Another Bite at Florence


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June 23rd 2011
Published: July 23rd 2011
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Hugo has discovered the pleasures of an i-pod. This morning on the drive to Florence he sang along to the Beatles, Eric Clapton and his random favourite: "Summer of 69". We were determined to be early today, as we had seen the queue to the Duomo snaking around the block on Tuesday and weren't keen for that experience.

We set an alarm (!), got up and flew out the door, with the intention of stopping for pastries, juice and coffee in Asciano town on our way. I am always a little shocked to see men sitting at tables outside the cafes, drinking wine, at all times of the day. I must say I imagine their wives at home, juggling cooking, washing and children while the men sit relaxing. Anyway, apparently wine with breakfast isn't all that unusual here, as there they were again at 7am this morning. Either my Italian is getting better or the lady behind the counter is great at interpreting gestures, because I managed to duck in and out with breakfast while Frank left the engine running, and we were off!

We parked in our usual spot under the market and picked up some fruit from the vendors, (who were just setting up), to keep us going later. The coffee and pastries in Asciano seemed long ago as we walked past a little pasticceria full of people grabbing breakfast on their way to work. We picked up another little snack before walking on to the Duomo.

The line at the Duomo wasn't too bad at all, so we were soon on the climb of 463 stairs up to the top, keen to get a view all over Florence and to look at the beautiful painted dome. Steps, steps and more steps. If I had to summarise Italy in one word, I think it would be 'steps'! Before long the perspiration was literally rolling down our backs, because the day was, once again, boiling hot. The staircase was only just wide enough for a person, and it wound up the dome in a narrow spiral. We stopped occasionally to peer through tiny portholes and the odd window before the staircase opened out into a circular balcony right in the dome. I'm sure lots of people pause here for no other reason than to take a breather, but the ceiling really is magnificent. Our stair climbing wasn't over, however, as we needed to keep going up to get outside on the top of the dome. It was fun to find landmarks that we had visited on Tuesday, once we finally got up. The children had also been completing a "Treasure Hunt in Florence" book that I found online, and one of their jobs for that was to count the number of towers they could see - not such an easy job as there are heaps! It wasn't a place to sit and contemplate, however - it was hot and there were more and more people pouring out of the tiny staircase.

Our next stop was the Accademia to see the statue of David. Once again, we bypassed the line and were able to walk straight in with our Uffizi cards. He stands under a fabulous glass ceiling and is much, much bigger than I expected. Hugo was very impressed. We couldn't take photos, but heard later in the day that Genevieve had innocently snapped a beauty before a guard intervened! The false David, which is not far from the Uffizi, is far less impressive. There was also a great exhibition of artist's plaster casts used for sculptures, and a video of how a cast was made.

We moved on past the Baptistry with it's golden doors, and many beautiful statues, to lunch. Once again we were grateful for air-conditioning and a chance to sit and savour the view - this time with friends!

The afternoon was spent at the Pitti Palace. Every room had a magnificent ceiling, and we learned about a paint technique called 'grise' (?sp - I know nothing about art!) which makes white patterns or figures 'pop' out of the wall as though they are made of plaster. We found out about it while we were arguing about whether the frieze around one of the ceilings was 2-D or 3-D. A security guard (who must also be an art major, because she knew so much about it) helped us out, and explained that the clever use of grey paint creates the 3-D effect. It really was amazing.

Isabel and I fell in love with a big table which, we discovered, was made entirely of semi-precious stones. Each little nuance of colour in each tiny gardenia or bird's feather, was made by a different type of stone - cut by hand
Table made of semi-precious stonesTable made of semi-precious stonesTable made of semi-precious stones

Each tiny shade difference in each flower was a different semi-precious stone
to fit and then ground and polished into the flat table surface. There was lapis lazuli, jade, and all sorts of other stones. Imagine living with that in your house! We really loved the Pitti Palace. Hugo, not so much. For the first time on our trip, he complained of being tired and bored, so Frank took him out into the Boboli Gardens to kick a ball and read for a while, and I got to .......... shop! It's amazing how quickly an hour disappears when you don't know your way around though, so I didn't buy anything at all - just enjoyed wandering the laneways on my own before it was time to meet up again.

Plans of re-visiting the Uffizi disappeared as the afternoon got hotter and hotter, and we all began to wear out. The walk back to the car seemed pretty long, and we had endured one major melt-down and had very grumpy children by the time we got there. Good decision to head back to Asciano.





Additional photos below
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Re-charge snackRe-charge snack
Re-charge snack

Note the green crystal bracelet - prized purchase.
Fragola!Fragola!
Fragola!

The Italian word for strawberry just rolls off the tongue! We're having fun saying it.
The False DavidThe False David
The False David

Nowhere near as impressive as the real thing!
Courtyard of the Uffizi GalleryCourtyard of the Uffizi Gallery
Courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery

We cut across here to get to the restaurant for lunch, and to have one last look.
It looks like plaster, doesn't it?It looks like plaster, doesn't it?
It looks like plaster, doesn't it?

See what I mean about the detail on the edge of the ceiling?


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