Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Italy 2014: Day 10-12: Sunday/Monday/Tuesday: May 11-13: Florence

I am going to merge our days in Florence into one report...so I can catch up and because we spent a lot of time socializing with friends.

1. Socializing.

On Sunday, we drove out to Vicchio (about 40 minutes north of Florence) to have dinner with our friends Jane Nyhan and her husband Carlo Monaci and had dinner at a very nice local restaurant, Antica Porta di Levante.

Monday night, we visited with Rita O'Connor and her husband Lino Ferracin for a glass of wine and some crostini at their house in Chiocchio (Chianti), just south of Florence, and then went to dinner at a restaurant in the next town over, Strada in Chianti.

On Tuesday, our friend Maureen Fant took the train up from Rome to spend the day with us and we took a drive into Chianti, having a fantastic Tuscan lunch outside Panzano at the Ristoro di Lamole while enjoying the view,

then stopping at Dario Cecchini's butcher shop (The Mad Butcher of Chianti) so Maureen could bring some delicacies back to Rome.

It was wonderful to visit and catch up with all these friends.

2.  Hunting down Cenacoli (Last Suppers).

On our previous stay in Florence, we tried to visit as many of the famous Last Suppers (considered a Florentine special subject) as we could, but we did miss a couple due to the limited opening hours.   Since we had gone to see Leonardo's fresco in Milan, we decided to try and see a few more in Florence.

We managed to get to two of those that we hadn't seen, the Cenacolo della Calza painted by Franciabigi in the early 1500s and located in a convent on the south side of Florence.

and the Ghirlandaio work that is in the Ognissanti Church in the center of town.

We also stopped by two other cenacoli that we had seen before....one by Ghirlandaio located in the bookshop at the Museo San Marco (and a close copy of the Ognissanti version)

Note the cat in the Ognissanti cenacolo....

If you are at all interested in the subject (as I seem to be), here is an article that explains the fascination of Renaissance painters for the subject and how the emphasis changed over the years.

3.  Other sightseeing...

We spent some time revisiting the San Marco Museum (very near our hotel) which is devoted to the works of the early Renaissance painter, Fra Angelico.  He is known as an innovator in painting techniques as well as for his luminous portraits of the holy family and the saints.  The highlight of the museum is the Annunciation he painted at the top of the steps that lead to the monks' cells in the convent.

The other highlight of the sightseeing was visiting the Palazzo Davanzati, a 14th century palazzo that is decorated in style of the period and which shows something of how the Florentines lived back then.  We visited the palazzo on our first visit to Florence in 1993 and after that it was closed for renovation (in restauro) for many years.  Now it has reopened and it is a very worthwhile attraction.


We tried to visit the very wonderful Duomo Museum but we found that most of the museum is being renovated and only a few of the famous exhibits (original Baptistery doors and a Michelangelo Pieta) are on display so we skipped it.  We did some walking and exploring.....the Duomo 


(I wanted to climb up to the top of the dome but the line was too long)

the Arno River 


and a photo of the apartment (the tallest building) where we stayed for two weeks on a previous visit

and the Piazza Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio

But for the most part, we found Florence a bit of challenge--too many tourists, very little greenery and, with the exception of the fancy shopping streets, it seemed somewhat grimy.  In addition, Diana had her wallet lifted from her purse on a crowded bus which put a damper on the afternoon after it happened.

So we were not unhappy that we were leaving tomorrow. 

Without a doubt, there is so much to experience in Florence (great art, much history, interesting architecture and good food) but we may not be back for a while.

Tomorrow we are off to Liguria and the village of Noli on the Mediterranean...our "vacation from the vacation."

Jim and Diana