Firenze Again

Day 14 – Second Day in Firenze

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Brunelleschi
  • Mike: Engineering
  • Jen: Cityscape
Two Words
  • Barb: Above Florence
  • Mike: Bird’s-eye Firenze
  • Jen: Rooftop gardens
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Sunny day, chill wind
  • Mike: Inside the dome
  • Jen: Botticelli, da Vinci, Perugino…
One Sentence
  • Barb: I saw Duomo’s underpants!
  • Mike: Fresh bread, pecorino cheese, olives, tomatoes, and fruit and nuts from the Mercato Centrale, on the steps in the sun: there’s lunch.
  • Jen: Forget the jelly beans in the jars: How many Madonna-and-child paintings are in the uffizi?
Barb, Mike, and Jen at the top of Il Duomo in Florence.

From the top of Brunelleschi’s dome overlooking Florence.

Good weather inspired another foray into Florence, this time to climb Il Duomo.

Steep, narrow stairs wound between the inner and outer domes, exposing some of the engineering Brunelleschi used to construct the building without the usual supportive centering. The curve of the dome forced us to lean inward at times, and I imagined the masons leaning over similarly, not only as they climbed those same steps, but as they worked, hundreds of feet above the ground. Brunelleschi designed two sets of stairs so workers going up wouldn’t have to contend with workers coming down—an especially good idea given how narrow the stairs are in places.

Il Duomo's stairs between the inner and outer domes

Il Duomo’s stairs between the inner and outer domes. See how the ceiling slopes inward? Watch your head and lean to the right.

Jen on Il Duomo's stairs, looking down

Did I mention these stairs were steep and narrow? Do you believe me now?

The bird’s-eye views from castles, towers, and domes helps give me some bearings within the crowded, busy, labyrinthine city, but it also gives me some appreciation for what humans have done here and how long they’ve been doing it. I appreciate humans less when I’m squished amongst them on the ground, stuck at a standstill behind them when they stop to text in the middle of the sidewalk, forced to breathe their second-hand smoke. Being able to see the hills in the distance also reminds me of where and how big (or small) these accomplishments are in relation to planet Earth.

Looking out over Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral from the top of Il Duomo

Looking out over the top of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, past Giotto’s Tower (the campanile), to the hills beyond Florence. See the snow on the far-right hill?

We lingered on the walkway at the top despite the chill wind.

On the way up and down, we were able to walk around the inside of the interior dome that is frescoed with scenes depicting Bible stories. The scenes of Hell are always gruesome and fun. I noticed that tiny windows in the dome were often painted into the center of books held by different secondary or background characters. You can see one of these books at the top of the image on the left side. Hole-y books all over the dome.

Hell scene from the interior of Il Duomo

Scene of hell from the fresco inside Il Duomo. One of many hole-y books, this one held by a couple of demons, is visible at the top on the left.

On the way down the dome steps, we stopped at a small room that displayed tools that were used for building and repairing the dome.

Tools used to build and repair Il Duomo

Tools used to build and repair Il Duomo.

After our climb up the dome, we picked up our Friends of the Uffizi membership cards—and figured out a little about how to use them—then met Lexi in front of Santa Croce cathedral. She took us to the Mercato Centrale where she shops for bread, cheese, fruit, and veggies. Barb also shopped here when she was in school or visiting. We bought some schiacciata (focaccia with olive oil and salt on top), pecorino cheese, olives, tomatoes, and dried fruit and nuts and enjoyed lunch on the steps of the San Lorenzo church. We followed that with gelato from Lexi’s favorite local shop, a hop, skip, and a jump from her apartment. I tried chocolate-orange this time, in the spirit of adventure, and it was okay, but vanilla-based flavors are still my favorite.

Dried fruit display at Mercato Centrale

The dried fruit and nut display at the Mercato Centrale. Yum!

Sitting on the steps of San Lorenzo after lunch

Chatting on the steps of San Lorenzo after lunch (before gelato).

We sent Lexi back to her schooly business and returned to the Uffizi to put our membership cards to use, bypassing the long line of people waiting to buy tickets. Although, I have to say, I didn’t feel welcomed as a friend by the lobby workers. “Service with a smile” is definitely not the Italian M-O.

And just like that, there we were, surrounded by famous paintings by famous painters whose names even I have heard. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was the only painting with which I was familiar, but I recognized names (see my four words for the day). Sorry, no picture-taking allowed at the Uffizi.

The paintings by and large were enormous and very old, but I didn’t consider them all technically good. I am a Perugino fan for his bright colors and clean lines. I don’t care for dark paintings or ones with lots of gold leaf. And ohmygoodness I got tired of Madonna-and-child pictures. As Barb patiently explained, churches were the institutions with money to commission art, and religion was the fashion for wealthy families, so I suppose it makes sense. Even so….

What I liked most was having Barb point out interesting details as well as the mythological and religious stories the paintings depicted and the jokes the paintings inspired: baby Jesus pinching an inch, saint Lucy with her plate of eyeballs (Sing it with me: “Lucy in the sky-y with eyeballs”), “predella” (pray, tell-a) me more about those paintings across the bottom of that altarpiece, and so on. We’ve been seeing the same stories depicted in fresco cycles on church walls and ceilings, so they’re becoming more familiar. I’m proud as a kid who just learned to tie her shoes when I can identify a scene on my own.

We returned to the Piazzale Michelangelo—the wonderful square with free parking south of the city—at dusk for a lovely sunset view of Firenze and the drive home to Miralaghi.

Ponte Vecchio at dusk from Piazzale Michelangelo

Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge,” or to be more precise, “bridge old”) at dusk from Piazzale Michelangelo. That’s the medieval stone bridge in front with shops all across it and a covered walkway above it.

Categories: Italy, Travel