Friday, May 16, 2014

Galleria dell Accademia, Roman Amphitheatre, 27 Years of Marriage Celebrated

Because we had reserved tickets to see the David, which we inexcusably missed on the last trip—our first—to Florence, we were up fairly early. We had the usual breakfast at La Scaletta, and then a long (for Florence) walk through not crowded streets to the already very crowded Galleria dell'Accademia. We were very, very glad to have made reservations, as otherwise we would have had quite the wait; the line was already more than a block long. In and to the left, and one can see the David.

Because I had read about its dimensions, it was less surprising to me than to Shawn, who had expected it to be smaller. It is lovely; the detail of each muscle and bone are very convincing, though we both thought the hands and feet and calves quite large compared to the rest of the form. Still, I suppose that David is supposed to be a boy, so perhaps this is not inappropriate. The crowds were at least respectful, so we were able to completely walk around the statue, examining it from each side. At a respectful distance, we agreed that though it is clearly a masterwork, it is one of those things that has been so hyped that it can hardly fail to disappoint, just a little. Still, I know that we are both glad to have finally seen the original, having only seen the replicas at Piazza della Signoria and Piazzelle Michelangelo.

It was quite interesting to see the other Michelangelo works in the same corridor at Galleria dell'Accademia. We also looked at some plaster models for 18th and 19th century sculptures and some photographs of Michaelangelo's works, meta art, if you will. But we agreed that we had perhaps had enough of the crowds, and the incessant and insipid conversation to be overheard in these must-see tourist spots. We have found that we prefer wandering churches and admiring architecture on our own to walking through many museums. The curated experience is, oddly, not as compelling as the one intended to inspire spirituality or even just to impress. And, I think, there's a great deal to be said for being left to oneself to just experience things, rather than having the guided, shaped experience.

After the Galleria dell Accademia, we walked to Piazza San Marco and purchased tickets for the Number 7 bus to Fiesole. We waited only 10 minutes or so, and then had a ride up, on a bus without many passengers. We were actually asked to show our tickets, and the gentleman checking them seemed pleasantly surprised that we had actually stamped them without having to be instructed to do so. (Later, I was really glad that we had done so; I knew that one could be fined for failing to stamp a ticket, but I didn't know at the time that the fine was at least €50.)

In Fiesole, we first wandered up to the little church on the main square and revisited it; it is old and quiet and perhaps unremarkable, but it was cool and pleasant and empty. From there, we figured out where the Roman amphitheater is; we decided, as it was noon, that we would first walk up to La Reggia degli Etruschi for lunch. Once there, we sat on the terrace in the sunlight and enjoyed that remarkable view. We each started with a sformatina, Shawn's with funghi and mine with zucchini and pomodoro. Then I enjoyed mezzaluna with ricotta and pear filling, covered with cheese sauce and poppyseeds. Shawn had risotto with funghi. We shared some grilled vegetables (zucchini and melanzane), dressed with olive oil. We enjoyed a bottle of Vernacchia, to which I think we have both grown attached. For dessert, I wanted the millefoglie con fragole, but it was finished for the day, so I settled for cantucchini con vin santo, and Shawn had panna cotta with wild berries--and una duppio espresso, which is becoming his Italian standard. 

He decided to buy lunch for a young couple who turned out to be from North London, because he heard them discussing what they could afford to have; he remembers how difficult the early years were for us, and wanted to let them have the money to spend on something else for their vacation.  (And this, of course, is part of why he is so easy to love.) The waiter blew Shawn's cover, though, and Hayley, the young woman, was most thankful, and wanted us to stay and have a coffee with them. Her husband, who did not introduce himself, and only reluctantly shook hands, seemed affronted by the gesture; we both hope that he get over it, and remember one day to do the same himself. He may have been a bit placated when we explained that we were celebrating our 27th anniversary and just wanted to share the good fortune.

We then walked up to the turnaround above the restaurant and admired the views of Florence. The day was more overcast than on our last visit, but it was still beautiful. We walked up to the monastery, visiting the church and the choir room in the missionary's museum, a room with beautiful medieval frescoes and the most perfect acoustics I've ever encountered. We lingered in the abbot's cloister, admiring the roses and the koi pond; it is such a lovely little spot that it brought tears to my eyes. I remember it as a little surprise from our last trip, one that I especially appreciated for its quiet and beauty.

Back down to the Roman amphitheater, which is built on a site that already contained an Etruscan altar and other buildings. The amphitheater is still usable, and is used for summer concerts; they must be lovely, as it is a fairly intimate space, with beautiful views of the countryside. In the old days, one could first have gone for a bath and then ambled over for a performance. We ran into an older couple from London, Ontario there, she walking with a cane, but both of them joyful at being there. These are the North Americans one wants to meet in Italy.

We caught the 5 o'clock bus back to Florence, and Shawn got stuck talking to a guy from New Hampshire who did graciously give me his seat, but then wanted to talk about work. Most of us Americans don't appear to know how to talk about anything else. Still, he and his wife were nice, in a status-conscious, excessively-proud-of-how-hard-working-we-are American kind of way.

Back in Florence, we walked back through crazy crowds to La Scaletta, arriving tired and hot. When we got to our room, we found a cake and a bottle of spumante with a happy anniversary note! It turned out that the spumante was from the hotel, but Cristina and her mother had made the small Sacher torte for us; I nearly cried. Here is this Romanian girl who really barely knows us, but she spent some of her limited time off making us a cake for our anniversary. Just when I become disgusted with humanity in general, some specific human being reminds me how kind we can be. She is a very sweet girl. 

After thanking her, we enjoyed our cake and bubbly and relaxed a bit. Then we went up top for drinks; I tried the hotel's Negroni (ala Dino), which is very, very good—and larger than those I've had in the states. Shawn enjoyed an amaro, as the Montenegro was back in stock.

We decided to just walk down to Trattoria La Galleria, as we were both very tired. Our first waiter seemed to be phoning it in, but we managed to get a piccolo bottiglia of Antinori Chianti, about which we had heard good things. It was very, very good--but so is most wine here. I had some ricotta and spinaci ravioli with a butter and sage sauce, which was delicious. Shawn enjoyed potato gnocchi in pomodoro sauce and a side of cannellini with olive oil, as this is the city of bean eaters. For dessert, we shared another panna cotta with berries; I managed to decorate my face and dress with the berry sauce—can't take me anywhere. (And don't forget the duppio espresso.) Shawn talked with the owner about the photo at the register of this whole area of Via Guicciardini, which was hit hard during WWII. The Germans occupied the city until the Americans advanced on it in, I believe, 1944; on their way out, the Germans used munitions to blow up most of the bridges across the Arno to slow the Americans down. The Ponte Vecchio was spared by a German commander who could not bring himself to destroy it, but the next bridge west, Santa Trinita, was later rebuilt to look as it had before the war. Having spared the Ponte Vecchio, though, he used munitions to destroy the streets leading to the bridge, meaning that much of this area was painfully reconstructed after the Germans left and the war ended. 

No comments:

Post a Comment