(April 14, 2014)
For some reason, today we stood in a lot of lines and didn’t see everything we wanted to see. We did get a late start after an attempt to sleep in, but it’s a Monday, and we were surprised at how many people were visiting the sights. Every place had a line, with a minimum 15 min wait. (As you can tell, this was new for us.) J. theorized that the coming Easter holiday may have encouraged people to take long holidays.
We started with an attempt at the Galleria Academia, but were thwarted when we discovered they are closed on the second Monday of each month. (Let this be a lesson: ALWAYS check to see if the place you want to go will be open hen you think it will be. Then double check.)
So instead we walked over to the Duomo Museum where we saw Michelangelo’s Pieta and the Gates of Paradise. (A note for future travelers: a ticket here allows you entry into each of the Duomo’s museum’s and sights.) The Pieta is unfinished, and sits in splendor on the 2nd floor. That may not always be the case, however, because the building is undergoing an extensive remodeling. A large group of kids milled around it at first, so we approached it gradually.
The Gates of Paradise have just been reinstalled after an extensive restoration. They were heavily damaged in the 1966 floods, and the decision was made to take them off the streets and place them indoors permanently. There was a fascinating film (silent) showing footage from the floods, bits of the restoration process, and then the reinstallation of the doors into their temporary home. (The door will be moved into a permanent space once its built.) Let me say that they are IMPRESSIVE. The restoration was masterful, and the doors are gloriously golden and detailed once again.
We intended to see the Bapistry, but one of us lost their ticket and we both couldn’t get in. So we skipped it. (We’d never intended to go into the Duomo, fortunately — the line was at least an hour’s wait.)
From there we meandered over to the Medici Chapel to see the tomb pieces by Michelangelo, as well as one of the most opulent family gravesites ever created. And it was opulent. It was also forbidden to take pictures (damn them!!!) so I can only tell you that the marble work is a masterpiece in and of itself. The Michaleangelo pieces were enormous and lovely and fit in perfectly with the tombs’ sensibilities. This is a place I highly recommend, although I’m not sure the audio guide is worth the 6 euro cost.
Then we went shopping. Florence is known for three things in particular: gold, fabric, paper, and leather. I’d done some research on ‘best’ places to go, because I also knew that there were going to be a ton of places selling cheap knockoffs at high prices. (Leather, in particular is often made in China from Italian leather. Also, the Ponte Vecchio is a famous place for gold, but its outrageously expensive to get it there.) So I had a list of places around the city to check out (of course).
We’d looked for a few paper places but they were either closed or no longer in business. Then we found Massimo Leather. GO TO MASSIMO LEATHER. Yes, I’m being that blunt and specific. He doesn’t advertise because he doesn’t have to, and his business is doing GREAT. His quality is high, his prices fair (feel free to do some negotiating, you might get a few euros off), and his selection outstanding. Moreover, he’ll ship. In fact, he let us add everything we’d purchased (books, gifts, stuff) to the box, so now we’re kilos lighter for the rest of our trip. What did we buy? We each got a coat, and J. splurged and bought a messenger style shoulder bag. I toyed with getting a handbag, but I’m really not that type of girl. :-) My sleeves were too long, so he sent the coat to the tailor while we wandered around, when I came back in about an hour it was ready, and fit perfectly.
Our ‘wandering around’ was pretty targeted — we went to a gorgeous paper store, A. Cozzi. We could see the papermakers and artisans working in the back, and the place was a gold mine of gorgeousness. We resisted most of all temptation, and left only with a jewelry box, stationary, and some cards.
By that time we were exhausted and ended up at a small place called Caffe Magra for a quick bite. Eggplant risotto for me (tasty!) and a margherita pizza for John.
We took the long way home and stopped by the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella, a perfumery that’s been in continuous operation since the 16th century. Yes, I wrote that correctly . . . since the 16th century. (Diana, I got you a list of things they are making so you can look into them, it was pretty impressive.) I was going to get a soap or shampoo or something, but the place was kind of overwhelming and to be honest I ended up feeling like I wasn’t *something* enough. (Rich enough? Smart enough? I don’t know. Just not good enough.) J. was a bit sad, as was I, but I’ll chalk it up to tiredness as much as anything.
After a return home and a quick lie down, we went out for dinner to a local ‘joint’ as J likes to call them: Il Contadina. They offer a limited menu in a single format: prix fixe for a starter, second, and drink (bottle of water or soda or 1/4 litre of house wine in red or white. All for 13.5 euros a person. This was by far our cheapest (main) meal in Italy. I wouldn’t call it out for its originality or amazing-ness, but it was a good meal, better that its price, actually.