Sunday, 6 March 2016

Florence, day four: Gathering Firenzic Evidence (Don’t Disturb the Climb Scene)

Florence, Italy (Firenze, Italia)
On Firenzical day numero quattro we awoke super early and caught a bus to the centre with a bunch of commuters. Our plan of grogginess paid off, as the line for the campanile was short and we immediately began the climb. 
This is a photo of the campanile from our third Firenzical day so you can see how tall we became by reaching the top. This sort of thing is exciting to someone who stands at 157 centimetres at ground level. 
We took several breaks on the way up to catch our breath and snap photos. Two interesting things we found were a metal grille on the floor which looked a long way down the tower, and a small windowy grille which hopeless romantics had fastened lovelocks onto. In Europe it seems that if you can close a padlock around it, someone undoubtedly has. 
One reason for no lines or traffic jams on the stairs was the poor weather. While not actually raining most of the time, a thick oppressive mist hung over the city and caused non-waterproof clothing to become soaked. 
The view from the top was rather good, and we sighted our vantage point from the previous day - the apex of the dome. You can see an array of colourful umbrellas along the dome's balcony, as street vendors down in the square were opportunistically hawking these to queueing tourists as well as plastic ponchos. I liked the guys who donned a poncho coupled with an unfurled umbrella so as to demonstrate both of their products to potential patrons (bonus points for interesting colour combos). Conversely, some made very little effort - demerits to you, bored salesmen! Speaking of effort, we clamb three tall things in two days! Ma legs! As we began the descent, two middle-aged Italian men who had just completed their ascent collapsed onto a nearby bench, wheezing and gulping down great haggard breaths of air. Methinks they need to climb more towers.
Next we wanted to see the free part of the duomo as it was stilll early enough in the day that the queue didnt circumnavigate the entire cathedral. It hadn't quite opened yet, so we queued with the rest of the damp tourists. Once inside, our initial impression was that it was much too large a space to be so bare. Siena's duomo was also huge, yet every square metre was covered in decorations and that was more impressive in a way than sheer size alone. 
The crypt housed a museum filled with fascinating insights into Florentine history, including an Italian family bearing six hedgehogs. Wow cute! Around the main pathway were remains of fifth century mosaics which showcased Florence's wealth (as they were able to employ foreign craftsmen) as well as their close relationship with North Africa. 
These remarkably well-preserved gilded bronze spurs were found in the tomb of Giovanni de Medici, and was buried in the church Santa Reparata in 1351. Apparently he was titled 'gonfaloniere' of the Florentine Republic, which is a great word for an uninteresting appointment.
Moving on, we visited the church of Santa Maria Novella. Seeing no signs denoting any separate entrance for Firenze card holders, we foolishly joined the normal queue. After waiting our turn, we approached the ticket booth and were told to go to the opposite side of the church. We ended up having to enter through the information centre, which is so intuitive! How did we miss it?!
Bitterness aside, the church was a delight. In one part, tombstones covered the walls and much of the floor! We gazed at faded frescoes and wandered through several cloisters. Competed around 1360, it was termed 'novella', meaning "new" as it was built atop a pre-existing ninth century church. An early nativity scene painted by Botticelli graces its walls. 
After a short cappuccino break we finally entered my favourite church - Santa Maria Croce! I'd seen it from the outside numerous times as we walked past it on the way to other attractions, and today was the day to step inside. 
Being a rainy day, I spied an appropriately placed collection of water for what Instagram refers to as a "puddle gram". Spartanly decorated both externally and internally, Lonely Planet likens it to a barn (though I think that's unfair - and insulting to barns (jk trololol)). 
I really liked this lady's crown - it's a mini castle! If I had a crown it would be a mini castle. 
Many tombs of famous Italians lay here, including that of Galileo (pictured above), Dante and Michelangelo. You have to admit that Croce is pretty darn special!
The museum inside went into detail about the great flood of the Arno River in 1966 in which 101 people died and a tragically high number of paintings and books were damaged or lost entirely. A devoted restoration effort sprung up (workers were endearingly dubbed "mud angels"), and some pieces are still being worked on to this day. 
In one part of the museo we sighted an amazing painting by a man named Bezzuoli. Depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, it's not your typical biblical motif, and actually seems more like a satire of the genre - the angel and cherubs are struggling quite dramatically to hoist the matronly figure, who is blind to her companions' plight. 
Moving on to the Medici Chapel, we entered the vampiric tomb chamber with awe. Or at least I did, as Yannick had already seen it before on our 2013 trip - I had missed it due to my foot being fat from infection. I deem it vampiric for all the dark red and grey stone covering the walls and...there are creepy coffins lying around. I can totally imagine a centuries-old Medici creaking out from under the lid and staring around with pupil-less eyes. 
As Cosimo was cuzzies with Michelangelo (figuratively speaking), many sculptures of his grace the chapel. He was an amazing artist, but I do not understand those weird shaped boobs like half oranges stuck onto pecs. I don't think that occurs in nature. If you do have boobs that shape though, no judgement. Donatello also has a tomb in the chapel as he was a great friend of the Medicis. 
Guess who! That's right, it's David the famous penis. He is one of the first things you see upon entering the Galleria dell'Accademia, probably because...ya know...it's David. He's wicked tall and was carved to epitomise the ideals of male physique. People be snapping photos left right and centre. Oh and behind him too. Basically anywhere that there was a space to stand, someone was taking a picture. Me included obvs.
Further on we perused plaster casts of works by popular Italians and observed interesting tourists. The couple above would halt and both listen intently at their single audioguide with super serious expressions. 
While this couple liked to bend at a 90-degree angle to get a really good look at information plaques. They did this with every single info plaque
An interesting trend we noticed was that of "Hairy Magdalene" - aka Mary Magdalene after returning from the desert. In some paintings and sculpture, it wasn't just her head hair that was outta control, but she also seemed to somehow sprout an abundance of body hair like she was evolving into a wooly sheep. Her Hairyness is mentioned nowhere in the Bibble, but rather is a construction dating from medieval times. I don't know why. But it is pretty funny.
It was here that I left behind our umbrella right before closing time, requiring us to procure a new one. Yannick insisted on the colour red [insert rolling eye emoji here]. 
And once again, we supped upon our most favouritest of pizzas from Pizzeria Caffee Italiano. I already used this photo in my first Florence post, but here it is again! Get an eyeful of that wondrous marinara pizza. You beauty!

Today's post was almost called: I Love You. Let’s Padlock a Grille.