Monday, September 28, 2015

Florence Day 2

Since breakfast in Italy is little more than a crossant and cappuccino, we made a small breakfast of an egg, bread, yogurt, and coffee. We were resourceful and took the butter packs and jam from our Venice hotel and used them for breakfast. 

The first stop on our self-made tour today was to stop at the Medici chapels. This is the building that the Medici family used as a church and crypt. The Medici family started as wealthy merchants and eventually built up so much power from their wealth that they became the defacto ruling family of Venice. They also had two family members that were elected (or maybe bought) Pope. You may also have heard of Catherine di Medici who married King Henry II of France and was the mother to a number of French Kings (mostly because all but one of her children were sickly and weak and did not live long lives). She has a reputation that may not be fully deserved as being a conniving and manipulating person who would poison people to get her way. The chapel had the crowns of the Medici family and other relics and paintings of them. The bottom floor was the final resting place for a number of the Medici and the chapel above was spectacularly decorated. Part of the chapel was designed by Michelangelo. The Medici family was a big patron of the arts and one could say that they helped to bring about the Rennassance era by commissioning many of the most famous buildings, statues, and paintings of that time period.

The main chapel is covered in marble slabs all the way up the walls, which reach 59 meters tall. The pictures are done with inlayed semi-precious stones and could be summed up as just awe-striking and opulent.

After this, we went to the Galleria Accademia, but since it was already late morning, the lines were way too long. So we decided to walk to the Duomo and check that out. Our first stop was the baptistry, which had really short lines because it opened only a few minates after we arrived in the line. This was good timing for us since the lines at all the major sites in Florence can be exceedingly long. The baptestry was a circular shaped building set just in front of the Duomo. The inside was beautiful, with mosaics all over the ceiling. The mosaics looked like paintings as the tiles were so small. The roof sparkled with all the gold tiles and looked again very opulent. This seems to be a theme for Florence.

Then to the Duomo dome, but I must remark first on the outside of the Duomo. Wow, just wow. The details are not so fine as other cathedrals that often have a gothic style with heads and gargoles all over. Instead it was covered in mostly flat rectangular lines with the detail coming in the form of patterns made by they marble covering the walls. The effect is unique and inspiring. The lines into the Duomo were long, so we went directly to the dome entrance. We were able to cut the line with our Firenze card that we bought (a very worth wild investment if you will be in Florence for at least 3 days). The climb up was about 450 steps and had us climbing up some old, very tight, and spiraled staircases. Once we got to the base of the dome, we were let out on a ledge that circled around the base of the dome. It is not recommended if you are afraid of heights! However, the view of the inside of the dome was much better than it would be from the floor of the Duomo. Here we could really see the detail in the mosaics that covered the dome ceiling. Again, like the baptistry the dome shimmered and sparked with gold tiles. Then it was back to the small, steep staircase to go up even further. Finally, we emerged on the roof. It was raining and slippery, but the view out over Florence and Tuscany was still; beautiful. The hills in the distance all seemed to have a castle or manor house perched on top and made me long for a trip to the countryside of Italy. On this trip, we are just seeing the major cities. I suppose that means we will have to come back to see the more rural areas of the country!

After the descent, we had some coffee near the duomo (though not really very good coffee) and a cupcake. We people watched for a bit and then walked down to the river to see the Vecchio bridge covered in silver and gold jewelry shops and make our way to Palazzo Vecchio for a secret passages tour we booked. The tour took us through some areas not accessable to the general public and we got to go through some of those hidden doors that are often found in old palaces and castles. It was a fun and interesting tour, but seemed a little short. It was cool to see how the roof and ceilings were held up. The ceilings are basically just hanging from the roof rafters. This is why they can have huge rooms without the large steel I-beams that we need today to hold up large ceilings. 

When we finished exploring all of Palazzo Vecchino, we went to centrale mercado and bought some fruits and veggies to make our dinner tonight. We thought we would get the fresh pasta made just next to our apartment, but the store was not open when we arrived. This ment that we had to walk all to back to the duomo to get some good pasta from the shop Eatily. When we finally got back tot he apartment we made dinner which consisted of salad, tortelinni, and bread. Dylan made a delicous sauce for the pasta with some tomatoes, garlic, wine, and olive oil. 

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