Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Florence - Tuesday

Back in Florence, at our favorite cafe (partially because it had good food and coffee and on-street seating.... but mostly because we had purchased access to their wireless network the day before.)

This day we started off touring the Medici Palace.

One enters the palace courtyard through this archway. Marble that looks like flowing fabric never fails to draw me in. I'm fascinated by the juxtaposition of soft and hard... And this 'curtain' held back by cherubs was just too cute not to photograph.

The courtyard - the official greeting / meeting space. The walls were covered in hearldry and mentions of deeds and daring. Very grand, but not all that comfortable.

As opposed to the very different feeling private garden, which was just through an archway from the main courtyard. Yes, those are Orange trees and they were producing!

One of the exhibits was on Fibbonacci. Don't know what these books were about, but they were written by him and the illumination always something that grabs our eye.

Fibonacci's name also caught my eye because at work I've recently become aware of the "Fibonacci Series" of numbers - which we use for something too mundane to try and explain here. Never the less I was interested in the exhibit... but there were no English tranlations. I'd hoped to get something of these panels translated at some point.

OK, and this one REALLY piqued our curiosity - how are they tying Fibonacci here to medieval pavillions??

A run of the mill salon...

But this room was spectactular. Gilded with mirrors on one side and windows on the other. The ceiling had a great painting.

But the piece de resistance for the whole palace really was the Chaple of the Magi. This is one of the few palaces in Florence with a private chapel. And it is quite small - comfortably sitting a dozen people around the walls I think. But boy was it sumptiously frescoed!

Image stolen from Wikipedia

This is but one of 3 main Magi frescoes in the room - plus other compositions that are fit to every available inch of wall, and ceiling space. I could have just sat there for hours, I'm quite certain! However - they were wise to this and didn't allow any sitting. Sadly, we eventually had to move along. (Though our advisors were right - it was NOT because of crowds, we had all the space we wanted throughout the palace.)

We hit the Museum of San Marco just 45 minutes before closing time - because once again we were taken unawares of a museum that closes at 1:50 4 days a week.

This one time monastery houses a large collection of Fra Angelico's frescoes. Upstairs, where the monks 'cells' were, we could wander up and down the hall looking at the frescoes that decorated each one.

Though honestly we got more excited about another resident of this monestary: Girolamo Savonarola "whose personal charisma and prophetic fervor led him from humble scholar to celebrity preacher to prior of San Marco to leader of Florence to controversial martyr." (Rick Steve's Florence) Whew - what a roller coaster.

Or rather we got excited about his furniture. This style of chair is fairly popular amongst the SCA crowd we hang with, but we had no idea they were actually period!

Look - they even had plans!

After a quick bite to eat at a cafe in Piazza San Marco, then we hopped on one of the little city center electric busses and voila -- back at Ponte Vecchio. We walked across of course.

This is not a short bridge - and every single vendor's window is just packed with dazzling jewelry.

The southern shore of the Arno is known as the Oltrarno area, in other words, "the Other side". This neighborhood did feel more crowded, more cars - definitely a bit less of the charm of the northern bank of the Arno.

We walked the few blocks to the Pitti Palace - but we must have been quite tired because we have no pictures from there - LOL! None were allowed inside, and the front fascade is pretty stark so... I am sad we didn't get a chance to take in either of the gardens at the palace (Boboli or Bardini). They are extensive and looked spectacular from the windows. That should be on our list for next time.

Leaving there we decided to hop back on one of the electric busses and just ride around. Most of our conveyance in town had been by walking, and there were large swaths of areas we hadn't hit yet. We saw numerous city squares that looked interesting - especially the one with the carosel set up! Alas - only so much time.

We ended the day dining in front of Santa Croce church.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Florence - Monday

Refreshed, on Monday we were up and at em. Of all the places we're talked about driving, we were unanomously advised to stay away from Florence! We were fairly well cowed. But then we looked at our city map, and saw that the main road from Poggibonsi went directly into the south side of Florence, and there were several marked parking areas along it. We decided to chance it that far, and made it to the Place de Galileo (an odd widening of the road where tour busses can park on one side and cars on the other). Trying to get a parking ticket from the machine, however, it was just spitting our coins right back at us. We were giving up to move to another location, when the service guys pulled up to withdraw the cash from the machine. So we walked back over there, and pantomimed trying to get a ticket with coins, and them popping back out. Confused looks, and I waived them over - inserting a coin as I did. PLUNK, it immediately was deposited in the return hamper. I did it again. These guys were no dummies - they caught on right away, and pulled out a 1 euro coin from one of the guy's pockets and tried it. PLUNK.

Oh my - shrugs. Try a different coin. I was afraid this could go on for some time, then one of the guys opened the cover again, and poked at a few things... and voila, the coin was accepted the next go round. YEA, we could stay.

Unfortunately we could only stay until 3:30 as that was how much change we had on us - but we saw we were right on the bus line, so should be no problem - we'll just zip back at 3:30 and feed the meter. But at this point we didn't know what bus we needed nor had tickets, so we walked towards the near by Piazalle Michelangelo - which has a spectacular viewpoint over Florence.

This was on our way to the Piazalle.

Florence's Duomo: a testament to the great confidence the Florentines had of their problem solving capabilities. The cathedral was begun in 1296 (with a geat hole in it's roof) -- nearly 150 years before the technology to build a dome to cover that span was known. Filippo Brunelleschi is the architect who devised the ingenious dome-within-a-dome design and completed the dome in the 1430s.

Here we are!

So, there isn't much to do at the Piazzale, other than look over the city. But after much more rigamarole than was strictly necessary, we finally managed to purchase bus tickets (silly us -- why didn't WE think to ask at the silver trinket and soda cart in the midst of a dozen others to purchase bus tickets??) But we were on our way.

It was 11 by the time we hit town center, and ready for a recharge.

Interestingly, just across from this random cafe we stopped at, was a wine bar we figured had to be the one that Katherine -- way back at the castle -- had been talking about. La Botte:

We didn't remember the name, but she had described a bar that had a bunch of bottles of wine hooked up to spigots. You could buy a certain number of credits, and then dispense yourself a pour from what ever bottle you wished to try - the number of credits required for each was of course commisserate with the cost for the wine. She said it was a fantastic way to try a lot of wines you wouldn't ever splurge for a whole bottle -- in fact she said some were bottles that sold for many hundreds of dollars. But wow - sounds like a cool idea.

A beautiful wood carving shop we passed.

The Plazzo Vecchio: The Medici's City Hall

Florence was probably the city were we found our Rick Steve's guide book absolutely indespensable. He had listings of what museums were closed when (and let me tell you, it is a convoluted story!) He alerted us to the fact you can reserve times to enter the really popular attractions - such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Academia where the original David is... None the less even a week prior we we too late to make reservations. But he also pointed out that there is tons to see in Florence that doesn't typically have long lines, and some of which are right out in public squares.

The Loggia, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is one such fantastic place. Originally a covered patio intended as a speakers corner type spot, the Medici's decided that great art was of more value than free speech, and so filled the space with sculptures.

Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus - having just slain Medusa

This copy of David stands outside the entrance to Plazzo Vecchio in the spot where the original stood for a long time, before being moved indoors to protect it from the elements.

This picture reminds me that Dave's cowboy hat garnered attention a lot of places. "Hey Tex-as!" he got here. "And you must be a Cow Boy, eh?" Hee.

Neptune's fountain also outside the Plazzo Vecchio

Wandering south towards the Arno River:

Monica, in front of the Ponte Vecchio. This shopping bridge has been a Florentine fixture since the 1500s when the gold and silversmiths were installed into the booths by the Medicis. They still predominate.

But the bridge has been here since Roman times. Story is that the Nazzi commander presiding over Florence when they invaded, was instructed to destroy all the bridges. He did - except this one. He saved the Ponte Vecchio by demolishing the buildings on either end making the bridge impassable. We didn't get back here to cross the bridge until the next day.

Because we were on our way to visit the Galileo Museum! This giant zodiak / sun dial is in the plazzo in front. No photos allowed inside, but it was three floors of a dizzying display of thousands of scientific instruments - quadants, globes, astrolabes, pendulum clocks, Galileo's telescopes and a huge display case of these fantastical and beautiful blown glass contraptions which were thermometers and barometers. It is just unfathomable these fragile instruments have survived.

Armilliary spheres were huge models of the universe as the Greeks understood it - many concentric layers of rings and gears and markings, all designed to explain the heavenly bodies with a geo-centric universe. They have one amazing example of an armilliar sphere - that must be 8 feet in diameter? No photos allowed, but you can see it on their website here:
Though sadly the grandeur and scale aren't conveyed well by that photo.

The museum was fascinating, but for the vast amounts of display after display after display, I did find it a bit over whelming in the Quantity area and under whelming in the telling me how these items were put to use. I think they are enhancing it with more explanatory materials of the sort of rotating video clips that are in English and interesting.

Never the less, it was 3:00 and time to pop back to the car to feed the meter.

Yeah, well and hour and a half later, we got there. Thankfully no ticket. We made mental note to have a full day's change for Tuesday so we wouldn't have to run back to the car mid day.

Segue back 2 years to our trip to San Fransciso 2009. On one of our walks there, we ended up at Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill. I enjoyed the Cathedral, but was entranced by the doors, known as the Giberti Doors.

I'd long forgotten about the connection, until we got to the Babpistry doors just across from the Duomo - designed by Lornezo Ghiberti.

Designed at the dawn of the Renaissance, some aparently say it was these doors that opened the age of the Renaissance. With the added depth, perspective and realism that dawned in Renaissance art, it's an amazing tranformation to see in the art and these door panels are exemplary.

The doors are known as the Gates of Paradice; each panel depiciting a biblical scene.

And - of course these too are replicas, the originals being displayed in the Duomo Museum. So we headed there, only to find out that they were currently undergoing restoration. So alas, two sets of copies and we have yet to see the originals. But the copies are pretty darn spectacular.

Window shopping - just had to snap this picture for the kennel!

The Duomo Museum is just what it sounds, a museum housing much of the art that has been brought out of storage in the Cathedral to put on display.

Michaelangelo's Pieta

Said to be the centerpiece to the tomb that Michaelangelo was designing for himself late in life... One wonders about the audacity it takes to decline Michaelangelo this right and to display his monument elsewhere.

Luca della Robbia's Cantoria

The panels around the box depict Psalm 150 (oh so appropros for the choir box!), and were conveniently copied and displayed at eye level.

They were beyond charming!

We got a yummy dinner just off the square around the Duomo, for a special tourist fixed price menu that was really very reasonable (26 euros for the two of us). Afterwards we of course found gellato, then headed homewards. Unfortunately we missed signaling for the little-used bus stop where our car was, so ended up being taken way down the windy hill road, necessetating us walking back up it. *grumbles*

But the sidewalk was clear and beautifully lit. The roadside plants meticulously maintained... it kinda turned out to be a magical walk. (granted, it would have been MORE magical had we had to walk DOWN instead of UP... but hey)