Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 16 - Foto Free Friday

Friday, Oct 1 - not meant to be a photoless day, just kinda happened. Nor was I  doing penitence for having surreptitiously taken photos in churches when such activities were disallowed.

It was a travel day, one with some confusion which might have been avoided had a certain railway ticket agent in Riomaggiore not (bleep). Anyway, after going to La Spezia, then deboarding to purchase the rest of our ticket to Florence via Pisa only to find that we could have purchased a ticket from Riomaggiore to Pisa, then transferred to the Florence train. I hasten to emphasize that such incompetence was a very notable exception; we have been very pleased with the able assistance we have received from Trenitalia ticket agents when we were not able to purchase from machines.

We arrived in Florence in the rain, and it seemed the walk to our housing accommodation was much longer than it should have been. Even though traveling with a backpack with my camera and computer gear plus a very small rolling bag (which doesn't roll very well unless the sidewalk/street is very smooth), I felt absolutely weighed down. Actually, it didn't take all that long, but when you're tired, wet, and grumpy...

Arriving at the bed and "breakfast" in a centuries-old building around the corner from Dante's house (yes, that Dante), it appeared the place was deserted until a maid showed up. She spoke no English, and at the point, what little Italian I had picked up deserted me. We were about to leave our bags there, then try to catch somebody later when I somehow discovered she spoke Spanish. Since she was from Peru, I guess that's not too surprising, but who knew? I think every bit of Spanish I ever learned and then some came back to me then, and we were able to get things ironed out. Perhaps that is a "Gift of Tongues," being blessed with the ability to communicate beyond the means of your vocabulary.

I've already alluded to the fact that we were staying in an old neighborhood, an amazing experience in itself. We were close to the Uffizi Palace and Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio, and to the majestic Duomo and its baptistery. Some of the streets were wide enough for a small car, some not. There were a multitude of ristorantes, tavernas, osterias, bars (more what we would call a coffee shop), gelaterias, fruit and vegetable stands.

As tired as we were, we paid extra for reservations to enter the Uffizi Gallery at 16:30 (4:30 pm) rather than wait in the long line.

I consider myself more interested and knowledgeable in art and art history than the average guy, BUT, there is a point at which I start to lose interest in the old stuff - all those Madonna and Child pictures in frilly gold frames. I think I actually hit that point before I got to Florence. However, I knew that the Uffizi, one of the world's most-revered museums, had some extraordinary major works and I was eager to view those. So was everybody else. Especially those in tour groups, some of which were incredibly large. Bypassing all the minor works, those veteran guides take their flocks of sheep to the biggies, then huddle before them endlessly while they rail on and on about the fine points of "Venus on the Halfshell." Maybe you have by now figured out that my frustration of being crowded out outweighed the joy of seeing great art.

Works seen, or partially seen, included a Giotto altar piece, Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," a Michelangelo round painting of the Holy Family, Raphael's "Madonna of the Goldfinch," and Tiziano's (Titian's) "Venus of Urbino." Nancy's notes indicate we saw a Rembrandt self portrait, too, but I don't remember seeing that.

Some days go like that - even in the great and wonderful cities of the world.

Oh yes, the day ended on an up note - we shared a huge Greek salad and two very nice small pizzas. Pizza can fix a lot of bad days.

OK - one photo, not from this day, but from later on in Florence, of the Palazzo Vecchio at night: