As we drove down the one lane mountain turnpike the last time I reflected on what an interesting experience our five night stay in the ancient farm house had been. Another world…and one I was so glad to have experienced in this short span we call life.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany. It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. The prime patrons of he Renaissance were the Medici family.
Shortly after we arrived at our apartment, that was on a very narrow street, Margo and Jeff took us on a tour of the surrounding area. The Piazza della Signoria was breathtaking in its’ architectural Renaissance splendor and sculptures. The Loggia dei Lanzi functions as an open air sculpture gallery and holds many of these fabulous pieces. When I first saw all of the indescribably beautiful architecture and sculpture I found it a bit dizzying. Florence
Our first lunch was at a trattoria that featured a large grill that you could see from the seating area. Jeff pointed out to me what appeared to be a very large flank of meat behind Mary Jane and I and just in the sight line of he and Margo. The appearance of it was pristine and I thought it must be fake. However when our waiter arrived we found that the speciality of the house was their grilled steaks and that the cook would cut off the steak a patron had ordered and grill it. I had a savory meat dish from the flank and in one of our two return visits to the trattoria Jeff had a steak that covered his plate…and he consumed it with joy and precision.
The next morning we were off to the Galleria degli Uffizi. The Uffizi is one of the oldest art museums in Europe. It was built in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici as an office building for Florence’s magistrates. Uffizi is translated offices. Mary Jane mentioned that perhaps we should leave early to get a good spot in line…should there be one. I suggested that it probably was the first tour of the day and I did not think that we would have a problem. Was I ever wrong. We stood for about forty-five minutes before gaining access but in the busiest times it is not unusual to wait five hours in line. The sculptures and paintings are indescribable in their ancient beauty.
Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265. He is the author of the Divine Comedy. Much of our stay in Florence was in search of Dante. We visited his church. We saw the door to his home. And his death mask. Dante’s church
We even took a wonderful tour in search of Dante but found that when it began the tour’s primary focus was regarding the most recent Dan Brown book, Inferno, of which much is set in Florence thus determining the sites the tour guide focused on. The guide was an extremely engaging speaker and the tour took us to several historic buildings that we would not have seen the inside of had we not been on it. One of these buildings was the Baptistry. The Baptistry was built between 1059 and 1128. Dante Alighieri was baptized here. Baptistry ceiling
During our search for the perfect trattoria Mary Jane and I happened upon one that had a delightful waiter who knew how to make a dirty martini. Now you may think that this skill would be easy to find…but you would be wrong. Having visited Europe three times this fine gentleman would be the first that has ever been able to produce a martini and secondly a good dirty martini. I must correct my last statement as there was a waiter in Paris, on our first night of our three day visit to the city of lights two years ago, that made a great dry martini. However we did not return…we did however return to our favorite trattoria in Florence three times…great food by the way.
Ever since our visit to Collodi we also were in search of a perfect Pinocchio marionette. You see my friend Steve had a collection of marionettes when I lived in Chicago. I was under five years old, as we moved when I was five, and when Steve would bring the stringed puppets over I thought that they were like nothing that I had ever seen. One day Mary Jane discovered the Pinocchio store. The rest is history.
When I visit an exotic historic location that is rich with art and culture…I am often surprised regarding the simple things that create some of the warmest memories. For instance we joined Margo and Jeff for a showing of the recently released movie Jersey Boys at the Odeon theatre. The theatre was a majestic movie palace of old. The movie was shown in english with italian subtitles. Not only was the movie great…but the idea of being there with our lifelong friends had a unique sweetness to it.
If there is one thing that you discover when you leave the United States it would be that it is not all about us. Other countries are doing just fine with a rich history and culture that it would take a life time to absorb. Each country that Mary Jane and I have been privileged to visit we have found friendly people who are very fond of americans. The diversity of this small planet that we all call home is what makes it so beautiful.