November 21, 2001 – Florence by Derek White

We had originally planned to go to Almafi or Capri, but decided that we had enough rest and needed more stimulation. We must be New Yorkers now or something. It was too cold to swim anyway and everything had an abandoned feeling, so we headed back north. Trekked up the hill to catch the bus to Sorrento. This time the bus trip was by daylight so we could see. It was enough to make you sick, even though the views were spectacular. In Sorrento we got the subway to Napoli.

We had a 2-hour wait for the next train to Florence, so we ventured into the hectic streets. Lonely Planet listed some pizza restaurant that was supposed to be the best in Italy, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to be and we were in this complete clusterfuck of sketchy and random streets. Naples has no rhyme or reason, no laws, no order, it’s just utter chaos and it’s filthy and seedy, but kind of cool in that way. We found another restaurant for pizza and just people-watched. Naples has more the multi-cultural crowd, lots of Chinese and people from Africa. Then we caught our direct train to Florence that only stopped once in Rome. Watched the scenery go by, through the Tuscan countryside.

Walked around Florence at night until we found the Hotel Medici. Ate at some Tuscan restaurant, not what you think of when you think of Italian food. Lots of meats and lots of spices like rosemary and sage. Their bread is supposed to be the best, but both Jess and I thought it was awful. Tastes like eating a handful of flour.

November 22

My birthday. Walked around and saw a lot of art and churches (that about somes up Italy—a buttload of ancient Roman and Renaissance religious art). Saw the Palazzo Vecchio and the statues, then went to the Uffzi gallery and saw the “birth of Venus” and lots of Bernini’s and Bertolouci’s and Da Vinci’s, etc. Then we crossed the ponte Vecchio over the river, had a cappuccino and then to Palazza Pitti, strolled through the Boboli gardens, then had lunch of Brushcetta and Zopa de Pesce at some modern art deco café with hipsters smoking cigarettes.

Walked along the Arno river, saw the outside of the San Croce but couldn’t go in. Then we climbed up the Duomo, up a series of winding and spiraling staircases. Every once in a while there was a cut out hole so you could get views of Florence. We emerged on the catwalk that circumnavigated the interior of the dome so were at eye level with all the frescoes. The ones of hell were particularly interesting, the devil had wings and was gobbling up people by the handful. The diabolic helpers were engaging in all sorts of other acts of torture: eating genitals, pushing people into pools of lava, sticking lit torches up peoples asses, etc. These were at the base of the Duomo, towards the apex were the more heavenly scenes. We kept climbing up in the crawl space between the interior dome and the roof, until we emerged out on top of the dome. Spectacular views of the matching tower across the way, and the rest of Florence, a patchwork of red-tile roofs peppered with churches.

Then we dropped back down into the interior of the Duomo and saw the matching octagonal Battistero, which was the stand-alone baptistery in front of the Duomo. The Battistero has great tile work and a spectacular gold roof.

Then we went to the Museo d’el Academia whose main attraction was David. But I really liked Michelangelo’s unfinished pieces. Those really gave you an idea of how he created emerging life from stone. Even if it is just the slight curve of body part that was starting to emerge it was enough to trigger a universal sense of familiarity. It was a celebration in this human form we were given. And of course David is masterpiece. It is perfection. His stance down to the details in the veins, he lives.

After that we saw San Lorenzo, which was refreshing in its simplicity and plainness. Then we strolled through the leather market, I bought some nice gloves from this girl who I detected had a Spanish accent to her Italian and asked and ended up she was from Argentina. They switched rooms on us when we got back, but it was okay because we had a view of the Duomo from our balcony. But we also had a few rooms next to us full of post pubescent French girls on slumber party. Still sleeping sporadically, and it was hard to get into reading Chekov in Italy. Instead I would just look out at the wet cobblestone streets and the lit up Duomo.

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