Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Florence Day 3.5: Last Full Day

Nothing beats walking around a hot and humid city looking in windows at old books (equals a place I dared not enter).

Vegetables at the Mercato Centrale (photographed in an effort to wipe my brain permanently of the chickens complete with limp rooster heads still attached for sale on the other end of building)...

... followed by pastries (yes that chocolate one was good).

Santa Croce was by quite possibly my favorite place in Florence specifically the little courtyard below.

It looks empty because it's feels like 125 degrees (everyone is in the shade off to the side looking at replicas of David for sale).

The typical view inside (scaffolding) and plastic covering gravestones where workers convene to restore them. In some areas, light shone through the stained glass looking as bright as Las Vegas signage with a layer of plastic disguising the view (not apparent in this photograph).

Leonardo da Vinci's burial plaque on the right,

Galileo is buried here,

and Michelangelo below.

The best little courtyard in Italy.

Final observations:

• If ever I return to Florence, I will need to visit San Marco as it was closed the three times I tried.

• I liked this city a lot in the grand scheme of things but it didn't feel like a place I knew I would return to much like Paris or Edinburgh did when I first visited (or Venice for that matter).

• I saw my first two cats of the trip in the Boboli Gardens. There were near the cactus gardens but not close enough (sorry Adrienne - I tried to take a "Cats and Cactus" photograph with you in mind)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Florence: Boboli Gardens & a Clear Water Test

I returned to the Pitti Palace today to see the Boboli Gardens with high hopes of floating postcards and/or obtaining a clear water sample. At 10 AM it was pleasantly uncrowded. I started at the Amphitheater and worked my way up many stairs to the Porcelain Museum. It was here where I saw a lovely view of Tuscany featuring.... the only swimming pool of the trip (look closely).

I followed the Viottolone/Avenue of the Cypress Trees planted in 1612 (!) down to the L'Isolotto (Little Island) to find water so putrid green, animals even didn't flock to it. The gates were close enough to where I could touch the water (but damn, the water matched the color of my bright green gloves!) had I wanted to but i did not.

Nor did I need a sign telling me I should stay away.

The stagnant water brought out the mosquitoes and I ducked off the main path to douse myself with mosquito spray (thank you portable Deep Woods Off - don't leave home without it!). When I reappeared next to the Orangery, there was a very small goldfish fountain/sculpture with the clearest water I've seen in all of Italy aside from what was in the bathroom sink before washing my clothes.

I took a sample and lots of photographs but I did not think it was an appropriate place to leave a postcard since it was a home to goldfish.

I'm thinking Cinque Terre will be the grand compromise.

After the gardens, I returned to the palace, hunted down the Costume Gallery and the Museo degli Argenti which had a special exhibition of Russian gold and silversmithing. The second floor featured a ton of ornaments, jewelery and dishware from the Medici family. I decided to go "shopping." I will take this necklace by Fiora Wiechmann in 1966 [actually I loved it so much, I'm meeting with Pat Nelson, the metals teacher at Ball State, this week to figure out how to make it)].

This display case of rings came in second.

I sneaked one blurry photograph of the best wall mural in the palace on the way out: animals on the outside of the cage looking in.

Chris Toalson's "Harvard Sentences"

A moment's pause in the travelogue... my first interview with Postcard Collective member Chris Toalson can be found here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Florence Day 2.5: Duomo

Something I wish I had an image of that I loved immensely but sadly could not bring out my camera to sneak a photograph. Clearly one of my favorite Florence locations. Oh the ego to be buried in a place like this!

• I also spent a whole lot of time here (another unable to photograph locale) where Galileo was denounced after declaring the earth was round.

• Fortunately I was able to photograph the Duomo. I waited in this line listening to a vapid high school conversation (oh for my i-pod) for over an hour.

The stairs were torturous due to the fact that it was claustrophobic and hot as hell especially when some people got off track and ended up going down the same way they came up. We ascended in between the interior and exterior dome for what seemed like 30 minutes (this image is close to the top):

Once exiting the stairs (clearly not handicapped accessible), the breeze and view were marvelous. Holding on with the death grip looking down toward the Baptistry:

Two views from the top of: Santa Croce and north toward the Academy respectively:

Trying for a crowdless photograph of the exterior of the Duomo after exiting (one of my favorite buildings in Europe):

The obligatory Baptistry Door photograph which was indeed beautiful:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Florence Day 1.5: Uffizi Gallery & Pitti Palace

There is a fascinating hotel with two very large trees growing on the roof near the Arno River. I walked by it everyday heading toward the center of town.

The smartest thing I did before leaving the US was purchase my ticket to the Uffizi Gallery ahead of time. When I arrived on a Sunday at 1 pm, the line was for entry on Tuesday. I was only able to take one photograph inside the museum of Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River, a bridge I would traverse many times.

Observations from the Uffizi:

• Nearly every Christ child in the Lippi Room looks like an old man.

The Duke and Duchess of Urbino: where men are tan and women are WHITE.

The Birth of Venus is underwhelming as it is the dullest painting in the room. It's desaturated beyond any reproduction that ups the contrast to a pleasing color scheme (the image below is still more colorful). Visions of Orlan's plastic surgery performance project danced in my head. There was a tactile reproduction of it for the visually impaired; a small 1'x2' once white relief sculpture. The most touched area? Venus's belly.

• There are elements of Dali in Piero di Cosimo's Perseus Frees Andromeda, one of my favorite paintings I never knew about until this visit.

• I was somewhat fascinated to see that paintings were commissioned for bed headboards.

Venus of Urbino lived up to expectations. The tour guide in the room trilled the "r" in Urbino for what seems to be an extra ten seconds in his pronunciation.

• The Uffizi is far better of a museum to view artwork in than Venice's Accademia but it's still a little crude (e.g. the temperature of the rooms is highly erratic).

• Veronese is all round and voluptuous.

• The urge to straighten a Paris Bordoen painting ran very high.

• My other favorite painting? Bronzion's Portrait of Eleanor di Toledo with her son Giovanni de Medici.

• I lost my Whidbey Island rock that I have carried in my rain jacket since July 2008 somewhere in the cloakroom waiting area. I heard it fall out of my pocket but couldn't find it in the crowd.

I don't know if it was the wisest decision to follow up the Uffizi with the galleries in the Pitti Palace, but it was open until 6:50 pm and so I did. I instantly realized that I would need to return as the immensity of this location was too much to accomplish in one day.


• Every time the rooms would get interesting, they were blocked off. For instance, in the apartments, finally a room that resembled a bedroom appeared with furniture that looked like it belonged but the door was roped off prematurely. The carpet and the description sign were in that room so it was evident we could be too at one point in time but not today. The same with the third story "Modern" Art Gallery. Finally, art from the 20th century only to be blocked off at the entry.

• Oversaturation of artwork! The salon style bombardment was a bit too much 1/2 way through.

• I was a little disappointed to see room after room of "this once was the antechamber to..." with a token line-up of chairs and no other indication that people actually lived in that space. Biltmore Estate this was not.

Clouds of doom upon exiting the Pitti Palace:

Florence: In Search of Davids

It became quickly apparent that I would not have time to see everything on my list in Florence. The Academy where Michelangelo's David was displayed, was one of the first things I decided not to see. It then became a personal mission to photograph every reproduction of David that I could find. If I saw one thousand reproductions, would that be just as impressive as the real thing? [Yes, I know the answer to that question.]

On my last day in Florence, I had a couple hours to kill and caved, devoting 2 hours to standing in line. Here's the graffiti on the wall of the back side of the Academy approximately 45 minutes into the wait.

An hour later, I made it around the corner where I could see the door (just past the white overhang). I stood here for so long, the sun moved from beating skin cancer into my forehead to high on the wall and slightly out of reach. I was fascinated by the man in the red shirt's desire to squeeze his girlfriend's pimple which lasted approximately five minutes.

Eventually, I gave up and will have to live with the reproductions instead.

Monday, August 22, 2011

To Florence & My Very Odd Hotel Room

There was a lot of waiting for my train platform number to appear on the board in Venice most of the late morning. Amazingly with the six train trips in Italy, each and every time it featured a board like this, my train was the last to post usually at the five minute departure point. Stressful!

I finally made it to my Florence hotel in the late afternoon - it was very hot and humid and I would spend the rest of my trip here dodging rainstorms and intense sunshine. My Room without a View:

...that proved to be excellent people watching for the duration of my stay.

Surprisingly this was a hotel room without artwork. I kept trying to justify the chandelier as an installation piece...

...but ultimately decided on covering up the mirror.

The most gaudy bedspread in the entire country proved to be an ideal "artwork" cover:

When removing the bedspread and readjusting the mirror, I discovered an inoperable safe!

That was just the beginning of the bizarre things that would take place in this hotel. One day a key appeared for 48 hours on the bedside table. I didn't touch it, shocked that another key would appear in my life after returning Braydee's earlier this summer.

Once I finally decided I was going to take it, it disappeared...

... only to be replaced by a pair of cleaning gloves left on top of my suitcase.

Once again this was ironic because I had thrown my three remaining clear water sample gloves in the top of my bag on the way out the door that day.

No such luck hanging money from curtains in this hotel. It looks like they were once there but sadly, no longer.