Saturday, July 4, 2009

Florence, Italy - July 4th!

Saturday, July 04, 2009
Pictures are HERE.

Happy July 4th from Italy! I have to admit that it is rather odd spending July 4th in Italy. I did wear my red, white, and blue outfit today though, and the ship decorated for the event.

We left for our tour at 8:30 this morning, and we met our driver for the day, Alexandro. He was fantastic and helped Morgan a lot. Mikeo had arranged today, and he had already gotten a wheelchair for Morgan. When we met the Alexandro, he already had the wheelchair in the back of the van. He said that his English wasn’t good, but I thought he was great and easy to understand. He also had great tidbits of information as we went along, such as where the leather is made and how to spot the traffic boxes that take your picture if you are speeding.

We arrived in Florence around 10:00am. We met our local guide, Daniella, in the center of the city, Market Square. The square was beautiful, and it even had a carrousel! We did notice immediately that there were several people walking around asking for money in a plastic cup. Mike said that he saw one lady asking over and over again, and the tourist poured water in her glass. She drank it and walked away.

Daniella was great about explaining that Florence began BC (I think 59BC) and was established by Julius Ceasar. It was a Roman colony. It grew to around 120,000 people when the plague hit, and after the plague it had only around 50,000. That doesn’t sound like much, but then she said that most cities were small then. I think she said Rome had 35,000 pre-plague. She also said that the river flows to Pisa, so it gave them a “street” for commerce.

It was especially interesting to hear throughout the day how the plague interrupted so many works in progress whether it was churches or other buildings, and many times the original architect, painter, sculpter, etc was dead and the project had to start again. She emphasized that the Renaissance wasn’t just a “new birth” period but it was also a return to the Roman ways but improving them. I loved hearing how the city was a political, scientific, and artistic center. It is amazing to realize that Leonardo da Vinci and Michealangelo were in the same place at the same time. Also, Galileo was born in the same year Michaelangelo died. Dante of the Divine Comedy was also from Florence. What a fantastic area and what rich culture!

Today, Florence is around 500,000 people. It is a very pretty city, and we passed many sunflowers and rolling hills on the way there. We started with the dome church built by Boccaccio in the 1200’s (I think). There was an older church built next to where the dome was built. It has the Paradise Door on it which is an amazing piece of work (it is actually a reproduction and the real one is in a museum now). It has 10 panels of gold pictures carved into it. There are stories from the Bible represented such as the story of David and Goliath and Joseph and the Ten Commandments. There are amazing doors on all the sides, but the Paradise Door is especially breathtaking. The dome on the enormous cathedral next to it was used for baptized attendees, and the older building was used for those who had not been baptized. It was built in 1443. Everyone thought Boccaccio was crazy when he wanted to build the dome without scaffolding that would reach the top. He proposed that they build a dome and then another dome on top of it. He also designed it with bricks because they are lighter than stone and they can be made in any size or shape needed. It is still standing, so he must have done something right! In between the domes are the stairs going to the top. Also, across the top of the cathedral building, the 12 disciples are in statues and the virgin Mary was in the middle.

We walked down the street to where we saw the house that Michaelangelo trained in. The Medici (sp?) family took Michaelangelo in when he was 12. Michaelangelo’s mother died when he was a baby, and he father gave him to a stone mason and his wife who already had many kids to raise him. Michaelangelo apparently talked about drinking from the stone mason’s milk is what made him a sculptor. When he was 12, his father wanted him to go to school, so he went to a painting school and then he went to live with the Medici family (wealthy). He had the same tudors that their own kids had, and everyone realized how talented he was very quickly.
Next, we went to see David. Daniella explained the story of how Michaelangelo left Florence and went to Rome when the Medici family was in trouble and was about to be banished. Michaelangelo sculpted a masterpiece of Mary holding the dead Jesus. It was in Rome, and he returned to Florence later. He wanted to scult something new, but they told him that they didn’t have much money to commission him. However, they did have one large piece of marble that had been started by someone else before he died, and they said if he could use that then he could be commissioned. Michaelangelo said yes, and he worked in secrecy for two years. He didn’t even let his friends see what he was working on. Finally, he unveiled the David statue. It was on display in the political square OUTSIDE in the public for around 300 years before it was put in the Academy which was a school for the arts where they copied famous works to learn. It was in the Academy where we saw it today.

First, the size of the statue is MUCH bigger than I thought it would be, and Daniella was explaining how the town was so shocked when they first saw it. They had dismissed him as crazy and had said that he couldn’t make anything from the marble and that was the reason for all the secrecy. They were expecting something very small instead of this giant. Secondly, David was a 12 year old boy, and this statue is not of a 12 year old boy. His anatomy is matured although some have said that his big hands and feet represent a child who is not quite grown. Third, the detail in this statue that was sculpted with no model and IN MARBLE is just amazing. The veins are so clear in the tensed David who is about to attack Goliath. His legs even look hairy. The muscles in his neck and abdomen are tensed. Of course, he is naked which raised some interesting discussions with Morgan. :) He has the slingshot in his left hand and the stone in the right hand.

It is amazing the shape that he is in after being outside in a public place for so long. He has had two accidents – one that cracked his left hand and one crazy guy who knocked off his toe. Those two things have been repaired.

The rest of the Academy was also amazing with fantastic paintings and other sculptures. There are several unfinished Michaelangelo sculptures as well. Apparently, Michaelangelo felt that the schultures were in the marble all along and they were just needing someone to knock off the rest so that they can emerge. I thought that was pretty cool.

We went in the gift shop which gave Mikeo heartburn (he doesn’t like gift shops), and then we went to the political square. We saw the replica of the David statue there, and it looks so tiny outside next to other large statues and buildings. We also saw the medusa statue, Zeus, and more. The medusa statue was a bronze, and it was made in one cast. It took ten years for him to accomplish it in one casting (one continuous pour of the bronze instead of individual pieces melded together). At one point, it was taking so long that they told him that he had no more time and they would give no more money. If he didn’t finish the statue, they would behead him. His friends all pitched in their forks, knives, and any other items that could be melted and used to pour the statue and to keep him from getting his head removed. :)

Next, we saw the castle (120 rooms I think), that the Spanish wife thought was too small. She moved from Spain with 500 attendants. WOW. They also built this ultra-cool pathway that connected all the main buildings in the square so that they could walk around town without having to actually mingle with the people. It is pretty incredible to see the passageways up above once you know what they are.

After the tour, we went near the straw market and had lunch. We had fantastic lasagna and caprese salad. We had a little red wine, and it was a fantastic lunch. After lunch, we went shopping at the straw market (picture Mikeo twitching). It was mainly t-shirts, leather goods, and morano glass. J Next, we went to the leather store that Grams and Papa knew about for Mike to shop for a leather jacket.

I am going to spare everyone all the details, but Morgan wanted her third gelato of the day. I had promised her that if she ate well and if she was well behaved at lunch that I would get her one. Well, it is now HOT. Really HOT. So, we get the ice cream, but it is melting before Morgan can even sit in the chair. I am begging her to eat it quickly which of course frustrates her. Meanwhile, big mess is happening. Instead of trying to eat faste, Morgan is insisting that we can sit inside. I keep telling her that there are no seats. Mike gets mad and pushes her to the shade=. They get into a fight, and then I am drug into the middle. Finally, that ice cream goes into the garbage without it being finished. We get more later to try to help and we get it in a cup. However, the man filled it up too full so it is also melting everywhere. What a mess! I was so happy to get out of that area and to have the ice cream finished.

After the leather shop, we headed back to meet the guide. He says that he thinks we have time to go to the leaning tower of Pisa, so we head there. Alexandro takes us up right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and it was amazing. We took some pictures, and then we headed to the ship.

Once on board, Morgan hauled to the room on the crutches and beat the rest of the family. We all decided that we wouldn’t do formal night since it was optiona. We went to the dining room and got a weird table. I had a crab and artichoke appetizer, French onion soup, and some beef medaillions. Morgan had salmon and Mike had the beef. Bananas Foster was on the desert menu, so I had to try it (it is a rule). It wasn’t that great though, so I didn’t eat much of it. Whew.

We headed to the room and hung out on the balcony for our last “moving” night as the ship docks tomorrow night and we get off the next day. We were going soooo fast tonight, and the moon was absolutely amazing at almost full. I cannot believe that tomorrow is the last day. L
Today, on the other hand, was fantastic! I loved Florence. I wasn’t expecting to be so amazed at David since I had seen pictures, etc, but I was blown away. Amazing stuff.

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