AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,

[Wave] From Florence!

Travel and First Day Wandering

Hi, all. We're here and alive, although somewhat the worse for wear. From leaving home in Long Beach to getting to our hotel in Florence, we were travelling for about nineteen hours and I'm definitely not looking forward to doing it in reverse on the 20th. I'm both unusually tall and unusually fat, so airline seats fail to fit me in two dimensions, yay. I'll give Lufthansa props for having great in-flight service, though; we got two meals, both of which were quite good, and they came around every hour or two with drinks. Even on the one hour hop from Munich to Florence they served a light meal -- a cheese sandwich (which is nothing like most Americans think of when they hear "cheese sandwich") and a candy bar and a drink.

We got to The City hotel and just dropped, absolutely exhausted, and slept late this morning, missing breakfast. (Hotels here tend to include breakfast in the cost of your room.) Our room is very nice, a decent size and with interesting furniture, not at all like the stuff in American chain hotels that looks like it was all ordered out of the same factory catalog. There's free in-room wireless, although you need a password and we didn't get that until we came back in a bit ago, which is why I wasn't online last night; I probably would've at least for a bit, but the thought of going downstairs to get the password didn't appeal at all. [groan] My feet are ready to go home right now so I'm sort of indulging them. :)

We went out today and just walked around the neighborhood. The hotel is right in the middle of everything, near a street market with a lot of great merchandise. There's a lot of leather here, both in shops and for sale in the market stalls -- jackets and coats and bags and shoes and whatever all else. Also a lot of clothing, with some really gorgeous outerwear. I saw some beautiful knitted shawls and wraps and ponchos. There are also a lot of accessory type items, jewelry and hair thingies and scarves and such. Plus the usual tourist stuff, shirts that say Florence or Firenze or whatever -- I saw a T-shirt stall with a shirt that had Bill the Cat in his really strung-out pose that usually says "Ack!" or something like that, but this one said, "Ciao, baby!" LOL!

Speaking of clothes, though, it was in the high sixties or maybe even seventy, so I went out in shorts and a shirt -- not a T-shirt, but not too fancy -- and sandals. Walking around, I noticed that not only was almost everyone else wearing jeans or trousers, with a very few women in skirts, but that most people had some sort of coat or jacket on -- leather jackets, down jackets, heavy sweaters, multiple layers, as though they were ready for a blizzard! I was seriously the only person in the city wearing shorts. [bemused smile] It was definitely shorts weather, though, and if I'd worn a jacket or even a sweater over my shirt I'd have been sweating something awful. I don't usually think of myself as having a particularly high-set internal thermostat, but everyone else in town seemed to be a lot chillier than I was. Jim was wearing long pants and a regular shirt, no jacket or anything, and he was fine too. No clue what the story is there.

The desk guy at our hotel recommended a little place called Zaza's for lunch, so we went there. Or rather, we walked around lost for like half an hour and then finally found it accidentally, LOL! It's sort of out of the way, past the market and at the end of this triangular area with the back ends of a lot of shops, and delivery trucks and some parking. I just happened to see the sign in the distance after I'd given up on seeing it and was just looking for some place to eat. It's a little local place -- I didn't hear anyone else in there speaking anything but Italian while we were there -- long and narrow, and we were seated right across from this display counter where the servers made up the salads and desserts and that was interesting to watch. Jim had a pasta dish with roast boar sauce, and I had a divided dish with three different Tuscan soups. I have no idea what they were but they were really good, especially this one with barley in it. The other two had cabbage, I think, which I usually don't like but I enjoyed them here, and were thickened with breadcrumbs, which sounds weird but tastes good. One had spinach and the other had tomato, and the barley one had something that turned it orange but I'm not sure what. I know, I'm an awful food writer. :P It was yummy, though.

There was a lot of good stuff on the menu and we'll probably go back, even though it's not terribly cheap. They have polenta, which I haven't had in a while, and salads with prosciutto -- and here in Italy I imagine it's all the good stuff, not the cheap stuff you usually see in the US. When they make the salad they start with a big dish of lettuces, then cut a thick slice of cheese off a big wedge and cut it up into strips to add, then they get a couple of big slices of prosciutto off of a hunk on a deli slicer and put them on top, then they grind pepper over the whole thing. There's also a cheese platter with three or four kinds of cheese -- again, cut right off the wedge or round, like at a deli -- with a cracker stuck into one and a couple of strawberries off to one side, and pepper ground over the whole thing. And someone got a piece of chocolate something -- it was sort of low like a cheesecake, but a lot darker than any chocolate cheesecake I've ever seen -- that went onto a dish dusted with powdered sugar, then she put a couple of strawberries next to it and drew a bunch of chocolate squiggles with a squeeze bottle. Yummy! Oh, and a funny thing I had to have misunderstood -- I watched her put together the weirdest plate. :P A regular flat dish with a clear glass dessert bowl full of ice cubes on it, and a spoon. [blinkblink] I must've missed something, seriously. I mean, who orders a bowl of ice and a spoon?? No clue. It was fun watching them do things, though, and just looking around at all the furniture and decorations and such. We finished up with cups of cappuccino that were really good -- very strong coffee and more of a chocolate taste than cappuccino has in the US.

We walked over to the Duomo (the big cathedral with Brunelleschi's dome) but didn't go inside. The lines were really long (and this is still sort of the off season -- we're very glad we didn't come in the summer) so we might go tomorrow. Also, for going into the cathedral I'll wear my long skirt, and I brought a light woven shawl to put over my head. Jim and I are both atheists but we have no problem showing respect in various houses of worship. We've been in a lot of churches and such in Latin America and around the Caribbean, and when we go in Jim takes off his hat and I put one on. We went into this one synogogue and Jim grabbed a skullcap from the bin. It's just polite, you know? Some people just charge around and have no problem tramping all over a church and taking pictures even while services are going on -- I can't imagine doing that. :/

Anyway, so we didn't go into the Duomo today, but we walked around it and looked at the facade and the Campanile (the bell tower Giotto designed) and the baptistry. Halfway around we ran across the Duomo museum and spent most of the afternoon in there because it rocked, seriously. They've taken a lot of the original statues and carvings and such out of the Duomo and replaced them with replicas, and the originals (or a lot of them anyway) are on display in the museum. And most of them are Right There in front of your face, especially the stone carvings, without even glass over them. Awesome. :D Statues and some arches and a bunch of relief carvings, one sarcophagus, a bunch of medallion-type things in various shapes, and a couple of huge cantorie -- sort of a choir balcony for singers which were wonderfully carved and didn't match each other at all. One was by della Robia and the other was by Donatello and it looked like they were trying to show each other up. :) There were some gorgeous mosaics, including two that were so finely done they had a magnifier set up in front of one so you could tell -- without the mangnification they looked like paintings. (These were behind glass, BTW.) It was incredible, tiny little squares the size of grains of sand, and small grains at that. I can't imagine how they made them.

There were some liturgical garments that were awesome -- they were behind glass too, since textiles are incredibly fragile, but I think they were gold trame, which I've never seen in person before. It's a kind of embroidery where you lay down gold threads -- actually tiny gold braid -- horizontaly and then couch over them (each thread/braid individually) in very fine colored silk. You set the couching stitches closer together where you want the color to be more bright and saturated and farther apart where you want more of the gold to show through, to make shading effects. Then just because you're a major masochist if you're doing this technique in the first place :P when you're done with that you lay down more fine gold braid to outline areas and add detail. Areas of skin -- hands, faces, arms, bare chests, etc. -- were left without the gold and just embroidered in silk, but things like clothing and tents and the ground and plants and such were all done in gold and silk. There were some areas where the silk had worn off and left just the horizontal gold threads sort of sagging without any support, which is a shame but at the same time it helps show how the piece was done. It was incredible to see close up.

They've got the panels from Ghiberti's baptistry doors (in glass cases with an inert atmosphere to protect them) on display in the museum, and seeing them up close is incredible. I've seen photos before, but you just don't get a true sense of the detail and the relief, the perspective, from a photograph. Every leaf on the trees, the guy-lines on the tents, everything is there in bronze. Gorgeous work.

There was a lot more and I could go on for pages about the museum and I might post some pics later if anything turned out well enough, but I'll just say that if you're ever in Florence, go to the Duomo museum and spend the afternoon.

After that we headed back to the hotel. Jim might go out for dinner later but I'm here to stay. [wry smile] My stomach might want to go out but my feet want to stay in and right now my feet win any argument, LOL!
Tags: personal, travel

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