Florence (Day Two)

On our first day in Florence, we noticed – but didn’t really stop to appreciate – what a nice view the hotel had given us. Sure, you can’t see anything but a snout of dome. But it’s lovely just the same.

You can’t hang around a hotel all day admiring a view. Get back out there and look at the cathedral some more! I like this shot because you finally begin to get a sense of scale.

I’m not sure what this museum is. We stumbled across it while wandering and decided to go in. If I remember right, it’s a palace of some sort that contained a few of the items on display, and now is home to other found objects. And by “found objects” I mean priceless, one-of-a-kind religious items. You know, just those.

These are the original pieces from the top of a fountain you’ll see in a moment.

 

Ah, here’s the fountain. I’m not going to lie to you or bandy words. It really disturbs me that the fountain is designed such that water would have come out of her nipples. Seems oddly tasteless given the rest of it.

Remember that statue from last night? It was a reproduction. This is the original.

This cannon is cast bronze. I guess if you were a bronze-casting person, you’d be extremely impressed by this. The sign called it the “finest example of” something or other. I just like the guy’s head.

 

I’m going to confess a secret. We were also partly in this museum to escape the rain. This was the one rainy day of our entire trip. Terribly lucky considering that November is Italy’s rainy season, and we’d been warned that it would be “damp” everywhere.

 

 

Big collection of cast birds upstairs. These guys were originally on a church, out in the elements. They were relocated here for their own good.

 

 

 

The museum closes at 1:30, so we had to leave. We walked a couple of blocks away and had lunch at a terrific sandwich shop, All’Antico Vinaio. We’d seen it yesterday when we passed the enormous line of people outside of it. They actually run two shops, across from each other. I’m not quite sure what the scoop is there, but the routine is you queue up, figure out what sandwich you want, and then order a glass of wine. The whole thing is going to set you back about 7 euros. So, so, so good.

Given that we were full of lovely meat and cheese and bread, we needed to do something a little strenuous. The 463 steps to the top of the cathedral’s dome seemed like the perfect idea.

You definitely can’t tell it from this angle, but the paintings on the inside of the dome begin (at the bottom) with hell. Demons are torturing people, removing their skins, and having a horrible high old time. Farther up is what I guess you would call the Earth – people going about their business of being alive. As you get higher, angels enter the scene, saints, and so forth. It was neat to see it all up close.

Here’s the view from one of the little windows. See those tiny people down there with no clue that we’re watching them as we catch our breath?

When you climb this, you discover that the dome is actually a dome inside a dome. For engineering reasons that I couldn’t begin to describe, this method of construction allows the domes to support each other, allowing a smooth inside (for painting on), and a ribbed outside. It’s pretty ingenious, and as you climb inside of it, you can see the bricks facing alternating directions for added support and to form a curve.

 

And then you get a view.

It’s absolutely shocking to me here at home just how many photos Yen took from up here. It is an incredible view. But we must have been up there an hour now that I think about it. I spent most of my time taking photos for other tourists. Whenever I see a couple taking photos of each other or (worse) leaning way out in an attempt to take their own picture, I always offer to help out. What else do I have to do?

 

Sometimes I just wrestle the camera away from Yen and force him to play the part of model.

 

People always offer to take photos for us. We almost never let them. Not because we don’t want to be in pictures together, but because Yen won’t be happy with the photo that invariably results. However, when we see someone with a prosumer camera and that person offers, we generally give in. I think this one came out pretty well.

The thing to do if you’re in Florence and in love is to lock a padlock onto something and ceremonially throw away the key – generally of Ponte Vecchio, but apparently also from Duomo. Sometimes you see a combination lock, which is just hilarious. I guess sometimes it pays to be sensible.

 

 

Remember the piazza of statues from last night? You can see it from all the way up here.

 

 

Well, and then we made a friend at the top and let him take our photo too. About which more in a moment.

Yen and I have a little game we play. He looks around a given room and identifies someone who looks like a celebrity. He points this person out, and sometimes I say, “Ok, I see why you think that.” And sometimes I say, “No… try again.” As we got to the top of the cathedral, Yen asked whether I remembered O’Brien’s wife from Star Trek TNG. “No…” I said. Unfazed, he said, “Well, that woman looks just like her.” I looked and then realized the character he was thinking of. She did look a lot like her. “Good job. I’ll give you that one,” I said.

We continued our journey around, taking photos. All the while the woman was sitting on the bench. I finally joined her because I could see I’d be there for a while. She began joking with her daughter, and I joined in a little. And then Yen approached. “Excuse me…” Oh no, I thought. “Can I ask you a question?” She knew right away what the question was and confirmed that yes, she is in fact Rosalind Chao. We had a nice little chat with her, and her husband offered to take our photo – the one you just saw above. She also very kindly said that she’d noticed the photos I was taking of other people, and would I take one for all of them? I loved that.

 

 

By the time we got back to the ground, it was getting quite dark. I wanted to visit the Galileo museum, so off we went.

It’s not really named accurately, this museum. It’s got a lot of Galileo artifacts (as you’ll see), but it’s more a museum of the history of scientific inquiry in Tuscany than Galileo per se. We just loved it.

This… Well, this is Galileo’s finger. Yes, really.

The telescope at the top is the actual one he looked through when he discovered Jupiter’s moons.

This was a little less charming, but certainly you can see the benefit of it from a scientific perspective. It was the least disturbing in a collection of models for teaching physicians how to deal with various birth situations.

Giant telescopes!

After all that, we were pretty tired. And given how late lunch had happened, we decided to skip dinner and just have a little gelato. You can do things like that when you’re on vacation. On to Day Three!