Standing before perfection

Up at 8. Today is Florence with Farelli and me. The Stockwells are to spend a family day together in San G.

Bob dropped us at the station in Castelfiorentina and we hopped onto the train to Firenze. Nice enough train journey though the guard told us off for not punching the ticket in the yellow machine ala Verona. Florence station is a bit nondescript and in the way of most main stations, is at the yurky part of town. However it wasn’t long before we reached the Duomo and a cafe for breakfast/lunch. I had a ham and cheese thing and Farelli had an egg plant lasagne-ish thing. Both very nice. The cafe is a popular spot. A lot of people coming in, sitting down and going out. Cafe Frenetic it should be called.

After our caffeine shot we walked to the Accademia Gallery to see The David. On a nothing street with no signs or fanfare, is a plain door.

Farelli pointing the way to the David

I assume in busier times a queue would show the way but this time of year a good map is required. We walked in, paid our dosh and entered the main gallery hall. To see The David is extraordinary experience. The statue has enormous presence and beauty. It is bigger than I thought it would be and stands on a pedestal high enough to be admired over the heads of everyone. A few fellow tourists gathered round his base but it wasn’t exactly crowded. We circled him and sat for a while behind in contemplation of his perfect butt (this is where the only seats are).

The David came to the Accademia in 1873 from his previous outdoor position in the Piazza Della Signoria. The Gallery is now known as the Michelangelo Museum although it is still the Accademia. The building is situated on the former site of a monastery and consists of works from the Accademia Del Disegno (Academy of Drawing) founded by Cosmo de’Medici in 1563 and from the Academy of Fine Arts founded in 1784. We looked at (nearly) everything else but really it’s The David that dominates.

Words fail to adequately describe the awesome beauty of him. I cannot comprehend the ability of anyone to render such a work of genius and perfection.

Finally managing to drag ourselves away, we left the Accademia (deciding to skip the extra gallery at the end of the strange poly-tunnel) and headed back past the Duomo towards the Ponte Vecchio. On the way we passed the Piazza della Signora where the copy of The David stands along with so many other famous statues just ‘there’ for people to see and admire. A sharp right turn brought us to the road between the galleries of the Uffizi and eventually the river.

We crossed the road and looked up at the Ponte Vecchio, alight with shimmering gold. This is a result of light on the jewellery shops! It’s amazing, a bridge of jewellery shops. They used to be butcher shops but some dude objected to the smell and so they switched to jewellery.

The wonderful Ponte Vecchio

We walked down and crossed it with the thousands of others. It bustles, let me tell you! It gives a real flavour of the Renaissance as it rises and falls over the river like a hill of Commerce. We took some photos with Florence in the background (in the middle of the bridge is an opening to either side to the river) then crossed to the other side for a massive ice cream and a gallon of beer. I’m so glad we asked for the small ones.

My few words of Italian are very handy as surprisingly not a lot of people appear to speak English. I say surprisingly, not out of any egocentric belief in the English language but rather because Florence is such a tourist Mecca I thought it would have been mandatory. I mean the people of Fjaerderlandfjord spoke English and there’s only bookshops there! Farelli’s French helped as well though it did tend to baffle them.

Having glutted ourselves (I had strawberries and a lot of cream) we retraced our steps to the Uffizi. Again, no queues as we were warned. You can see the permanent barriers there for crowd control which is a bit scary. They reckon you can be stuck in the queue for three hours. We just walked in, were X-rayed, paid our money and climbed the very very very long staircases. Puffed at the top we went into a few selected rooms (bearing in mind there are 45 to admire), holding some of the greatest art works of the Renaissance and beyond.

It is a magnificent place. I saw Botticelli’s Venus which is so much better in real life even though it is behind glass, Titian’s Venus, which Farelli wanted to pinch and put in her bedroom, Caravaggio’s Bacchus and so many more works of brilliance. Not to mention an awful lot of penises. It seems the Renaissance saw an upsurge in male genitalia.

The Uffizi itself is apparently one of the world’s most important galleries and, although it first opened to the public in 1765, it was taking visitors on request 200 years before this. The word Museum (from the Greek ‘ muses’, a place dedicated to them) had been resurrected in Florence by a man, correctly called Lorenzo the Magnificent, when he established a garden of antique sculptures in San Marco – sorry, the book does not mention how he managed to grow them. A lot of the brilliance of the Uffizi comes from the fact that the collection has come from many other collections from families like the Medici’s who had a great love and belief in art and beauty.

We also saw a few Giotto’s which show why he is so important to art as a whole.

Exhausted but starry-eyed we left the Uffizi and retraced our steps for a quick look at the Duomo. It had closed early due to Christmas Eve and so a quick look through the closed glass doors was all we managed.

Florence cathedral

We then got lost on the way back to the station thanks to my map-reading skills. But Farelli soon turned the map up the right way and we started back towards the station rather than Moscow. Beers were then purchased for the long arduous journey and we finally settled our grateful legs and bums into the very comfortable train seats…ahhhh! Oh, and I remembered to punch the ticket twice in the yellow machine.

I have to say at this point that I really like Italian trains. They are clean, comfortable and punctual. However, the stations could really do with a bit of illumination. You cannot see the names at night. Fortunately the punctuality helps as at 7:11 precisely we pulled into Castelfiorentina.

Bob and Mirinda were waiting for us and we all drove (well, Bob drove and we all watched) back to Rodilosso. An exhausted Farelli gave her excuses and went to her place to fall into bed.

We had pizza, watched the Addams family in Italian (a great Lurch) then the Monte Carlo circus and finally bed. My knees are very sore.

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