Florence Day 2

Thursday, Sept 24, 2015

Our second day we woke to bright sunny skies, a little cool, in the lower 60’s. Just perfect in my book! I was afraid that I was going to wake a bit sore after yesterday’s fall, but I woke up feeling the best I had since our arrival in Italy. The plan for today was for me to meet the Boys at Market Centrale for lunch.  We had tickets for the Accademia Museum for 3:00 that afternoon. I took off in the direction of the  Duomo in hopes of getting some better photos now that the sun was out. I had just arrived when my phone rang, Richard checking to see if I had brought the museum tickets with me. What a dope I am.. no, I had forgotten them. Back to the apartment I went to retrieve them, effectively wasting the morning with my forgetfulness.

A few sights from my morning travels:

On the way back to the city center, I ran into the Boys and we continued on our way to the Market Centrale. Our plan was to eat at a place that was recommended by Elenora, the gal who checked us in to our apartment. I was looking forward to walking around the market after seeing it on Cooking Channel’s show, Extra Virgin. Since it was noon, it was very crowded on the second floor where the restaurants were located. There wasn’t any where to sit and eat nor could we decided on anything from their menus. There was very little seating anywhere as it is quite common in Italy to stand and eat and drink at many Trattoria’s and bars.  On the way out of the Market we strolled around downstairs a little marveling at the items in the cases. It is unbelievable what you can find for sale. The Italians really do use every piece of the animal, wasting nothing. Cases full of every cut of beef and pork you can imagine, and some that you don’t want to 😉 We wondered how people knew which butcher to buy from since there were several locations selling the same things all quite close to one another. But then, I’m sure the locals have their favorites. The cheeses that were displayed, the huge slices of T-Bone, packages of sausages, cases full of, nuts, mushrooms, olives, olive oils just every imaginable item one would want. We walked through rather quickly so I really wanted to be able to come back and look more closely in hopes of finding some Olive Oil, or the Truffle Oil that I sampled, to send home. A few of the tasty treats below.

Once back outside we wandered through the stalls selling leather goods and other items. Nothing was bought by any of us, although Dennie did stop at one that was selling scarves or some such thing. We wandered into a place after reading the menu, but we couldn’t tell if they were serving or not. There were people at the bar and we stuck our heads into the restaurant portion but it was dark.

I should explain that a bar in Italy is not what we here in the US refer to as a bar.  Bars serve things like sandwiches, pastries (depending on the time of day) espresso,  wine – often there are refrigerated cases as you walk in that you order from, there may or may not be a menu on the wall.  It depends on the type of bar as to what they serve. They are usually quite small, but some have dining areas inside as well.  More often than not, people are eating and/or drinking standing at the bar as is the custom in Italy. They are also gathering places for locals and if you see a bunch of locals gathered, I would recommend eating there!

Richard asked the man behind the bar if we could sit down to eat, he turned on the lights and showed us to a table giving us some menus. We didn’t know if we had committed a faux pas or not but assumed that if it wasn’t OK to sit down to eat, we would have been told. Shortly a woman came and began setting up other tables. We realized we were just a bit early since soon others came in and sat down to eat as well. Once again I just wasn’t that hungry and was really getting kind of irritated as one of the things I had been looking forward to on this trip, was the food!!!! I had a salad while the Boys split a Caprese Salad and a Prosciutto pizza. Richard also had a fancy coffee drink.  I think they said this was the first time they had had Prosciutto and were non-committal on if they liked it or not.  I sampled a little piece of the Prosciutto and it was excellent, almost buttery!  I can taste it just thinking about it.

With our tummies full we walked around the area and headed in the direction of the Accademia Gallery to find out exactly where we would need to go to enter the museum.  As we discovered with Dennie  the day before, you just might get sent to several different locations before arriving at the right entrance.  The day before we stopped to see where he needed to go for his tour of the Uffizi Gallery and I think we got sent to 3 different locations in the area before being sent to the correct one.  I purchased another Thimble of Espresso, this time for only 1 €, and then another because really, they are quite small. It was then time to trade in our on-line tickets for our actual tickets and make our way to the short line that our tickets afforded us. By this time the line was beginning to grow and we did wait for about 15 minutes.

Wow.. how impressive is the David! He really is quite amazing and you can get very close so Dennie and I had more then enough opportunities to take unobstructed photos which was wonderful. From there we went into the  Gipsoteca Bartolini.  I was astonished that all of this was so accessible. I kept asking Richard, what would happen if someone were to trip and knocked something over? Of course, I was thinking of someone like myself! I mean, everything is within reach, just right there in front of  you. Richard and I marveled at how plaster could be made to look as if it were robes draped over the subject. Truly amazing. Actually, we didn’t realize that this was plaster, we thought it was marble.  Despite my not enjoying museums or knowing anything about art, I was very glad that I did this. Richard kept saying that it was so much more enjoyable than the Vatican where they shuffled along in the crowds, trying to see over and through people, not really being able to appreciate what they were seeing.

Gipsoteca Bartolini – In 1784, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Peter Leopold, converted the friary hospital of San Matthew into a gallery so that students in the adjoining Accademia delle Belle Arti , or Fine Arts Academy, could study the greatest works of the past. Therefore, in the “Gipsoteca Bartolini” visitors will find a selection of the finest 19th century plaster casts by Lorenzo Bartolini, one of the great sculptors and brilliant professors of the Academy.

THE DAVID – 

This astonishing Renaissance sculpture was created between 1501 and 1504. It is a 14.0 ft marble statue depicting the Biblical hero David, represented as a standing male nude. Originally commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence, it was meant to be one of a series of large statues to be positioned in the niches of the cathedral’s tribunes, way up at about 80mt from the ground. Michelangelo was asked by the consuls of the Board to complete an unfinished project began in 1464 by Agostino di Duccio and later carried on by Antonio Rossellino in 1475. Both sculptors had in the end rejected an enormous block of marble due to the presence of too many “taroli”, or imperfections, which may have threatened the stability of such a huge statue. This block of marble of exceptional dimensions remained therefore neglected for 25 years, lying within the courtyard of the Opera del Duomo (Vestry Board).

Michelangelo was only 26 years old in 1501, but he was already the most famous and best paid artist in his days. He accepted the challenge with enthusiasm to sculpt a large scale David and worked constantly for over two years to create one of his most breathtaking masterpieces of gleaming white marble.

The Hall of Prisoners

From the museum we started making our way back “home” to have dinner. We stopped in Piazza of Santa Maria Novella watching a young woman trying to eat something  while a large flock of seagulls tried to take the food away from her.  It was pretty comical actually.  The skies were very threatening and the temperature had dropped making it rather cool. I was wearing a short sleeved tee shirt and pants, Richard was wearing a sweater and jacket – he always seemed to be much colder than I. Dennie always had a long sleeve heavy shirt.  I was always in a short sleeved tee shirt and probably would have had shorts on were it not something that just screamed American Tourist LOL. We decided we had better get moving and we discussed dinner plans. I had been hinting since yesterday, and all day, that I really, really wanted to get Bistecca Florentine and had convinced the guys to as well.

On our way back I was feeling a bit too cocky and comfortable and was not looking at the ground and walking a bit faster than I should.  BOOM! down I went once again. Face first this time, teeth hitting the ground and not only the same side of my face as yesterday, but the same spot! Because I hit my mouth, there was blood this time, quite a bit of blood. Again, nearby people stopped to help and told me to stay down as I tried to get up asking me if I was OK. Someone actually pushed me back down as I tried to get up telling me to just sit a minute. I was SO angry, not at the people trying to help but with myself. I always get mad at myself when this happens, and I get mad at the MS too. Even though this time, it was my fault because I know better than to not be looking at the ground when I walk, especially when I am on uneven surfaces like these broken old sidewalks. I know that I have to be extra careful and be extra mindful of making sure that I swing my left leg just a little bit more so that my toe doesn’t get caught. What was I thinking?!? So stupid!! Richard with his quick action and quick thinking, he wiped the blood from my mouth and above my eye but it immediately began to swell above my eye. There was a Farmacia across the street and he suggested we try to get an ice pack for the swelling.

I wasn’t hurt really, it always amazes me that despite my falls, some quite hard on my knees, that I usually don’t hurt myself too badly – other than my ego of course! The first person in the Farmacia didn’t quite understand what we were asking for despite my pointing to the obvious, swollen eyebrow area.  Eventually, we were able to convey what we were looking for and she produced a box of the type of ice packs that you crack in order to activate. She opened it, cracked it, but nothing happened. She got another person, who cracked it harder and sure enough, it activated.

I made my purchase and we walked out, me holding it to my face as we made our way through the streets of Florence.  We stopped near the Duomo to get some more photos.  A little fall doesn’t usually stop me, it just slows me down a bit – LOL  The ice pack certainly helped to keep the swelling down above my eye, and I altered the ice pack between my mouth and my eye, concentrating on my eye since Richard said it was pretty swollen. I knew it must be because my vision was limited out of that eye. I know that I wouldn’t have thought to get an ice pack were I alone, I would have just kept on going after cleaning myself up. Just as I did in San Francisco a few years ago when I did the same thing. I knew I had chipped some teeth this time. I had to stop on a small side street away from people at one point, to swirl some water and spit out some of the bits of teeth into the sewer grate. I know, I know, how lady like huh? But I didn’t want to swallow it. At this point, I wasn’t sure how much more that particular spot above my eye could take and hoped that I was done with the falling. I would later discover that I had quite a bruise on my hip, a bruised forearm and a scraped elbow.

When we got back to the Oltrarno around 6:00, it still looked like it wanted to storm at any moment and was getting rather cold. We walked around trying to find a place to eat , but this being the Oltrarno, and not the city center, most everything was closed, not to re-open until 7:30 the earliest. This was the first time we ran into this very common custom in Italy.  Restaurants close mid afternoon, not to reopen again until 7:00 or later. I was pretty cold at this point and wanted to return to the apartment to get a light sweater.   On the way to the apartment, we found a restaurant that was open.

We ordered a 1.2 kilo piece of Bistecca Florentine.  Bistecca Florentine is only served one way.  First, you select a size that you want, in some places they will present pieces of meat for you to choose from,  then it is grilled 7 minutes per side. That’s it, no choice to degrade and destroy the meat by people asking for it to be “well done”.  It is grilled to perfection. Thankfully The Boys agree with me that this is the proper way to prepare meat.

Finally, some real Italian food!!! With my lack of appetite I had not tasted much yet and what I had in Rome, didn’t impress me much. This was heavenly!!! I even ordered a glass of wine, something I don’t drink but a few times a year. There was some question as to if I should be doing this, what if I had a concussion? but I threw caution to the wind and indulged. The first few sips did sting my busted lip, but it was worth it. Everything was so delicious and left me so glad that we had done this. It was so good that when I return to Florence, I just may do it again, hoping that I will be able to find a place that I could select a much smaller piece of meat so as not to waste it since I certainly couldn’t eat it all myself. I was quite confused as to why the camera on my phone was refusing to focus when I tried to take pictures of the food. I tried turning on the flash, but it didn’t go off. Hmmm.. maybe it had been fallen on too much???? The photos are pretty dark unfortunately.

After dinner we walked over to the famous Gelateria La Carraia that the Boys had gone to last nite.  The selection of flavors made it difficult to decide what to get. Oh my gosh.. now this is what I had thought that gelato was supposed to be like. So rich, so creamy, so delicious and for 2 large scoops? just 1.5 €. How could that be?!? And our dinner, for all 3 of us, with wine and appetizers was only 60 €. I was quite happy so far with prices in Italy for food. Very reasonable, certainly a whole lot cheaper than back home. My huge glass of wine was only 5 €.

We slowly strolled back to the apartment eating our gelato. Despite the fall, it was a perfect day and I walked 9-1/4 miles. As if to make it even more perfect? As if Italia were celebrating my dream trip unfolding right along with me? There was a huge fireworks display over the river that I could see and hear, from my bedroom window. I was loving everything about Florence so far. My only regret was that we only had 1 more day.

Last Day in Florence

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