Yesterday I received a bit of a shock when I went downstairs to the reception of this hostel. I think I mentioned before that this hostel is run by two brothers. Well, I only met one of them when I checked in and this morning when I went downstairs the other one was there. What made me do a double take was the fact that they look exactly alike except one has crazy long hair and the other has short hair, so for a few dumb seconds I thought that the guy had magically grown all that hair overnight. Then it dawned on me that it was the other brother – I thought afterwards that it was like the two policemen in Hot Fuzz who are bothers and sit at the front desk of the police station; one is totally unkempt and the other very smart. This is the famous “Nobody tells me nuthin'” scene that my brothers and I quote to each other.
Anyway, yesterday was a busy day. The thing about Florence is there are so many museums it can be hard to chose what to go to when you have limited time. I chose to go the Bargello museum in the morning because it houses some amazing collections of Renaissance sculpture but it was also used as a torture barracks in medieval times, so it looks rather imposing and I could easily imagine it would have been feared when in operation.
The collections here were pretty amazing – and inside the building itself it was so easy to imagine this place in the medieval times with its knaves and stone walls. No photos allowed unfortunately so I can't show you what it was like, but take my word for it – it was pretty cool.
I then made my way down to Santa Croce, a beautiful Renaissance style church that is as famous for its beauty as for the fame of the people who have their tombs there. Inside there are the magnificent tombs of Michaelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and an honorary one for Dante (who is buried elsewhere). There are many others also and the floor is uneven because the stone slabs have bodies underneath them and the floor is carved with their likeness. This actually reminded me once when I was younger I remember my Dad telling me about old churches that bury people in the floors and walls and the next time we were at mass in our 40 year old church I wondered where all the people were in the walls there. It's things like that that make me realise how old and amazing these places are in Europe – they have such a history behind them that Australia just doesn't because of its relative youth.
Santa Croce from the front
Tomb of Michaelangelo
The architecture inside
Kind of hard to see, but this part of the tunic that St Francis of Assis wore
The cloisters surrounding the church are quite beautiful – I just love walking through them in the silence and all you can hear are your own footsteps. It's the closest I will ever get to the experience of a monk!
Towards the end of the day I went inside the Baptistery that is right next to the big Duomo. Unlike the Duomo's inner simplicity, the Baptistery has absolutely stunning mosaics on its domed roof and around some of the windows. I still have a sore next from sitting down for nearly an hour looking up at it. The mosaics tell of various Biblical stories and towards the Altar there is a depiction of the Last Judgement. It was just absolutely beautiful and it was amazing to sit there thinking, this is the place that Dante came to and loved and said how much it inspired him. I sat there wondering if I would ever produce anything of a fraction of the magnificence of Dante's Divine Comedy - it's hardly likely!
Today was a bit more sedate. I went to the Uffizi Gallery this morning but there was already a huge line, so I will have to go back tomorrow and be there before it opens (around 8am) to avoid waiting in line for ages. So, I kept moving on and went to the Pitti Palace and its surrounding gardens. This was one of the best things I have done so far – the Palace itself has the most amazing frescos painted on the walls but what I enjoyed the most were the gardens outside. I'm feeling a little nostalgic for greenery at the moment – it's mainly stonework I've seen for these past weeks. But if anyone is ever in Florence, I highly recommend the Boboli and Bardini Gardens – it's a little bit of Tuscan countryside in Florence. And the views! Even on a cold, cloudy day like today it was stunning and I was in bliss walking through the fruit trees and grape vines.
I spent quite a lot of time there today just basking in the serenity (much better than Bonny Doon!) so that when I went to Santo Spirito afterwards, it was closed for the day. No matter, I kept on moving and went over the Vecchio Bridge which is from Renaissance times. It was packed full of
a) tourists and b) jewellery stores with the most beautiful pieces. I just can't help being attracted to sparkly things so you can imagine I had to look in every single window :) God help my future husband!
Some of the funnier things I saw today include a crazy cat woman in one of the gardens, who was feeding a group of healthy looking cats. I adore cats more than I love sparkly thing so it was difficult for me not to join the crazy lady in cuddling the cats. Another sight that made me laugh though I had to hide it was in a cafe, where this little girl was drinking a very rich cup of hot chocolate and when she had finished had a moustache from the chocolate to rival any man in Movember (for those not familiar, in Australia in November some men grow a moustache and raise money for various causes) as well as black teeth when she smiled at her mother. Her mother certainly saw the funny side of it so if they saw me giggling hopefully they weren't offended!