Early, but not early enough! I did set the alarm and thought I had slept through it when awoke at 7:30. A quick check showed the alarm on my kindle set to 4:45 am, but for weekdays only. That’s been fixed and we’ll try again tomorrow.
Off for cappuccino and a crossant at our local trattoria, Rifrullo. In the morning it is a sleepy cafe, in the evening this trattoria is at the gateway to Plazzale Michelangelo and it is extremely busy. The transformation is hard to believe, you have to see it yourself. We’ve enjoyed our stay in San Niccolo, with the locals primarily. It is on the south side of the Arno but still within the old city walls.
After our morning coffee, we walked to the Academia museum to view Michelangelo’s David. We arrived “early” and the line was already down the block. It promised to be a zoo inside. I queued up wondering where Ellen had gone. After a few minutes I noticed her scanning the queue and I waved. She noticed and waved me over. She had asked one of the museum folks (for lack of a better word) when was the best time to come and the woman said that if we come in the evening after dinner the museum is empty. Really? Ok, we left and stumbled into a non-descript church/museum. There was an entry fee, but not for Firenze card holders; we were in.
The interior courtyard was peaceful and we took seats to rest for a moment. Then inside one room there was a video description of the restoration process of one of the frescos. It was informative and fascinating in a geeky sort of way. Also in the room was one of the old bells from the tower. The way the bell was attached to a wooden beam was amazing in itself. The bell stood as tall as I am. I’ll post photos of the hanging mechanics on “gypsies”.
The annunciation by Fra Angelico in the Museo de San Marco considered revolutionary because of its spacial awareness. It is a transition from Gothic to Renaissance.
Going up stairs was a mind blowing experience. One of the most famous frescos of the annunciation stands at the top of the stairs. Now I’m anything but religious, and not given to admiring religious art. The artwork I’ve seen in Italy is outstanding and this fresco is no exception. To just wander into a church and find such a relic blows my mind. There were illustrated bound books of music, clearly of a 12 tone scale, with pages open in the main upstairs chamber as well as a description of the materials used to “paint” the illustrations. Imagine a book two feet six inches by eighteen inches with a quarter inch leather front and back cover. Each page is one third illustration and two thirds music. The music is layed out in four bars with notes centered and straddling the bars. It will be fun to play a few stanzas of this at home. We’ve photographed what we could.
The ceiling of the church was finished in the same way our apartment is. It has beams running horizontal with ceramic tiles cemented together running along the beams. Clearly this church is much older, dating from the 12th century, but interestingly the construction is contemporary with our flat.
In the very last alcove of the second floor of the church there is a missing painting. The iron hooks that hold the piece are there; not the painting. In a small placard there was a card stating that the Michelangelo painting is on loan and can be viewed in the Tokyo Museum.
By now lunch time was in full swing. We happened upon the botanical gardens of Firenze and walked the gardens until close to two oclock. We prefer to avoid crowds of people looking for lunch. Heading back towards the Duomo, we stumbled upon the Four Seasons Hotel, Firenze. We walked inside, toured the grounds, and came upon al fresco patio dining. The menu was two to three times more expensive than similar items are in the tourist areas which are already 2x more than elsewhere. Sanity prevailed over hunger; we left in search of a good lunch. While we were touring the Four Seasons, a golf cart with a notable couple cruised by. They were the only people we saw on our garden walk.
Outside the Four Seasons, and having lost our sense of direction, we walked past a trattoria, kept walking, discussed eating there and hunger won out. As we were seated at Cibreo, I noticed the couple from the Four Seasons was seated beside us.
We ordered a chef selection of antipasti, a tuna special, and chicken meat balls with potato. I ordered a beer and the waiter’s expression was enough for me to switch to red wine, a nebbiolo. Bread was served first with a small dish of a wonderful paste that went perfectly with the bread. The combination of flavors was so well melded, we could not identify any of the flavors distinctly. The combination was wonderful. The antipasti was a selection of cured and raw proscuitto, marinated pickle with a caper flavor, duck liver pate with a square of soft parmesan cheese spread, mozzarella cheese, and two wonderful jellied yoghurt plates: one lemon the other tomato and basil/oregano. This was the antipasti!
The wine in Florence is among the best in the world. The nebbiolo went very well with the antipasti. The tuna dish was scrumptious. There was a layer of potato or risotto mousse with basil and/or broccoli that made up half of the casserole. Atop that layer was a thin layer of either mild pimento or tomato (both??) with a thin slice of fresh tuna roughly a quarter of an inch thick with buttered seasoned bread crumbs at the very top. This was a very flavorful and fun to eat dish. It was served with a second chafing dish of greens atop a bed of pesto with an abundance of parmesan cheese.
The chicken meat balls were served with a bright orange sauce similar in color to a vodka sauce, but not the same. The meat balls were two inches around and very soft. The potato came in a separate chafing dish with cheese and spices.
This was a lunch to remember. For Ellen the meat balls were not that special. In truth, the tuna dish and the jelled yoghurt dishes were the best, oh and the nebbiolo.
We headed home for our evening siesta. We were quite happy to skip gelato shops. By now it was 16:30.
At round 19:30 we headed out. Our only must see was the Academia museum and Michelangele’s David. We got lost on the way by working ourselves entirely off the tourist map into “unknown territory” with mostly Italian speaking people. No problem, but it’s difficult to find your way back when you don’t have a map. Ellen asked directions at a boutique hotel which turned out to be part of an international chain of boutique hotels. I’ve taken note and may book some of our future stays through them.
We had become so used to walking the old part of Firenze that we had walked right out of the map. Finding our way back to the Academia museum with instructions was easy. But wait, nobody was outside. The entry tapes were still up, the museum was open, but NO LINE? We walked in, had our Firenze Passes validated, and walked into a nearly empty museum. I have photos to prove it! If you are visiting Florence for more than a few days, make it a point to go to the Academia museum after 20:00; the later the better. There may have been ten other people in any of the rooms with us while we were there.
This may hold true for any museum open after 20:00.
We left the museum at 22:00 and again got turned around, headed in the wrong direction, but we were saved by a kiosk with a map and a “you are here” marker. With that and some soul searching, we found our way back without incident.
Unlike cities in the US, it is perfectly safe to walk around cities in Italy after midnight. Italian families do just that. They eat late. Where we eat at 17:00 to 19:00, the Italians would not consider having dinner before 19:00. As we left the museum at 22:00, there were Italians sitting down to dinner in local trattorias
On the way home before getting lost, we passed a gelato shop near the Duomo that had a line around the corner. We do not know if this was a famous gelato shop or just the only one open nearby. I’ll check later. After getting lost we had gelato at a shop run by a Roma transplant whose husband makes the gelato. My caramelia, a blend of chocolate and caramel, was great. The chocolate in my stracciatella was less than perfect. Ellen had no complaints.
We’re home now, had half a melon, some bread, cheese, beer, and wine for late dinner. We hardly needed dinner after our lunch.
Tomorrow we will replace my carry on with a larger suitcase to make transporting our new found belongings easier. I want to see the Lapis Lazuli exhibit that we stumbled upon when going to the Pitti Palace yesterday, that’s on our list for tomorrow. Also a second attempt at sunrise over Florence in the early hours. It’s almost 23:00 now. We’ll see how that goes.
Once again we have stayed on the south side of a river across from the the busy tourist part of town. We can easily walk into the old city, and we do every day. We also enjoy walking out of the busy part of town to be with the locals in their trattorias and caffees. It is not that we live in a quite part of town, more that we live in a locals part of town, it feels different. Less English, Russian, and German is spoken. Much more Italian is spoken here. We travelled not to “get away” but to arrive at a new culture and history and to absorb what we can of it.
Florence at night