Florence is the birth place of romance, the home of Dante, the seat of Medici power. It’s a beautiful town with narrow medieval street and broad squares housing decorative basilicas. It also the home to some early-blooming plant that left me constantly sneezing for the last three days in the country. Being someone with very pale, sensitive skin, an allergy attack leaves my entire nose red and peeley. Attractive. Other than the perils of being sick while travelling, I found it very enjoyable. It was easier to navigate than Rome. There were fewer towering religious monuments and fountains and more small, secular decorations. By one of the outdoor markets there is a bronze boar. Like the tradition of throwing coins in the Trevi Fontain, you are supposed to rub his nose/face to ensure you will return to Florence again.
The markets in town were, on the whole, very nice. Of course there are some depressing shops selling t-shirts and hats for tourists splayed with “Italy” and “Florence,” or for the more discerning souvenir buyer, “Firenze” (the Italian name for Florence). The region is known for its leather, so with some care taken with your shopping, you can purchase some very nice leather at a decent price. I indulged in a new journal wrapped in turquoise stained leather and stamped with a fleur de lis, a symbol of Florence.
Curiously enough, the reproduction models of Michelangelo’s David (which I saw at the Accademia in Florence– a stunning presence that cannot be captured by photos), and Botticelli’s Venus (seen at the Uffizi one afternoon), are often “improved.” Especially Venus. In Botticelli’s painting she has sloping shoulders and a rather boyish figure. Our local guide, Florinda tells us it is believed Botticelli had to use an adolescent male as model for the painting and simply added the breasts on from imagination. Many reproductions on sale for the tourists attempt to make her more feminine. Better posture in her shoulders, a more feminine hip-to-waist ratio.
The Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the Medici family and Florentine power was a major highlight of the trip. We were able to take a special tour to some of the private rooms through hidden doors and narrow private passages. Truly amazing. Our guide was an architect, so he took us to his favorite part of the building: the ceiling. Above the gilded paintings are a delicate collection of beams and structures that have held the building up for hundreds of years.
Outside the Palazzo (in the photo above) there is an impressive collection of statues. Some of the originals have been removed for preservation, but the copies are very good. It is worth walking through the pavilion to admire– especially on a rainy afternoon like we had. The David was originally located outside the Palazzo, his determined gaze fixed south toward the Goliath that was Rome. Now a decent copy stands in his place, but I highly recommend seeing the real one at the Accademia. Standing before him was one of the most sublime moments I had in Italy. I could have stared at his hands alone for an hour.
I’ll post later about our day’s excursion into the Tuscan countryside as well.