Sunday, April 1, 2007

david gives us another chance

I am home now (yea!) but not caught up to real time on the blog yet, so I'll do a few more posts to finish up...

After Yvette left Venice, we headed to Rome, but decided to first give ourselves one more chance to see Renaissance art in the birthplace of the Renaissance, so we stopped in Florence for a night. The place we had stayed before was all booked up, so we found another place on the same street near the Central Market. As we were being let into the building, a big group of drunk guys came up on the street, singing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" to us. Later, after we left to go out, they sort of reappeared and we tried to walk fast and take weird turns to lose them. It was a little odd, especially since it was still daylight out, and I kind of felt like we were inside some weird pushy drunk guy videogame.

We walked around Florence that evening, looking for some magical gelato place that Yvette had taken Heidi during their day in the city. We wandered around, trying some different areas, and finally found it, a little place on a funny little street in Santa Croce called Vivoli. And it was the most amazing gelato I ever had. It didn't even seem like gelato, it seemed like a different food group. It was so good that I wanted to go back immediately, and I saw everything else in Florence through a sort of post-gelato haze. That night we found a cute little mom and pop trattoria so that Heidi could have her cute little mom and pop trattoria fix. It was good. No Vivoli, but good.

The next day we were very productive. I had made early reservations at the Uffizi Gallery, so we got up and got ready and headed down there, picked up our tickets, had some coffee and pastries, and took a tour of the Gallery, which is basically a collection of all the significant Italian painters. I did the audio tour, which was interesting and helpful, although it did make me trail several rooms behind Heidi and Brie.

After Uffizi, we kind of wanted to go to Mario's again, but I had made 12:30 reservations at the David, and we were starving, so we just stopped for some panini and sat on the steps of the Duomo to eat them. A gypsy woman came up to us (which basically happens any time you sit down outside in Italy) to ask for money. She really liked the look of Brie's stuffed pizza sandwich, and stared at Brie and mimed eating until Brie split it with her.

After that we went to the Accademia, which houses both the David and Michelangelo's unfinished Prisoners from his unfinished Tomb of Pope Julius II. I was really interested in these, especially because they were unfinished and so they give you a glimpse into his techniques. Michelangelo supposedly said, "I saw angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free." That seems really true of the Prisoners, who look like humans caught in stone, trying to pull themselves away. I was so caught up in the sculptures that I didn't even notice for quite a while what should have been obvious from the minute I walked into the hall: the beatifully lit, coolly perfect, 17 feet tall statue of David.

The David, moreso than anything else that I saw in Italy, defies both description and photographs. It's such a familiar image that you think you know what it looks like. (There's a house a few blocks from me on 3rd that has about 18 replicas of The David on its front lawn... at Christmastime they put Santa hats on all of them.) But seeing it in the hall literally stops your breath for a moment. It's simply the most beautiful, perfect sculpture I've ever seen. It was considered a "badly blocked out" piece of marble by the Florence Signoria, but 26-year-old Michelangelo still had to fight to get the commission, and then carved the sculpture that would become the symbol for the city. We stared at it for a long time, walking around to see it from different angles, and then gave a cursory glance to the other art in the Accademia and left.

After that we had a couple of hours before we wanted to leave. I wanted to see the Medici chapels but they were closed that day. We ended up walking around San Lorenzo market. I bought an overdue Christmas present for Micky and a leather jacket for myself... I think I bargained pretty well. The guy who sold me the jacket told me if I could stay for the evening and go out with him he would have a surprise for me... as intriguing as that sounded, I had to pass. Brie and Heidi did their best to support the Tuscan leather industry as well and bought bags.

Without visiting Vivoli again, which saddened me greatly, we packed our ever-increasing number of bags and caught the train to Rome.