"To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom....Since our office is with moments, let us husband them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Inferno: Florence

The next stop on the Italy trip was the Renaissance city of Florence. This city in many ways mimicked my reading of the Inferno by Dante this summer – including Dante lived in Florence for true symmetry. My main problem with the Inferno was that all I ever knew was the general concept of what was going on. Dante made way too many references to ancient Greek gods and goddesses that I had no knowledge about. This resulted in a very hollow reading of the book and the desire to read it again in a class setting where these things could be explained to me. I had the exact same feeling with Florence. Florence is a city of art and architecture, neither of which are my specialties – nor do I really have any passing level of knowledge either. This led to in some ways a very hollow visit as well, as I felt like I wasn’t really appreciating the things I was seeing simply due to ignorance. What this means is that I can say I saw the David – which I did – and that I went to the Uffizi – which I did – but I didn’t really “see” either of them. I guess Florence will be due a second visit either after taking a class or two – probably unlikely – or with a tour guide of some sort – much more likely.

So in Florence we had three big visits. I’ve already mentioned the first two – the Academia where David is and the Uffizi – and the other one was to the main cathedral simply known as the Duomo. Unfortunately, I was not able to visit the Science museum as one of the days I was in Florence was All Saints Day – November 1 – and a lot of places were closed. The Duomo was magnificent from the outside to say the least. Its grandeur was only increased when Liza told me that the entire structure was constructed without scaffolding, and that no one knew how to build the domed top for over 100 years. Not only did we due the typical tourist walk through, which as cathedrals go, was somewhat disappointing – apparently most of the art, etc. has been moved across the street to the Duomo museum, which we did not visit – but we also attended the night mass on All Saints Day. This was my first and possibly only Catholic mass. It was most certainly a unique experience. Not only do you have all the Catholic ritual, but you also have it taking place in Italian. It created a very foreign experience. Somewhat oddly, what my attendance did cause was a desire to attend a church service back home, which I haven’t done in quite a while. Sadly, I don’t even know how much of a possibility that is with the little time I’m at home during my break, but that’s a different story. The one cathedral that was absolutely breathtaking from the outside was the Santa Croce cathedral. I never went in due to the cost, but it is where Galileo is buried along with Dante:

Unfortunately, the Italians have some weird rules about photography. A lot of museums and cathedrals will allow you to photograph as long as you don’t make use of your flash; however, none of the museums or cathedrals in Florence would allow any interior pictures, which means that I’m lacking a fair number of typical pictures that I would normally take.

There were some very important gestational discoveries made in Florence. In terms of food itself, we learned first hand how expensive Italy really is. This caused us to pack one meal a day and eat decently the other. One fun meal was at a self-service restaurant much like the one in Genoa, where we were able to stuff ourselves with pretty decent Italian for a relatively cheap amount of money. But by far our best meal was at this little trattoria we ate at for lunch one day. It was an incredibly small place, with tables and chairs stuffed in every available inch, and you shared tables with other patrons to maximize the space. There was also no menu, as it changed daily and the waitress just ran through it quickly once you had sat down. It had amazing pasta, and my second course was an incredibly tender piece of beef that was lightly fried and covered in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Liza was a bit more thrilling and tried tongue. I had a bite or two and have to admit not being a big fan. It’s just weird to imagine eating a cow’s tongue. I also had some amazing gelato, as apparently Florence is known for this specialty. I feel like even if was the freezing outside – and Florence was warm, but it wasn’t that warm – that I could indulge myself with good gelato or ice cream. Perhaps the biggest food discovery was my wine preference. Obviously, being in Italy a fair amount of wine was consumed, and I have to admit to being – at least at this stage in my life and at this stage of my limited wine tasting career – a fan of white wines. They just tasted better to me than the reds, although I have been told this is a little odd, and that red wine is more of an acquired taste. I guess time will tell.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Florence was our accommodations. Being the cheap students we are, Liza and I tracked down the cheapest decent accommodations possible. This turned out to be a campground right near Piazza Michelangelo, which meant we had an amazing view overlooking the city and the river. We stayed in a quite spacious house tent; however, it was still a tent, which meant no heat, no electricity, and no power outlets. This led to us sleeping in multiple layers and piling on the blankets, as well as a conservation of cell phone and battery power, and spending time outside at the bar/café.

Spending time there, however, was great, as unlike in Genoa, we were able to meet some really cool people. There were about six of us including Liza and myself that hung out for three nights. The other four were all from Oceania, three Australians, and one New Zealander. Two of the Aussies were dating, while the third was on their own. We had our self-proclaimed “posse” which shared stories about our travels, home, and also just in some good fun and company. I can easily see where this aspect of traveling can be addicting.

Our last morning in Florence was spent sending a couple last e-mails while we had internet access and then enjoying an amazing breakfast at the king of breakfast restaurants – McDonald's. There was one right by the train station that we made use of as we were leaving later that morning for our last city, Siena. Oddly enough, I also ran into a friend from DIS who was also on the Czech Trek with me who was on her way to Venice. This was the second DIS person I had seen while in Florence. It’s amazing how small of a world it is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just stumbled across this blog...sounds like a nice few days in florence. However, to correct something, Dante is not buried in Santa Croce. He was exiled from Florence and never returned. He is buried in Ravenna. There is just an empty coffin/casket type thing in Santa Croce to honor Dante.