After sleeping like a stone (c’mon I had walked EIGHTEEN km the day before) I woke up hungry as a wolf. I was deeply missing a good bacon and eggs breakfast so we headed to a place we saw the day before , in Via dei Servi, the OK Bar. I ordered my BAE and it was great. Like most restaurants I went in Italy, specially in the historical center of towns and close to main attractions, the prices are quite salty. The owners were not very friendly but the waiter, that immigrated recently to Italy from West Africa, was a very nice person. It must have been a strange scene we both trying to speak English and Italian with him, and him replying in his native french. By the end of the day we managed to get what we wanted and then headed to Piazza del Duomo, to start another amazing yet tiring day.
Getting to the Duomo we decided to start visiting the Battistero di San Giovanni (St John’s Baptistery) located in front of the Duomo in Piazza San Giovanni, an octagonal building (the number eight is a symbol of regeneration in Christianity) and one of the oldest buildings in the city, where important people such as Dante and members of the Medicci family where baptized.
The battistero has beautiful bronze doors that were sculptured by artists such as Pisano and Ghiberti.The interior walls are in dark green and white marble with geometrical patterns. The ceilings are covered in beautiful mosaics.
From the Battistero we decided to visit the Bigallo Museum that was just around the corner, a small museum built in the mid 14th century.
We then headed to Giotto tower, le Campanille del Duomo, from where, after climbing 414 degrees and almost dying of exhaustion (I am exaggerating but be prepared and start jogging a couple of weeks before and climb as many stairs as you can to avoid feeling like you will not get alive from there). The last day of my Firenze card that again proved invaluable in skipping the lines.
The Giotto Tower is approximately 88m in height and is a beautiful 14th century Gothic architecture monument. Its, as the Duomo is, covered in white, red and green marble and its start dates back to the 14th century. Giotto died before he completed it and Pisano, Arnaldi and Donatello gave continuity to his work. The tower was completed in 1359 by Talenti.
After climbing all those narrow stairs and cursing myself endless times to have decided to do so, I arrived at the terrace at the top and immediately forgot all my curses and instead praised myself for having decided to climb it. WHAT AN INCREDIBLE panoramic view of Florence. I will let the photographs speak for themselves as I am unable to covey all the beauty of it.
NOTE: DO NOT miss the Campanille, go there. Its really breathtaking (literally)
After admiring the Duomo for so many times from the outside it was now time to see the interior. It was an anti climax. In my humble opinion, the interior does no justice to the exterior magnificence. Its beautiful but not as I expected.
The cathedral started to be constructed at the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the dome was only added in the 15th century – a magnificent work of art of Brunelleschi. Outside the cathedral both Arnolfo and Brunelleshi are depicted in two statues. Inside the cathedral the most beautiful artwork are the Vasari frescoes – Last Judgment.
As it was the last day of my Firenze Card, and as next day we would be traveling to Venice, we decided to see Museo Dell’ Opera, before going to Piazalle Michelangelo for a panoramic view of the city.
Museum dell’Opera is again a perfect example of how Florence is a city the breathes art, containing masterpieces of Arnolfo, Ghiberti, Donatello, della Robbia, Pollaiolo, and Michelangelo.
It was here that I had maybe the most strange experience and felt an energy so negative as I never felt before. The museum has a room dedicated to Maddalena where Donatello’s restored Penitent Saint Mary Magdalene stays in the centre, protected by a glass case. It is a wooden sculpture, that was carved between 1453 and 1455.
I believe all of us are used to see Magdalene as a beautiful and healthy lady. I was never prepared to see Donatello’s work, so realistic, showing Magdalene as an emaciated, wasted, suffered, woman, with a profound sadness in her eyes. The anatomic perfection of Donatello’s work is breathtaking. I could instantly feel the suffering of 30 years in the desert, the pain, the agony, the hunger, the thirst. This amazing work from Donatello made me shiver, feeling an intense wave of negative energy, that I just took a pic, and left immediately. That feeling persisted and comes back every time I remember it.
Relieved to leave that feeling behind we headed to Piazzale Michelangelo. My friend Ruth is the love of Murphy’s life (you know, Murphy Law?!) and if everything can go wrong, it will get worse LOL. After asking someone what the best way to go to Piazzale Michelangelo was, we were told that taking the us was the best option, so off we went to the bus station close to Santa Maria Novella train station, to take the 12 or 13 number bus. End of the afternoon (17h00) and it started raining, so yeah, a beautiful sunset I did see in so many pictures was quickly becoming a dream not came true. To make this worse (yeah Mr. Murphy can you just leave us alone???) we touristing never thought about rush hour. To make a long story short, we spent 1 hour in the bus, got there late, raining cats and dogs, to find out that walking there would take us less than half the time. Anyway, even with rain and fog, the view is just out of this world. You literally have Florence at your feet, and I can only imagine how it would be on a sunshine day, watching sunset and being awed by the intense beauty of Florence.
It was already getting late and Murphy again decided to play with us. The 13 bus came, and the driver refused to sell tickets to us, and told us to go and buy tickets at a small caffe. To our surprise, not only the caffe was closed, but we were told that he simply did not want to take us, as that place did not sell tickets. We were apalled by this poor and disrespectful attitude, but we were lucky enough to see a second bus coming (after 30min waiting in the rain) and this time a very nice driver that sold us tickets. Again in the historical center, tired as hell, we went to Mercatto Centrale, amazing place, where enticing smells of Italian food, mix with the beauty of real food, amazing cheese, truffles, cold meats, and so much more. A place to go with more time, and in September I will be there again, this time to enjoy a delicious meal.
From there we went to a cosy and very nice asian fusion restaurant, called FirenZen (Firenzen website) in Via Guelfa, that we saw in one of our sightseeing moments. The food was excellent, the owner a very nice and kind person, outstanding service. My matcha latte, Thai green papaya salad with shrimp and my Garlic pork ribs were outstanding. Ruth had pad thai and we both shared a trio of gelatto (Matcha tea, Wasabi, black sesame)
After that perfect dinner, we headed to our accommodation to pack as next day we were travelling to Venice. Oh yes, my Venice, the city in Italy where I felt enchanted. Stay tuned, the pictures for Venice are fabulous (modesty left me lol).