Friday, April 3, 2015

Day Thirteen -- The Going Home Part

Thursday, April 2

It appears that I've recovered from Daylight Savings and was back to being wide awake at 6 a.m.  Ah well, we had nothing really to do except get home today.  After another good breakfast (the person who makes the cappuccino would draw a smilie face in cocoa powder on the foam, you have to love that) we had three hours to kill anyway before we had to leave for the airport.  So I'd kept a trip up to Piazzale Michelangelolo in my back pocket and today it seemed like a good thing to do to say goodbye to Florence.

It is no easy feat to find a taxi in Florence and it's an even more challenging feat to climb up to Pizzale Michelangelolo after the two weeks of walking and hiking that we've done.  It's not allowed to flag a taxi down on the street, and taxi stands are few and far between.  After stumbling around a bit trying to find one, I finally found a stand at Piazza Republica.  The driver got us up to the Piazzale in about 10 minutes.  This piazza overlooks Florence so that you can see the immense beauty of the dome along with the Palazzo Vecchio and its tower and the Ponte Vecchio.  All in all a perfect view of the city and a beautiful morning for it.

Getting back wasn't quite so easy.  We waited at the taxi stand up there and none showed or slowed as they passed.  I used my iPhone and rang the taxi company but no taxis were available.  So we did what we know best and walked down.  At least it was all downhill and not terribly warm.  Conveniently we had to cross the Ponte Vecchio one more time to get back to our hotel.   I hadn't stopped thinking about one more bracelet I'd seen last night when DS was buying her necklace.  It was a combination of white, yellow, rose and black gold and I was fixated on it.  Remembering that my mother would say "you'd be silly if you didn't, I did."  It's now part of my jewelry collection.

We picked our luggage up at the hotel and they called a cab for us.  It took about a half hour to get to the airport.  Florence's airport is actually smaller than Rejkyavic, if that is at all possible.  Our first order of business though was to hand in our VAT refund forms.  First they had to be stamped by Customs and then we handed them in to the Tax Back desk.  What was hilarious though was taking out all the items purchased that we were claiming tax back on (22%, which is significant).  The way it works is we charged our items on credit card, and the shop deducts the 22% from what we pay.  If we don't submit the VAT forms, that 22% will end up back on our credit cards at some point down the road.  Having it taken off on the spot is an attractive sales approach.  Giving us a discount for shopping with them multiple times in our 5 days there is an even better one.  For the record, I have three bracelets (THREE???), two rings and a pendant.  All are in classic Florentine style and with combinations of gold that I cannot find at home.  I don't regret the investment, but it was more than I expected to buy.  I just didn't want to get home and regret any of it.

Our timing was fortuitous in that a group of Asian students showed up at the customs desk just as we were finished.  I would not have wanted to be behind them!!

A quick couple of slices of pizza before our flight and we were off to Zurich for the flight home.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day Twelve -- Florence

Wednesday, April 1

I'll admit it now but last night I felt like hell.  I hit the wall in a big way in Siena and I wasn't sure I'd bounce back.  But three bottles of spring water, 2 Nuun tablets and an Emergen-C along with 9 hours of sleep does wonders.  I think we are both still somewhat sore and muscularly tired from all the walking, but good thing we only had to motor through today.

We both slept well and were up around 8:00.  After another good breakfast (I went for whole wheat toast rather than croissants) we were off around 9:30.  This was the day we did everything we hadn't yet in Florence, and miraculously, we did.

Off first to the Bargello Museum which has Italy's finest sculpture collection.  I'd been here before but since it's laden with Michelangelos I was more than eager to return.  Here they had Michelangelo's Bacchus, a Madonna and child, Brutus and another David.  The Madonna and child was absolutely beautiful, and he showed that he was well ahead of his time with the three dimensional tondo that reached even beyond the edges of the frame.  If that were not enough, upstairs there were three MORE Davids:  Verrochio's (Leonardo da Vinci's teacher), and two by Donatello.  So now we've seen a whole lot of Renaissance artists' take on David.  Donatello's most famous one is just so effeminate, it's hard to believe he got away with it at that time.  Hell, in parts of our country he wouldn't have gotten away with that now!  We have both found ourselves struck by Giambologna on this trip, with one gorgeous one in the loggia at Piazza della Signoria, one in the Accademia and now quite a few in the Bargello.  All it takes is a little exposure to make an impression, I guess.

Next up we took a walk to the Oltrarno to visit the Brancacci Chapel.  I'd been here before as well but thought it was important for DS to see.  Masaccio was known for his realism and that he got to paint an entire chapel (with some help from Fillipino Lippi) is pretty significant, more so that he was only in his 20s at the time.  I just like to see art in churches, and almost all of the art we've seen so far has been in currently active churches.  I can't imagine what it must be like to sit there every week for a sermon and see Bernini or Masaccio or Michelangelo looking out over you.  The frescoes in this chapel told the story of the life of Peter.  It is interesting to see how frescoes, just like stained glass, could tell the bible stories for the illiterate in those days.

Not far from here is the Pitti Palace, where the Medici lived after the Pitti were driven out. It is similar to Versailles in that it was a royal palace, but different in that it's pretty plain and non-descript on the outside, but quite elaborate on the inside.  What is striking is that the interior is just stacked chock a block with paintings by notable artists at almost every turn.  There were no names left off the list, everyone from Raphael to our Vanni, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Atremisia Ghentileschi and many, many more.  We were both quite taken by many of them and it was sort of neat to see how they were hung when they were the personal collection of the inhabitants.

Behind the Pitti Palace is the Boboli Garden, which DS wanted to see badly as it features to heavily in many other artists' works.  Despite yet another gorgeous, warm spring day, I think she was somewhat disappointed.  It was nice to be out and about and there is a nice view of the city from up there.  It is also really good to see grass, flowers in bloom and trees blooming, after the winter we've had especially.

On the way to lunch we made yet another pass over the Ponte Vecchio where we both made another gold purchase.  I have a feeling I'll be opening boxes I've forgotten I've bought when I get home...

Lunch was bruschetta and pappa al pomodoro at a cafe in Piazza della Signoria, right on the main square of the city.  It was light enough that I didn't think it would ruin dinner as we were eating so late.  To cap it off though we did have a bowl of strawberries soaking in vodka with lemon gelato on top.  What a jolt to the system, until it was time for a nap!!

I had never toured the Palazzo Vecchio (town hall) in my many times here so I had that on the list for this trip. I was particularly interested to see the Great Hall as I'd just read a few books on Michelangelo and Leonardo and wanted to see where they had allegedly had a showdown between them as the two best painters of their time.   As excited when I became when I read that, I was just as deflated when I learned that Vasari painted over them.  Sigh.  Nevertheless there was a never before seen (to me) Michelangelo in there that was worth the price of admission.  We also toured the rest of the apartments in the building and came across a Botticelli or two as well as some great views over the city.

Our last stop was a hop back into the present, well, sort of. We'd both read of this multimedia presentation being done on Van Gogh here in Florence.  In essence, a few dozen projectors are set up in an unused church space and many of Van Gogh's works are projected on the walls, floor and ceiling to classical music. It's captioned with Van Gogh's own words from letters he wrote.  It was actually really well done and a cool use of space.

We popped back to the hotel so I could check us in for our flights tomorrow and we took a breather for an hour before we headed out again.

I had made reservations earlier in the day for La Giostra, the same restaurant we ate at our first night here in Florence.  The thought being that we didn't' want to be disappointed with our last meal.  Suffice to say we weren't.  We had the same antipasti and main course as last time and we added the fried artichoke hearts which were stellar.  I did not have dessert here but we did have a decanter of Limoncello on our table for longer than should be allowed, I think.

We headed back to the hotel, stopping at Vivoli for gelato on the way.  I had strawberry, lemon and cherry and it was a perfect ending to a perfect couple of weeks.

I got us back to Piazza della Signoria for some night photography and we came back to the hotel to pack and get ready to head home.  I can't believe we're at this point.  As much as I don't want it to end, I miss my cats and my own bed, in that order, and I don't think I could eat any more pasta or pizza if I tried.