All week the weather has been threatening that it would rain. Last night we had a little bit of rain which made us all a wee bit damp but today…well, today it rained all day. Sometimes hard sometimes barely perceptible but rain, nonetheless.
To be fair, we managed to be under cover for the worst of it. We’d decided to visit the Palazzo Vecchio first thing because it’s inside and not far from the apartment (though nothing is very far from anything else in Florence). So, after the usual long wait then morning coffee in the cafe downstairs, we headed up the road.
The Palazzo Vecchio was where the Medici family used to live. Then, poor old Eleanor of Toledo moved in with Cosimo I and she declared it too small for her so they moved to the Palazzo Pitti across the river so she could frolic freely in the Boboli Gardens. Cosimo I had moved into the Palazzo Vecchio after the murder of his predecessor, Alessandro de’Medici, the first Duke of Florence.
Before the Medici moved in, the building was more accurately the Palazzo dei Priori as it was originally built to house the priors who controlled everything that happened in Florence. Eventually this meant that the awful Savonarola held sway over the place. He designed the Great Hall which was specifically made huge in order to accommodate 500 people who were over 29 and had paid their taxes. It was these guys who made the rules. In fact the original name of the Hall was the Salone dei Cinquecento (Salon of the 500).
Of course the evil Savonarola was soon deposed and burnt in front of the building (where he earlier had held his Bonfire of the Vanities) which was when Cosimo I moved in. The place has, basically been used as a very big town hall ever since Cosimo I and Eleanor moved out. In fact they still have council meetings in it. We know because we saw one today.
All told it is a massive building with a veritable rabbit warren of rooms (apart from the giant hall, of course) all with painted ceilings, all with a story to tell. And I think I told Mirinda every story in every one. Mind you, I’m not sure what story this section of a fresco is telling because there was no explanation.
In most of the Ducal apartments there is a board explaining all the panels which is very helpful but in the Great Hall, we were not so lucky.
The Great Hall had huge paintings around the walls depicting a couple of big important battles that the Medici side won. Included in one of the massive panels was our old friend Morgante, the Dwarf. So, for Fiona, here he is, carrying the spare bits of armour as Cosimo I sits astride his less than enthusiastic horse. And some guy in pink trousers has a sword in his bum.
I’m glad to report that the vast majority of the paintings in the building are actually Greek and Roman myths rather than the duller Christian ones. This means a lot more lust and violence. I was quite taken with the painting depicting Hercules wrestling snakes after Juno put them in his cradle.
There were also quite a few statues of various people (real and imaginary) including a wonderful death mask of Dante which showed how accurate some paintings are. There was also a wonderful Judith and Holofenes. And, finally, this wonderful bronze of which I can find no information. I call it Kid with a Fish.
The whole place was amazing and full of the kind of art that I find delightful but, of course, it was soon all over and we had to head out into the rain. This followed a successful visit to the toilet by Denise who had had to hold on because I had our tickets on my phone and we’d all become separated. The toilet Nazi had no empathy.
Relieved, we all decided it was a very good time to have lunch so we plonked ourselves down in a restaurant very close and had a very filling lunch of all sorts of Tuscan delights and some rather rough red wine. Mind you, like all rough reds, it improved with the drinking to the extent that I had a second glass.
We sat and watched the rain, in no hurry to leave until it stopped enough for us to return to the Palazzo Vecchio and go underground to check out the Roman theatre that lies beneath the 14th century palace.
What an extraordinary place. The 2,000 year old providing foundations for the 500 year new building. Lots of lovely archaeology for me to delight in but not enough to bore the rest of our party. Eventually we retired to the gift shop (of course) before heading back out into the damp streets and a somewhat sombre view of the Ponte Vecchio.
There followed a second unsuccessful attempt to visit the nativity at San Spirito which was closed again because God has Wednesday’s off. I’ll never understand the Catholics and their crazy God. It’s like he’s never at home. Still, we rather enjoyed walking around in the rain, winding up in the fancy cafe where we went a few days ago for cocktails.
On the way I spotted a favourite wall hook which seems to have no use other than to scratch people as they pass by. Generally they’re quite plain and dull but this one was simply demonic.
After a long enough wait at the apartment to get warm and dry, we headed out to our favourite trattoria where Mirinda, Bob and I had a delicious final meal (Denise was feeling a bit under the weather and went to bed instead) before heading to the best ice cream parlour in Florence (possibly the world) where Mirinda admitted that Bob might be right about something (I don’t remember what) which is important enough to write in this post.
We also heard all about Bob’s aunt who refused to move out of her house to make way for a bridge, preferring it if her house was actually moved 20 feet instead. The house is still there, mere feet from the bridge that was built. And it’s the reason why Bob didn’t go to uni.
It was a lovely final night in Florence full of food and chat and another excellent bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva.