Saturday, 12 March 2016

Florence, day five: A Barrel of Pizza? Don’t Mind If I Do.

Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia)
October 2015
On our fifth and final day in the most Firenzical of Tuscan cities, we set our alarm for the earliest time ever and were even more grog than the day before. Yet we had to make good use of the last few hours left on our Firenze cards. We decided to spend them at Palazzo Pitti, which probably needs three days all by itself to explore properly.
Walking across the Ponte Vecchio at such an early hour opened our eyes to how many tourists there normally are in the city clogging up the bridge. With the glimmers of dawn metamorphosising into full daylight, it was almost deserted. And with a significant lack of crowds we could see that it was a legit street! We thought it was a pedestrian-only zone, but seeing a couple of cars pulled up to the curb proved that assumption to be false. Yannick pondered if any bastard SatNavs had tried to lead unsuspecting foreigners across the bridge during peak touristing hours, leading their cars to be hijacked by the angry mob of visitors pressing in from all sides. 
The south side of the Arno was a little grungier than the duomo side, and we found some inventive graffiti. This one turned Girl with a Pearl Earring into a scuba diver. Gotta get those monster pearls somewhere right?!
Freaky bat gargoyle fountain - 'nuff said.
Once acquiring our Palazzo Pitti tickets, we entered the Boboli Gardens. Nobody has a standardised way of accepting the Firenze cards, so sometimes you have to go get a ticket from the normal ticket booth, sometimes you have to get a ticket from a special ticket booth, sometimes you don't need a ticket at all and you can walk right in, and sometimes you realise this is Italy and it's actually a national triumph in organisation and efficiency to have such a thing as a city-wide concession card at all. We were lucky enough to have our cards scanned and then were given printed tickets to each separate part of the palace, which meant that we didn't actually have to worry about when exactly our Firenze cards ran out of juice, as we had tickets! We could go wherever whenever!
The gardens were expansive and felt less like a contained garden and more like a small country where aristocrats are born. Every direction is covered in sculptures, fountains and giant bathtubs (clearly this was some kind of style, but it looked like a drowning hazard to me). 
It was wonderful to be surrounded by greenery as a change from the stone jungle of the historic centre, and to be able to look out over Florence from afar. 
Look at this shit! It goes for miles!
Okay, quick history lesson: the palazzo was built in 1458 by the banker Luca Pitti, but was purchased by the Medici a century later. It feels like if the Medici wanted something, no one could stop them and they had plenty of cashmonay to make it happen. Fast forward to the 1700's when Napoleon took it over as his headquarters and house. There's a lot more, but we don't have the time or attention span to go into it right now. Moving along. 
There was no way we had the energy to explore every area of the gardens, but we did find some beautiful canopied walkways. Heading through, we saw a cat chase in progress accompanied by surprised howls and figured that the instigator had decided he was the feline king of the gardens and other cats were not welcome. It's a large kingdom to police single-handedly. Shoutout to that boss cat. 
After a game of football (using a chestnut as a makeshift ball) and a brief exploration of a pot plant-lined pond, we ended our garden tour. Making our way back inside, we ventured into the apartments and gallery section of the palazzo. First there was an exhibition on Carlo Dolci who was an awesome painter dude and his name means dessert. His style was super detailed portraits with eyelash-less eyes.
The permanent gallery was in crazy decorative apartments and had so many paintings it was hard to know where to look. I preferred it when we got to a section that was more just rooms preserved with original period furniture. There was a grand bedroom with an interesting aesthetic. Some important lady had been told that she could have the ensuite bathroom any way she liked so she demanded an oval room covered in silk. As would any rational person in that situation.
One gallery which would normally hold no interest to us was focused on fashion. But we had heard that there were some clothing pieces that Cosimo and Eleanora of Toledo had been buried in. We couldn't miss vintage funereal garb! I totally fangirled over Cosimo's shirt and Eleanora's gown. It's so old and well-preserved! (No photos were allowed unfortunately.)
We briefly peeked into another exhibition just to see what it was, and it turned out to be photos of creepy anatomically correct wax human anatomy models. Glossy and meaty innards were captured in large prints hanging on the walls. It was gross and we left. 
Having devoted our whole morning to the palace, our bellies were in dire need of pizzerial sustenance. We raced across to a nearby pizza joint we had read about earlier (called Gusta Pizza) and seated ourselves at a barrel for two. Marinara and margherita followed along with excellent and generous glasses of red wine. Look at that rustic crust! That's how you know it tastes good - they don't care about presentation. 
Patrons would write notes on their pizza tickets and push them under the glass-topped barrel so we followed suit. I am not good at drawing kiwi birds but I had a go because that's how we do it in the ol' en-zed.
Bussing and walking back to the campsite, we sipped ice cold sparkling water. At one point we saw seven cats laying in the sun on a driveway, all slowly blinking at us in a tranquil and disinterested manner. They clearly had no territorial issues like the King of Boboli. Our last afternoon in Florence was spent napping (by me) and doing the washing (thanks Yannick).

Today's post was almost called: Pitti Please With a Cherry Tomato On Top