“But Italy worked some marvel in her. It gave her light, and – which he held more precious – it gave her shadow. Soon he detected in her a wonderful reticence. She was like a woman of Leonardo da Vinci’s, whom we love not so much for herself as for the things that she will not tell us. The things are assuredly not of this life; no woman of Leonardo’s could have anything so vulgar as a ‘story.’ She did develop most wonderfully day by day.”
– E.M. Forster, British novelist, essayist, and short story writer, from A Room with a View
We had our work cut out for us on our first full day in Firenze! We ended up purchasing a Firenze card, which gives you access to many museums in the city, gets you to the front of lines or at least to a shorter line as many people got those cards, and offered discounts for kids (European kids get in free) stateside. We tried to hit all the major museums on this visit because we wanted the kids to see the major works of art in Firenze. Maybe next visit we can hit the smaller museums and sites, as well as things such as the mosaic and leather schools that our friend Lori recommended to us.
Our hotel, the Hotel Giglio, by the way, is close to Piazza de San Marco and the Accademia, which makes most points of interest within walking distance. That said, Mike wears a Fitbit, and we’ve logged some serious daily miles on this trip (the Coliseum/Forum, Pompeii/Vesuvius/Herculaneum, and today ranked as the days in which we’ve walked the most). The first stop was Santa Croce Church, a 14th-century Franciscan church that holds the tombs of the great Florentines, or as David says, the who’s who of Italian Renaissance. A statue of a stern-looking Dante stands before the 19th century Victorian Gothic façade. Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, Rossini, Galileo, and other notables are buried in this church.
Right outside Santa Croce Church is a huge square typically filled with vendors in an open-air market type of atmosphere. This time, however, huge steel bleachers were set up for this famous match played on June 24th, which is Florence’s celebration of the festivity of San Giovanni Battista, the city’s patron saint. Our friend Lori, who spent a semester in Florence a couple of years back, told us that we could watch the Calcio in Costume final match, a Medieval style of football played in traditional costume. It’s apparently a violent sport to watch. Today, by the way, is June 23rd, so a day before the festivities. A description of the event conjured up scenes of rowdy crowds, so we decided we’d visit museums on the 24th instead.
The Bargello was our next step. It’s a small enough museum but dense with many statues. David and I had visited here before, but the building is pretty and I really enjoyed the statues. Once we walked through the Bargello, we settled for lunch and then headed over to the Arno and leisurely stroll over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, which David told the kids was spared by the Nazis during the occupation of Italy because they thought the bridge was beautiful.
Once on the other side, we went to the Pitti Palace (however, we didn’t have time to go through it) and walked around Boboli Gardens. I was so looking forward to going to the coffee house and ordering tartufo, which David and I deemed had the best tartufo among all the places we visited 18 years ago. Alas, the coffee house still exists, though we had trouble finding it, but they no longer serve beverages and dolci. This disappointment did not dampen our trip, however, because of the spectacular view from the top of the gardens. On one side you see the green hills and villas scattered across the countryside. On the other, the view of the city dwellings and, of course, the Duomo. As I mentioned, we didn’t get a chance to even blitz through the Pitti Palace, but we found time to stop at Pitti Mosaic, across the palace, where we bought a tiny mosaic of the Duomo on our last visit. There were some absolutely spectacular intricate mosaics, including a Tuscany villa scene and the Duomo, all for a mere 15,000 and 80,000 Euros, respectively. Sigh.
We were scheduled to meet with Isabella’s friend Sophia and her parents, Charles and Lori (she who spent a semester here a couple of years ago), at the Piazza della Signoria, another area that I could spent hours simply gazing at the statues and taking in the Florentine experience. We finally met up after a case of mixed-up locations, and what a nice reunion it was for two friends who happened to be visiting Firenze at the same time.
We walked to their favorite gelato place where they treated us to gelato. While we caught up in a nearby park, Lori told us about a French graffiti artist named Clet who lives in Firenze and cleverly alters street signs in the city. Thus began a game of locating his artwork. We found some but not as many as in a link that Lori sent us after our visit. But it was a fun thing to do and something your average tourist would know anything about. If you plan a visit to Firenze, see how many different ones you can find:
After our visit, we wandered around, trying to find a good place for a Florentine meal. We settled on Caffe Italian Osteria, which had a Medieval vibe to it and very good food, which was only a few doors down from where we had a hearty lunch.
On our way home, we walked through the Piazza della Signoria and enjoyed the statues lit up at night:
Here are some other photos from our second day in Firenze:
Another full day. Tired feet and tired kids mean another round of sound sleep and dreams of what’s next in Firenze.