September 22, 2012

By Order of the Pope - It Rains on Wednesdays

As in Venice, we woke up to rain in Florence (again, another Wednesday). Do you think that this is by order of the Pope? The internet in our apartment is SO awful it's literally been impossible to get much work done, and this is no bueno. Thankfully, I had done some research before we left on our trip for "internet Plan B" and knew that I had to find a local TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) store so that I could purchase a USB internet device. We found a store nearby and Sean and I grabbed our umbrellas and joined the sea of umbrellas outside.

Thanks to Google Translate, I was able to write down (in Italian) exactly what I was looking for so that there would not be an issue should the salesperson not speak any English. At this point, my Italian is limited to "si", "no", "por favore", "mi scusi", "deliciouso", uno cappuccino", uno prosecco" "perfecto" and "grazie" although I have managed to order menu items sort of in Italian off a menu that's written in Italian. The trick is to just add "eeeee" at the end of every word and smile.

We find the store pretty easily (thanks Bun) and I hand the salesperson my note. He reads the note and then starts conversing with me in Italiano Rapido and I stare at him and blink like a cartoon character. I think I was channeling my inner Kyle from Southpark at that moment. I respond, "no Italiano. Internet veloce (fast) por computer portabile (laptop)." As soon as I say "veloce" he laughs and says "no veloce, this is Italy, not possible". Great.

64 Euros later, I'm out the door with my maybe-not-so-speedy internet device. It takes 24 hours to activate the SIM card, so I still have to deal with the painfully slow internet at our apartment. For whatever reason, we've found the sweet spot for speedy internet - about 6:00 - 8:00 AM. I guess the Italians are all still sleeping at this time. So we've been getting up pretty early.

Our plan today was to wander over to the Duomo, perhaps do a little retail therapy and then visit the Gallerie Accademia at 1:30. We've already given Dad and Joan a pass on the museum and plan to sell their pre-paid tickets to someone standing in line who didn't make a reservation in advance.

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th century Gothic Revival fa├žade by Emilio De Fabris.
The cathedral complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile. The basilica is one of Italy's largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
The interior of the cathedral is somewhat bare compared to other cathedrals I've visited, but still pretty impressive when thinking about the engineering required to build such a vast structure.

The fresco under the dome is beautiful. I wish I was a better photographer (or had one of those ginormous cameras, but then I would need a really cute camera-holder-dude to carry it around for me).

After our visit to the duomo, we wandered around for a bit browsing in some shops. Shockingly, I know, I haven't really bought much of anything. I made two small purchases in Venice and nothing since. There have been certainly plenty of shopping opportunities and those who know me know that I love to shop, but honestly, nothing much has grabbed me. Plus it's still early in our trip, so maybe I'm just thinking that I have plenty of time to discover some Italian treasures. Who knows. Meanwhile, I'm being pretty tight-fisted with my Euros.

We had a quick lunch at a pizza joint by our apartment and leave Dad and Joan behind at the apartment while head over to the Galleria Accademia for our afternoon dose of art and sculpture. We had no problem finding two travelers in the very LONG line who were more than happy to acquire our extra two pre-paid tickets which granted them an almost immediate entrance to the museum.

The Gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti has housed the original David by Michelangelo since 1873. The sculpture was allegedly brought to the Accademia for reasons of conservation, although other factors were involved in its move from its previous outdoor location on Piazza della Signoria. The original intention was to create a 'Michelangelo museum', with original sculptures and drawings, to celebrate the fourth centenary of the artist's birth. Today, the gallery's small collection of Michelangelo's work includes his four unfinished Prisoners, intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II, and a statue of Saint Matthew, also unfinished. The "David" in the Accademia is the original. There is a replica in the Piazza della Signoria and some visitors leave thinking they have seen the real thing when they have only seen the replica.

The museum isn't that large, so we were through it pretty quickly. They had a special exhibition going on of some pretty old musical instruments, including a rather large collection of Stradivarius violins.

Michelangelo's David is a lot larger than I expected, which a bit out of scale hands and feet (pretty large). The detail of the anatomy is amazing (and I'm not talking about David's package). The veins in the hands, the fingernail and toenail detail, the muscle tone on the legs, abdomen and chest; pretty remarkable. It's impressive to see.

I thought the unfinished works by Michelangelo called "the Prisoners" were interesting in that you could see the progression from a slab of marble to the outlines of a statue.

When we left the Accademia, it was still raining pretty steady outside, so we headed back to the apartment to wrap up our day in Florence. Fortunately for my travel partners, they have someone along with them who enjoys cooking, so for dinner, I made Chicken Milanese with pasta, a delicious green salad and some bread. Not bad if I do say so myself and we didn't have to go back outside in the rain.

Florence Day 2 pictures can be viewed on Shutterfly.


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