Yesterday we went to the Uffizi gallery. On the way we passed this really cool building and I took pictures. I have no idea what it was but it had a beautiful facade with lovely stonework and some statues and such. The gallery itself is on the Piazza della Signoria, where the Palazzo Vecchio is (they're pretty much next door to each other, across a street) and we were early so we went over to one side where they have a raised and covered area, open on two sides, full of statues. Took more pictures, although there was just a central directory plaque with a sort of a map on it saying what was what, in Italian, so most of the statues I don't have names for. They're cool anyway. :) The statue of David (well, a copy anyway) is across the way in front of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio; I got pics of that as well.
The gallery was really wonderful but if you ever go, definitely get reservations. It costs a bit extra but it's worth it. They only let 600 people in at a time, sort of like a club where some people have to leave before new people are let in. This is great while you're there but the lines are long and move irregularly. The reservation line is much shorter. You have to go through a metal detector but it's not set ultra-sensitive. Large bags have to be checked, but I was able to bring my tote bag in and I've always considered it largish, so I don't know what their lower limit is. Be aware of the possibility, though, if you have a really huge bag or a backpack or something. Also, the Uffizi allows no photography at all inside.
Once you're in, it starts out with four stories of stairs -- you go to the top and work your way down. And no, it's not an option. [wry smile] Jim and I did the top floor and my feet were hurting well before we were done there, even after taking advantage of the many benches spotted around. This place is huge and the floors are marble so it's hard on your feet. If you've ever ended up with aching feet, this place'll do it. Be warned. :P
Despite that, though, it's a really wonderful place. The building is U-shaped and around the inside of the U is a wide, bright corridor lined with statues from Roman to Renaissance times. Some are labelled and some aren't, and most of the labels are in Latin. That is, some of the statues have the name of the person carved in somewhere at the base -- most of the statues didn't have a museum label next to them. Some areas had a large diagram showing which one where was what, but I didn't feel like running back and forth. And some things weren't labelled at all. Oh, this one statue of a Roman lady reclining on a couch had a label that looked modern, like the museum had put it there, but the statue was a good three meters away behind a rope and the bit with the label on it was in shadow, so.... [facepalm] Anyway, it was a nice piece. :)
Up high on the walls of the corridor near the ceiling on each side is a row of smallish paintings of various rulers from different times and places. Again, no modern labels, although many of the portraits had the name of the person (in Latin) painted right on in reasonably large letters. Sometimes it helped and sometimes not. [squint] Jim and I were wondering how many of the portraits were contemporary with the subject and how many were just painted from a description, or even just to have something there that they could label with Joe, Duke of Wherever, you know? Because the styles were very similar -- there were clearly a number of different artists involved but they all looked like they came from the same time and place, although I'm pretty sure that at least some of the portraits were of people who were fairly widely separated in time, and certainly in space.
Most of the ceilings throughout the gallery were painted with grotesques, a busy scene done in a rather spindly style (I'm sure there's an official term but I don't know what it is) of odd and often ugly people and animals and people who are half animals and designs and whatnot. It's always good for looking at while sitting down to rest your feet, once you've had your fill of whatever statues and paintings are within easy eyeshot. :)
Around the outside of the U is a series of galleries where most of the paintings are. The upper floor was mostly Renaissance artists and there was some really gorgeous stuff there. Mostly there are doors leading from one to the next without having to go out to the corridor, but not always. If we go back I'm definitely going to study a map of the place and see if there's a very efficient way of getting through, but from what I saw you pretty much have to do some backtracking.
Also on the top floor is a little bar with some food and soft drinks and a lot of wine and beer. They have tables outside on a patio but table service costs significantly more for the same items, and some items are only available through table service. The difference was, for example, between E1.50 and E3.50 for a soft drink, so we just got drinks at the counter. What I didn't know at the time was that if you buy at the counter for counter prices, you have to drink/eat right there. If I'd known I'd have to chug my drink while standing up I'd have urged Jim to sit at a table and hang the prices, because my feet were screaming by the time we got there. The tables only take up about a third of the patio and there are benches around the other area, which is open; I thought we could get our drinks and then sit on a bench. Apparently not. :( On the bright side, though, I got something called a Limonata, a kind of lemon soda that totally blows away anything similar I've ever had in the US. Sprite, 7-Up? Forget it. This is LEMON and it stops just barely this side of too tart. It's more lightly carbonated, too, which was good. I'd love to be able to get these at home.
There's a really beautiful view of the Duomo, the top of the dome and the campanile, from the Uffizi patio and Jim got some pictures of them. Looking up from street level, I'd never realized it before but there were people up there! You can climb up into the dome, although it's a very strenuous climb, and then there's a little observation platform around the lantern right at the top. [boggle] I'll bet the view is glorious from up there. But you can see the people in Jim's pictures, all tiny and jubilant. :) Probably panting, too, but I couldn't tell in the still shots. ;)
We went down to the next floor and it was mostly later works, 18th century give or take, so we spent less time there. And the floor below that was mostly empty; that's one of the hazards of going in the off season, that the major attractions do rennovations and such then. The bookstore is huge, and is actually a series of shops. They have tacky little tourist stuff if you want it -- mouse pads and key chains and playing cards and such, but they have books and books and books and books, and if I had about ten grand I'd have been ecstatic. :D One room is all serious art books, like for artists and art scholars (there are more popular books of art in other areas) and another room is all children's stuff, including a children's illustrated adaptation of Dante's Inferno that had me cracking up. :D And one room had a couple of cases near the cashiers full of reproduction Italian Renn jewelry that had my mouth watering; if I were still active in the SCA I'd have spent a bundle there.
After that, we went home. There were a few other things around the Piazza we'd thought to take pictures of after we were done with the Uffizi, but my feet hurt so much that amputation was starting to look like an attractived option. :/ We went straight home, just stopping at the little sandwich shop next to our hotel. I stayed long enough to read labels for Jim and tell him what I wanted and pick a drink, then I went on back so I could get off my feet. He came up a bit later with the food and we ate and I collapsed and was dead for about ten hours, which is really unusual for me. I'm not used to walking around that much, though, and time spent just standing is actually more difficult than walking; I know it's sort of pathetic but it's reality and I deal.
Oh, and because I had a request :) more lame food descriptions, LOL! Our hotel provides breakfast if you're down on time and it's a very nice continental breakfast; much nicer than any "continental breakfast" I've ever had in North America. There are croissants (some plain with powdered sugar and a glaze and some with the sugar and glaze and filled with something like Bavarian cream, yummy!) and plain rolls and prosciutto and regular ham. Hard boiled eggs, several kinds of cereal and milk, orange juice and grapefruit juice and a really bright orange-colored juice that tasted like a sort of apricot-mango-papaya thing, something like that. I don't know what was in it but it was very good. A bunch of different kinds of yogurt, including pear yogurt -- excellent stuff! I love pear and I've never seen pear yogurt in the US, which is weird if you think about it. Biscotti and Nutella :D apparently meant to go together since they were in the same serving thingy, but I'm not fond of biscotti so I put my Nutella on croissants. Also a selection of jams and jellies to go with whatever kind of rolls you got, although I either had a filled croissant alone or a plain one with Nutella. The hostess brought whatever kind of coffee or tea you wanted, and Jim and I've been getting cappuccinos. The breakfast room is long an narrow but has the most wonderfully formed and painted ceiling I've ever seen outside a museum or gallery; I keep reminding myself to take a camera down there. The whole hotel is really lovely, in a way you only get in a really old building where people've been collecting furnishings and decorations, and decorating the structure itself, for a very long time.
We haven't been back to Zaza's yet, although we'll probably get dinner there tonight. We've been eating mainly panini from the little shops in the neighborhood. They're incredibly good and very cheap. It's funny -- there's a bit of a panini craze in the States right now and you can pay a lot of money for a panini press to make your own. But it's really not the pressing that does it. I can't imagine a basic "French" or wheat roll filled with standard meats and cheeses from an American deli tasting anything like what I've been eating for the last few days. You have to start with the really good breads -- some are sort of foccacia-like, flattish to start with and with dimples on the outside, some are sort of whole-wheatish but rustic without being hard or dry, and they're all excellent -- and use really flavorful fillings like prosciutto (the good stuff, not the American kind) and coarse-grind salami and a really tender but thick slice of breaded chicken breast (sort of like a breaded cutlet, but who in the US would bread and fry a cutlet [doing it themselves, not letting a factory robot do it] just to put it into a sandwich?) or thick chunks of ham melted into thick cheese so the whole thing forms a solid mass about half an inch thick and very tender and flavorful.... Some have lettuce, one or two very thin leaves, not a huge mass that falls apart when you take a bite like you get back home, which seems to be added more to give the illusion of bulk for your money rather than for flavor or texture.
Also on the way to the gallery we passed this one gelato place that had huge mounds of the stuff in the window, and each flavor had big... samples? of whatever flavoring had been used pressed into the top so you could see what it was. I don't know that the insertions helped the flavor any, but they looked luscious, LOL! For example, there was a cantaloupe flavor that had large wedges of cantaloupe pressed into the top so they formed a sort of curving radial pattern, separated enough that the gelato showed through but with an overwhelming impression of melon. The coconut flavor had big chunks of coconut, shell-side up, pressed into it. Same with strawberries, etc. Most of the chunks added wouldn't have been practical to put into a cup, much less a cone, so they must've been just for decoration, but I'll admit it was effective. :D Definitely have to go back there when my feet have re-attached. :)
Pics later, if anyone can help me. [puppy eyes]