We got there just as a bunch of schoolkids were heading up and we were both looking at each other and thinking, Great. :P But once we got inside we never saw them again. I don't know if they went to some special exhibit or what but they just sort of vanished. We got our tickets and headed up. Unlike the Uffizi and the Pitti, they don't chase you clear to the roof evento start, yay! so we headed up to look around. No pictures are allowed, unfortunately -- they want you to buy their DVD. I prefer books for this sort of thing, but when we finished and went back down to the shop (which was basically the other end of the counter where you buy tickets, plus one display case) it turned out the museum books are only in Italian -- for English you buy the DVD. [headdesk] OK, so we bought the DVD, although I haven't looked at it yet.
But anyway, no pictures, although I found their web site and they have some good stuff there so you get some links to pics there.
Also very few labels in English. It's sort of ironic that at the art museums, most of the labels (when there are labels, which there aren't always) have an English blurb under the Italian, even though you don't really need a description to enjoy a piece of art. It helps, of course; I like knowing who did the piece and what it's supposed to be, but I can still enjoy looking without knowing that. But here, when you're faced with shelves and cases and rooms full of historic scientific instruments, a great many of which are completely incomprehensible without some sort of explanation, there were only a very few in my language. [wry smile] Definitely need to learn more Italian before we go back.
There was some really cool stuff, though. They a number of items going back to Galileo, including a telescope lens, rolling-ball thingies he used to experiment with gravity and falling bodies, and his embalmed middle finger which cracked me up -- I said it was so he could perpetually flip off the Church, and a guy standing nearby laughed and said he'd thought the same thing. :D
Everyone's seen a sextant -- all the historical movies with sailing ships show them being used at least once -- but there were quadrants and octants here too, which I'd never heard of. There was a case of telescopes, including a couple that belonged to Galileo. There were several cases of mathematical instruments, in case you had to take your geekage on the road, I guess. ;) Seriously, though, most of them were what we'd consider tools for geometry or surveying, so it makes sense that they'd need to be hauled around.
There were astrolabes and sun-dials and night-dials; the latter uses the date, the north star and the constellation Cassiopeia to tell the time, according to a thing I found on Google. They had a bunch of armillary spheres, including one that took up most of the center of a room and was a good two meters across; these are astronomical models of the solar system (or the universe, if they're old enough) sort of like globes but more wire-frame. There were also several orreries, which are another kind of solar system model; there was a seriously huge one in the movie The Dark Crystal, at Augra's place, if that rings a bell for anyone. :)
A lot of the older instruments were beautifully engraved, too, just for decoration. I guess if you're paying some artisan a small fortune to make you a custom instrument, you (or your wealthy patron) might as well toss in another stack of coins to make it pretty. They were really gorgeous, though -- fine scrollwork and scalloping and sometimes little scenes on the larger pieces. Check out this mechanical almanac.
I had a general idea of what most of the stuff was for until they got into the later periods and we started going through rooms full of 19th century gizmos for dinking with electro-magnetism. I haven't played with that since high school physics when I was fifteen and we'd never had anything like most of the stuff in the museum. This is when I started just sort of shrugging and my eyes glazed over. I mean, they were cool, and a lot of them were fairly large, with a couple of seriously huge ones, but if you have no idea what something is for, much less how it works, there's only so much interest you can generate. [shrug] Seeing the stuff was interesting, in aggregate, but I'm learning more from the web site as I put this post together. [wry smile] Cylinder generator, multi-globe generator which looks like a spinning wheel, a plate generator and a pair of magnetic ducks. No, seriously, check 'em out! :D
They had a couple of rooms full of mechanical clocks, spring-driven and weight-driven, and a couple of them were working which was neat. The clocks tended to get incredibly elaborate, of course, since they weren't just lab equipment but rather something that some rich person would want in their home or office.
One room was medical science and mostly obstetrics, with cases of instruments, a special case just for forceps :P and a bunch of lifesize wax models showing cut-away views of to-term fetuses ready to be born, or in the process of being born, some of them with various problems -- several different ways the baby can be mis-positioned, the cord wrapped around the neck, conjoined twins, etc. Makes you want to run and get your tubes tied, seriously, especially considering the primitive techniques used to deal with such conditions in earlier eras. :/ I'll spare you the pictures, but if you're curious, the index page is here.
All together it was an interesting visit, although the language problem was frustrating. We walked home in the rain (the only less than perfect weather we had the entire trip) and the always enterprising vendors were out selling umbrellas. :) We stopped at another little shop on the way home to get panini for lunch and dinner; I got three little square sandwiches on flat bread with a mixture of ricotta and spinach which were incredibly delicious. I'm definitely going to try making them at home, although I doubt I'll be able to find the right bread. It was flat but not like pita; it was more flaky, sort of like a flattened croissant, only not quite. Wonderful stuff, though, especially if you love spinach as much as I do. :D
The next day, Tuesday, we packed up and left. I love Italy and we definitely want to go back some time, but I was ready to go home. We checked out and had the desk guy call us a cab, which he did on the computer; I guess they call enough taxis that they have a way of doing it with just a couple of clicks. That was pretty neat -- I've never seen a hotel do that before.
While we were waiting for our cab, another couple was trying to check in and being rather obnoxious about it. Apparently they'd gotten slowed down somewhere, driving "for five hours through the snow" and had arrived late; they'd intended to arrive the previous night. The guy was trying to convince the desk guy that they shouldn't have to pay for the previous night because they weren't here, ignoring the fact that they'd had a reservation and the hotel hadn't been able to rent their room to anyone else because of it. :/ They also wanted to stay an extra night and thought they should get the same rate. Unfortunately, we're at the very end of the off season and their extra night was the first night of tourist season, when all the prices go up. It's possible that if he'd been cool about it, the hotel guy might've let him do it in the name of good will, but he was being all agressive and yelling and getting sarcastic. That's not the way to get people to do you a favor and break the rules, dude. Listening to him speak (and we could hardly help it, even from the lounge adjacent to the lobby) he wasn't an American and I was just as glad.
It was still raining on the way to the airport but we got there in plenty of time. Our plane, unfortunately, wasn't so lucky; it ended up leaving over two hours late. And of course we had to change planes in Munich again. [headdesk] By the time we took off from Florence it was looking like our plane would land slightly before the next one would take off, but by only a few minutes. Munich airport is pretty huge and there was no way we'd be able to dash across in time, especially having to go through the passport line and security and all. Jim and I talked on and off about what we might have to do instead, depending on what sort of connections Lufthansa could make for us. We might end up spending a night in Munich, which I wouldn't have minded, actually, or catching a flight to New York or Chicago and changing again, which would just extend our travel time even more and which I was not looking forward to.
As it turned out, there were several of us on the tiny little plane from Florence who were catching the LAX flight out of Munich, so when we got off the plane there was a Lufthansa guy standing there holding a sign that said LAX. He collected us and bundled us into a van and we tore across the tarmac. A few minutes later we pulled up in front of another terminal and he shepherded us inside. We showed our passports and got them stamped, then hustled along a long and very fast walk to security (where we went through the metal detectors and X-ray but did not have to take off and put on our shoes, thank you German security for having significantly more braincells than your US counterparts) and then down another loooooooong walk through a completely deserted (except by staff and not even many of them) part of the terminal to where we showed our passports again to some guys who sounded American and the folks who weren't US citizens answered some questions about how long they were staying in the US, etc.
By the time we got done there, our minder was a good fifty feet ahead, having hustled off with the first couple of people who'd finished. I ran to catch up, which it turns out was a bad idea. I'm not built for running and before long I had to slow down. I managed a fast walk and along the way Jim took the computer case, leaving me with just my tote to carry, but I was still panting and wheezing like I was about to collapse and I was expecting chest pains at any moment :/ but I made it. The way the place was laid out, one of the long dashes was down from where we entered the terminal to the far end, where our passports were checked again, and then we did a sort of one-eighty around a wall and the next long hustle was heading back in the direction we'd come from. [headdesk] If someone had just put the damn door right there at the beginning of the area, we could've gone straight through. I'm sure it's better security or something to have it at the other end, but on Tuesday I was in no shape to appreciate such subtleties. [wry smile]
Anyway, they held the plane for us and we made it, yay. I fell into my seat and the purser brought me a glass of water before we even took off and everyone was very nice. Major kudos to Lufthansa for getting us through incredibly fast -- our baggage even made it!