Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Florence, day one: Coffeegrams and Stone Madames

Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia)
In total we spent five full days in Florence, knowing that fewer days would not allow us to take in the sheer number of museums we wanted to peruse, towers we wanted to climb and gelatos we wanted to taste. 
On the first day, we eased into big city life and drank far too many cappuccinos. We spent the day getting our bearings so we could properly dive in on day two. As we were camping, we had to resort to charging our electrical devices while standing in the toilet block, which is never fun and even less glamorous. To skirt around this issue, we took to snacking in trendy cafés that provided wall sockets and wifi gratis (Firenze has a great café scene though sometimes when you try to return to a likeable café, you have no idea where it disappeared to among the narrow streets). We got a lot of reading done with all that extra caffeine - I reread the Goldfinch which reminded me of our impromptu trip to Den Haag to see the little painting in the flesh. We had travelled many kilometres since then, and reflecting on our journey was a joyous pastime. 
Speaking of the internet, many wifi spots require you to enter an email address when signing in. Quickly discovering that they never send you verification emails, we started to input hansgruber@grube.com, drawing inspiration from the fictional German villain from the first Die Hard movie. What I find hilarious is that if you google Hans Gruber, this comes up:

Now a Vienna-born conductor who was naturalised as a Canadian citizen in 1944 at the age of 19 will forever be associated with a pistol-toting Alan Rickman in the midst of the Nakatomi Heist. 
Taking a good gander at the Piazza della Signoria, complete with a copy of the famous David among other sculptures and fountains, we entered the Loggia dei Lanzi. An odd covered and slightly raised building, but almost entirely open to the square via large archways, the loggia served as a kind of royal patio for the Cosimo family to enjoy festivities on the piazza while being suitably above it all. It's now open to people from all walks of life as an open air sculpture gallery, and contains some masterpieces of Renaissance art. Amazingly it's free! But guards do only let a certain numbers of visitors in at a time. Above is the striking 'Rape of Polyxena'. Polyxena was the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy, and she was sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles in order to incite favourable winds so the invading Greeks would finally be able to return to their homeland. It's an important point to note that Polyxena died a virgin - our English "rape" comes from the Latin "raptio" which meant more generally 'abduction'. 
A statue that really caught my eye was the 'Rape of the Sabine Women'. Interestingly, it was carved by a Flemish sculptor by the name of Jean de Boulogne, but he was known to the Italians as Giambologna. It depicts the well-known legend of the abduction of women by the first inhabitants of Rome. Being at the time a male-only settlement, they decided they needed wives and figured the easiest way to acquire them would be to carry some off from a neighbouring area and then plead with them to marry. What's so beautiful and masterful about this work is that you can see the woman's flesh dimple under her captor's fingertips, and the fact that it was carved to be admired from any angle. 
We attempted to take a leisurely stroll around the Boboli Gardens to find that it was closed for the day. Instead, we chose the more strenuous walk up a stepped hill to the Piazza Michelangelo for panoramic views of the city. With the sun just starting to set, it was a gorgeous vantage point. What you don't see from the photo is the teeming mass of visitors struggling to wade to the front in order to capture such a sight, and the James Blunt wannabe busker playing a grating song behind us. Worth it!
On our way back onto the duomo side of the river, we were treated to an excellent view of the Ponte Vecchio, with the sunset behind and an attractive reflection on the languid water. 
While waiting for our chosen restaurant to open for the evening, we wandered aimlessly and sat for a spell in a random piazza (they are innumerable in Florence) next to a hotdog-taco-sandwich stand. 
It was in the pizzeria segment of a popular osteria that our tastebuds were blasted into the stratosphere. Osteria del Caffé Italiano only serve three types of pizza: margherita (tomato sauce with mozzarella and oregano), Napoli (tomato sauce with mozzarella, anchovies and capers), and marinara (tomato sauce with garlic and oregano). As we loathe anchovies, we ordered one each of the other two options. 
Boy oh boy and gee willikers! The rustic pizzas, with toppings tossed on via grandiose Italian gesticulations, were amazing. I especially loved the marinara, as this simple type of pizza isn't widely found and it was executed perfectly. We hadn't even finished the meal before deciding that we would be back. As amateur foodies (or maybe it would be more accurate to refer to us as "food enthusiasts"), we prefer not to revisit eateries and instead make new discoveries. But this pizza! It was so good! You have no idea. Insatiable, we followed our meal with gelato from Marco Ottaviano and bussed back to our campground with basketball-sized foodbabies. 

Today's post was almost called: Coffee-Ki-Yay Motherfucker!