We weren’t confident that anything much would be open today (Christmas Eve) and therefore were not surprised when we arrived outside the Casa Dante, along with a few other hopeful tourists, only to find it shut up and locked tight. The thing is, it was supposed to be open. I guess someone could have been sick.
Anyway, while Dante’s House was closed, his church was not. Known usually as Dante’s church, it is actually the church of Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi. It is rumoured that Dante married there. It is a fact that his glimpsed from afar love, Beatrice was…though obviously not to Dante.
There’s a rather new painting of Dante meeting Beatrice. It almost reminded us of Miss Jean Brody and her obsession with the Romantic Age. Being so new means it was nice and bright. I quite liked it but it was no Giotto.
Actually there was quite a bit of art today, mostly statuary, but more about that a little later. We had a jolly good look at Dante’s church to make up for not visiting his house, then headed for the cathedral square in order to check out the queues again. They are always interesting.
Mirinda was reading somewhere that some people queue for two hours and, in order to avoid the actual queue, start to line up at 6am because the doors open at 8am. My problem with the two hour queue is only partly the standing around waiting. It also means that there’ll be an awful lot of people in the cathedral by the time you reach the inside…which is never pleasant. Anyway, we just like looking at the silly people queuing.
We were after some tickets to a show about the Medici Dynasty called, unsurprisingly, the Medici Dynasty. We managed to find the booking office and it appeared to be open (it was a little desk and chair at the end of a corridor) but no-one was there to sell tickets. That was a shame though I guess I’ll just book tickets online.
From the neglected and sad looking booking office, we headed down to the Medici Chapel where the Dukes are buried. We didn’t quite make it because Denise was almost frozen solid and needed something hot to thaw her out. She offered to buy coffees in a handy (warm) cafe just along from the chapel.
Given her unhappy experience with attempting to buy a caffè macchiato yesterday, she decided to try for a much safer option. I mean, seriously, what could possibly go wrong with ordering a hot chocolate? You’d think they’d stop at being too literal but, no, what she was given was a cup full of what appeared to be thick, gooey melted chocolate.
It was almost not funny, but eventually she asked for a glass of hot milk on the side. This made it drinkable.
Finally warmed up (and with far too much chocolate inside Denise) we headed across the road to visit with the dead Dukes of Florence.
The chapel is an amazing confection to the power and self absorption of a most powerful family. Some people build big glass towers to themselves while still alive while truly incredible makers of history leave great temples to their success. And so did the Medicis or rather the ones that were Dukes of Florence.
It’s a truly extraordinary place. Mirinda was not impressed as she thought it was a bit too opulent for a bunch of dead people. I thought it was very impressive both in design and beauty though I can see her point.
The most incredible bit, however, were the Michelangelo funerary statues. They were incredible for two main reasons. Firstly because of the absolute beauty of the figures and secondly because the room, being full of marble, was bloody freezing. Needless to say, we didn’t last very long.
As well as all of the Dukes’ earthly remains and quite a lot of statuary, there was also many, many dead saints’ bits. According to Mirinda they were probably mostly cat bones though I did see a few that could have come from drunk pilgrims stupid enough to try and sleep it off during a Papal relic shopping spree. My personal favourite (apart from the supposed bit of St Sebastien) was the big glass jar full of the relics of ‘various saints.’
Then, surprise, surprise, we came across the Dwarf for Today. His name was Braccio di Bartolo, though everyone called him Morgante (it was an Italian literary joke), and he was a bit of a favourite with Cosimo I. He was what was known as a court dwarf and, I suppose, he did lots of tricks and jokes. While he was the favourite, Cosimo I actually ‘owned’ five dwarfs. (Where on earth would you buy a dwarf?)
Anyway, he’s depicted in the painting below in between the duke (in red) and the strange little dog.
But that’s not the last we heard of Morgante today…but before we found out more, we headed back out into the cold Florentine streets which were considerably warmer than the crypt with the Michelangelo statues in it. I was immediately struck with joy as I realised we’d exited right opposite the famous Betty Florence shop. What else could I do but snap a photo.
We then headed down to the river stopping momentarily in order to be accosted by a couple of street sellers with nothing better to do than stand in front of people’s cameras while they’re trying to take a photo without them in it. It was while we were standing in front of the magnificence that is the front of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.
We managed to escape without any need for currency exchange and headed for the river, which looked quite peaceful even though it was overcast.
We then wandered the streets, trying to find our way back to Palazzo Pitti in order to visit the Bobilo Gardens. On the way we marvelled at the parking expertise of the Italians. It defies logic but they can park anything, no matter what size, in the smallest spaces imaginable. If something is in the way, like someone’s foot, they will stop, wind down their window and ask, politely for the foot to be moved a smidge. Amazing. Truly.
Finally, though, we found the palazzo and headed into the garden with about an hour before lock down.
It’s a lovely garden. Luca Pitti and his family lived there (in the palace) for a bit (150 years) but then the repayments just got a bit too difficult to manage and so the Ducal Medicis took over. They added a lot of bits and pieces including quite a lot of statuary. Most spectacular and left until last (it truly surprised us) is the Grotto of Buontalenti, which is an incredible mix of mosaic, statues and natural calcification.
But, really, honestly, my favouritist thing of all (possibly of the whole week) has to be the high carb dude on the turtle.
This is our old friend the dwarf, Braccio di Bartolo, this time as a very drunk Bacchus. It’s apparently very lifelike.
But we had to rush away while still getting acquainted because the gardens were closing and the loudspeakers were telling us to hightail it out. We fled to the comfort and calm of a cafe across the road for drinks and nibbles (excellent connolini).
It was delightfully warm after the cold outside. It was a rather silly Mirinda who thought her fingers were so cold that she could just put them in the fireplace to warm up.
And then back to the apartment with a brief stop off in a meat shop where Mirinda took an hour or so to buy some delicious ham. During the time she spent there, Bob, Denise and I managed to buy wine, crackers, cheese and various other bits and pieces from equally various shops, before taking them upstairs. I then returned to the street to collect my unusually patient wife.
Dinner was a lovely meal of meat and cheese over wine which was all very jolly until Bob and Denise started on about their favourite subject: NBN. That sort of finished Christmas Eve here in Florence and, finally, everyone went to bed.
Meanwhile, from the Medici chapel: