango, kiwi, oranges, raspberries, strawberries, etc. For our evening drinks party I bought some spiced olives (managed to convey “Can I taste?” in one word, “Gusto?”) and a bottle of white wine. Although you could pay more, many bottles were about 2.5 Euros – finally the cheap wines of Italy!
Mercato CentraleMercato CentraleMercato Centrale

Oh, the heady scent of cheese!
About 2:00 the market was closing down, just as we had peeked upstairs, where most of the fresh fruits and vegetables were.

Outside again, we dallied in the San Lorenzo market, Jane very attracted to a small leather purse and a canvas bag for carrying her packages. About this time Carol and I had had enough, so we steered her out of the market, which she noticed!

I spent the rest of the afternoon on the bed writing travel notes, before our self-catered party at 5:00. We had a great variety of red wines and many snacks. Of course, the snacks ruined our appetite, so the five single women (as it happened) went for a pizza in the restaurant down the block. This was Italian pizza, which doesn’t necessarily have cheese. I had “Marinara” which was thin-crust with tomato sauce and thin garlic slices. The crust was particularly flavourful – nutty and textured. (7.50 Euros)


Additional photos below
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Orsanmichele and the Wool GuildOrsanmichele and the Wool Guild
Orsanmichele and the Wool Guild

Donatello's early statue of St George
Guild niche in OrsanmicheleGuild niche in Orsanmichele
Guild niche in Orsanmichele

Sponsorship is not new.
The Fountain of Neptune  1565The Fountain of Neptune  1565
The Fountain of Neptune 1565

Palazzo Vecchio, place of awe
Straw MarketStraw Market
Straw Market

Also known as Mercato Nuovo (New Market) since 1551


5th September 2018

New market
Hahaha. A "new market" dating from 1551. And another day dense with new impressions/experiences. Wonderful. Did Jane ever go back for the leather purse or canvas bag?
9th September 2018

New Market
Not sure if Jane bought, but I did buy a beautifully soft, dark red leather bag.
6th September 2018

Lovely Florence
A beautiful and amazing city. The churches, architecture and people are wonderful. Thanks for taking us along.
9th September 2018

Lovely Florence
Thanks for coming on my journey. Wonderful for me to revisit.

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