Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day Nine -- Florence

Sunday, March 29

Europe springing forward meant that the night was ridiculously short.  The alarm went off at 6 (5:00 to our body clocks) and we were up and out and heading toward the Uffizi by 7:45.

I can't say that this was the most comfortable sleep I've ever had.  The bed was very bouncy, more narrow than I remember a twin being and rolled around as I moved, so I awoke about three feet away from the wall.  Oh well, we're only here two nights.  Breakfast was ok, it had pretty standard offerings, except no eggs at all, not even the hard boiled type, so we were without protein in any sort to start the day.  But motor on we did.

Both of us are suffering pretty severely from calf cramping.  I'm taking a prescription anti inflammatory prescribed for me for other things and using a topical formula we got at a pharmacy here.  DS is also doping up on what the pharmacist gave her, to little or no effect in either case.  It's not crippling but does make us think twice every time we go near stairs, as that's when it's worse.  We know this is from the hiking Friday and I'm hoping it's better by Tuesday when we head to Siena.  Additionally, it's probably a good thing we are breaking from the group after tonight because they are starting to fall prey to colds left and right.  What I don't want is that to fly home with, so fingers crossed we can dodge it.

The day dawned bright and sunny although in the low 40s with wind.  By late afternoon it was close to 70, so I'm glad I suffered with just my windbreaker early on.

Anyway, off we went at what felt like the crack of dawn to the Uffizi, which is the granddaddy of Italian painting galleries, particularly the Renaissance artists.  Our group met up with a an American tour guide who took us through the Uffizi highlights.  Cynthia was a great presenter and I learned a lot from her.   We saw the Botticellis, Raphaels, Titians, the one Michelangelo tondo and a handful of other significant woks she thought important.  After a quick second breakfast in which we took in some much needed protein (tuna and buffalo mozzarella panini), we went off on our own to seek out the four Carravaggios they have here and then looked at the foreign artists, including Rembrandt (3 self portraits and one of Luke?) an El Greco, a few Goyas (including one that was just in the Boston MFA show) and two Metsus.  Also on our we took in the exhibition on Gerritt Von Honthurst, a Dutch painter known for how he portrayed darkness in a Carravaggist style.  I enjoyed this a lot as it seemed to me like we'd not been exposed to him much at home.  There was also another Carravaggio in this exhibit.  Unexpected bonus.

One of the pretty neat things in the von Honthurst exhibit was a very large painting of his that was owned by the Uffizi but in 1993 it was heavily damaged in a Mafia car bombing which rendered it unrecoverable.  This exhibition did a nice job of using projections over the damaged canvas to recreate what it looked like, highlighting the characters in it, and bringing it back to life even if just in facsimile.  It was a nice testament to the work.

We had a quick but overpriced gelato at the head of the Ponte Vecchio overlooking the Arno in the warm bright sunshine.  To think, at about the same time on this Sunday morning at home, I'd be brushing another 1-3 inches of snow off my car and heading to the gym.

Thus began the gold shopping in earnest.  We covered the first half of the Ponte Vecchio, with me falling victim to a bracelet and two rings and DS finding two rings she liked that they'll size on the spot for her.  We made sure to buy classic Florentine pieces that we'd never find at home so as to make a wise investment.  We took a much needed break for lunch at Open View Golden Bar, which has a nice view of the Ponte Vecchio from the Oltrarno side.  We shared a crostini misto plate and a buffalo mozzarella pizza with a ricotta-stuffed crust and a bottle of rose wine.  We could not resist the dessert of a mascarpone-stuffed calzone smothered in dark chocolate.  Yeah, that was pretty deadly.  I got a complimentary limoncello there too, which is always a nice touch.

Recharged a bit to carry on through the rest of the afternoon, we window shopped the other half of the Ponte Vecchio -- I think our work there is still not done -- and then walked to Santa Croce church, but not without at least four stops to seriously consider still more bags in leather shops that happened across our path.

Santa Croce is a nice church, with a facade somewhat similar to the Duomo, but its main draw is the graves of famous Italians, like Michelangelo, Donatello, Dante, Rossini and Macchiavelli.  It was sort of sad to see Michelangelo's tomb now and how not up to snuff the sculptures on it are; Vasari did the best he could, I'm sure but it just wasn't up to caliber of the man inside the tomb.

We made a quick stop at the Hard Rock Cafe for the usual collectors' items.  The HRC is new here since the last time I was here.  It's funny how so much has changed yet so much has stayed the same over time.  Then we crashed for a bit before dinner.

Our final group dinner was at a restaurant owned by the folks who own this restaurant. Like the non-Carlo meals on this tour, it was pretty standard.  We started with ribollita soup which was actually pretty good.  We then had ziti in tomato sauce and gnocchi alfredo.  We both agreed that we'd had better gnocchi on our own, for sure.  The main course was roasted potatoes, roast beef (which the chef came out to flambee and carve) and salad.  That was all pretty mediocre.  Dessert however was looking up.  It was a dessert cart with all sorts of offerings, but the one that caught my eye was a tiramisu with strawberry and orange rather than coffee.  That was really delicious.

Dinner ended pretty abruptly when the first person decided to leave.  We made it back to our room and started to pack when we heard voices of the family we like who came here to say goodbye.  We did have a nice time with them, and I'm glad I went out to say bye to them.  They said "you two were the funnest part of the trip"...oh my!

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