The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Italy: Florence Part III - art, art and more art! And gelato too.

Continuing on in our Florentine experience, this is the tale of how we spent our second day in Florence. I don't have as many photos to show and tell because we spent most of the day visiting art galleries and museums (as one does in Florence!), and most of these places do not allow photography. I was of course an obliging tourist and managed to resist using my camera, even though I'd really wanted to take photos - why else would I carry around not one but two cameras (one is a bulky dSLR too!)?

We crossed over Ponte Vecchio again on our second day, and I saw that the morning sun casted a more pleasant light on the scene than when we first saw it in the afternoon the previous day:

First thing on the day's agenda was the Gallerie dell'Accademia, where we had an 11am appointment with David. As no photography was allowed inside the gallery, I will just have to make do with showing the David replica that stands just outside the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio.

A replica of Michelangelo's David masterpiece:

After seeing the original David, we headed towards San Lorenzo to check out Mercato Centrale (Central Market), a 19th-century sheltered food market located behind the outdoor stalls of the San Lorenzo Leather Market. The central market used to be the main shopping center in Florence where people went to buy fresh food, meat and fish, but it became less important as more supermarkets set up shop around the city. These days you can buy souvenirs, taste food samples, eat a full meal at the market. I just love wandering through the food market of any new city I go to, because I believe that these are the treasure troves of the heart and soul of the local culture and cuisine. My eyes are always wide with fascination at the beautiful array of the local food and ingredients, and free samples are always a good thing. There are of course stalls aimed at tourists looking to buy souvenirs, and there is bound to be a thing or two (or a hundred!) for everyone, be it Tuscany wine, biscotti, or cheese. The only limit is luggage space and customs restrictions!

Inside Mercato Centrale:

A shop selling all sorts of stuff - candies, biscotti, cheese, wine, oil and even cured meat. I bought a selection of dried fruits from here for snacking, and saw many tourists taking photo of the colourful array of dried fruit, and I thought why not?
A replica of Michelangelo's David masterpiece:

The outdoor San Lorenzo Market, selling leather jackets, belts, bags as well as various knick-knacks for souvenir-giving. That's the Medici Chapels in the background beyond the market stalls:

After the markets, we headed to the Medici Chapels. Rob was keen on going inside but I wasn't that interested in going to yet another museum/gallery, so I wandered around the outdoor market with a napping toddler in the stroller for the following half hour.

Medici Chapels (stitched together from two images):

I felt a little bad for not accompanying Rob, so I went with him to the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (confusingly also called Museo dell'Opera del Duomo). There are more artwork held at this musum, including the Florence Pietà (aka The Deposition, Pietà del Duomo or The Lamentation over the Dead Christ), one of the last sculptures by the great Michelangelo intended for his tomb.

The Florence Pietà depicts the body of Christ newly taken down from the cross and carried by Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene and his mother Mary. The face of Nicodemus under the hood is considered to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself:

I'd almost missed this one (as what tends to happen when you've seen too many artworks in a short period), but then I noticed that the images on these A4-sized plaques had been composed of miniscule materials, clearly shown only through the magnifying glass provided (see next image):

I can't imagine the painstaking effort that must have gone into this mosaic work (click image for larger size):

After that museum, we headed towards the Uffizi Gallery and discovered that the queue was unbelievably long, so we made a booking for the next available time slot, which was 2 hours away. (By the way, I highly recommend paying the 4 euros extra to schedule an entry time into the popular museums (like the Accademia and the Uffizi) - well worth the investment especially when you have little ones tagging along.) To be honest, I was grateful for that little break from all the art-viewing - I still can't believe I went to not one but three art museums in Florence in one day when i had no intention of visiting any! While waiting for our scheduled entry, we had some delicious gelato at a gelateria recommended to us by our lovely B&B lady. And this one served cones with the gelato!

Double scoops of dark chocolate and pistachio gelato at Gelateria dei Neri. Usually we don't like the flavour of pistachio-flavoured gelato, but this one was true to the pistachio flavour (What is it with nut-flavoured stuff not tasting anything like the nut - e.g. marzipan and almond?):

Gelateria dei Neri
Via dei Neri, 26r
50122 Firenze, Italy
Tel. +39 055 210034

Back at the Uffizi, we spent almost two hours inside, but we didn't get to see everything even though we rushed through pretty quickly. Photography is prohibited inside the gallery, but I could not resist taking out the camera when I saw the view through one of the windows. Surely I wasn't really breaking the rules because I was taking a photo of something outside the museum, right? I wasn't the only one doing that, so I didn't feel so bad.

The view of Florence through one of the windows at the Uffizi:

Tired and museumed-out, we headed back to the B&B where we had a delicious dinner whipped up by the chef owner lady (previously blogged about). We had a restful night sleep, and then we hopped on the early morning train bound for Venice where our Italian adventures continued! Stay tuned for more!

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