Italy retro-diary: day 6

We awoke hungry, to a brisk morning. This was our view out of the window.

View out of hotel window: Florence

In actuality, it was quite a bit prettier, because there was a balcony with potted plants and steam pipes on. The Hotel Cellai, while not quite living up to the photographs on their web site, was nonetheless a pretty neat place. And breakfast was nearly as good as in Rome, but the setting was much nicer. Since we were running a bit behind, we had the front desk call us a taxi. I had barely turned around when it arrived outside, and we jumped in to go to the offices.

Not any old office, of course, but The Ufizzi. The offices of the old Medici family, now housing a bunch of pictures, including the Birth of Venus (Botticelli), numerous Annunciations (da Vinci et al) and Madonna of the Harpies (Sarto). We dutifully wondered round, admiring the stirring artworks, and feeling much better about ourselves culturally. I should mention a tip for the off-season here: reservations are recommended during the summer, but they cost €8 at the reservations door instead of the €6.50 at the regular door. We didn’t know this until after we had trekked around the courtyard past the vacant entrance to the reservations desk and back again. We also rediscovered that monster art galleries are very hard on the feet, and this one was up a lot of stairs. The Uffizi also has the strangest and most wonderful restrooms: at the end of a long, secret basement crypt tunnel, there is an expansive marble-tiled bathroom.

Just outside was Palazzo Vecchio and the rather nifty Piazza della Signoria. It had a copy of Michelangelo’s David, as well as some sculptures of early italian baseball players and escape artists. Or something like that.

Clockwise: early Italian baseball, the Palazzo Vecchio (and David), view of the Duomo from the Ufizzi rooftop pizzaria, the Duomo entrance, Basilica d

We ate lunch in a pleasant tourist pizzeria behind the Uffizi, and despite the faces made by nearby gargoyles, quite enjoyed it. (The waiter was quite apologetic as he kept forgetting our water every time he walked past.)

Our feet were still sore from being cultured, so we ambled around and found the Duomo. I don’t think you could build a cathedral like that today: not the cost aspect, but the critics would tear it down visually before anyone could appreciate it. And it is quite a sight—if it were an html tag, it would be a <blink>. It’s impressive and subdued on the inside though: mostly empty and the antethesis of St. Peter’s gaud.

Walking slowly back, we stopped, or rather Sara stopped, at the Balsamic Vinegar store. I’ve never seen her so excited, brooding over the 6-year or 36-year vintages. Fascinating. Anyway, lured by the the tempting delights of a nap, I prised her away and back to the hotel. Well, almost. We had to stop and see the real Michelangelo’s David, now housed in a hard-to-find museum where photography was not allowed. It was the only thing really worth seeing there. Back at the hotel, I finished my prequel-to-the-next-book part of my book and investigated the ethernet cable in the lobby. It had Internet. It was good.

In the evening we wondered around town a bit, down to the river, over the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and more Piazzas. We ended up by the Mercato Centrale and ate at a cafe on the square. The only other people nearby were two Americans, who were having a great girls’ vacation in Germany, and thought it would be fun to have a day-flight to Florence. They were somewhat regretting the “one hour flight with three hour waits”, but seemed cheerful despite that, and got more cheerful as the wine went down.

Inside a hole by the road, we found a supermarket, where we discovered interesting things like healthy cereal, chocolate milk powder and Fanta. Buoyed by our fortunes, we watched the colonel give the weather report and went to sleep.

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