Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Last Day in Florence

Wow. It's been such an incredible journey in Florence, and I'm incredibly sad to see it draw to a close. Tomorrow I'll be on a plane, London bound.

I haven't posted in a while because I've just been so darn busy. Last week, my mom and Jay came for a visit and seeing them was wonderful. It was so nice to get to spend time with them, and we had a lot of fun going around the city.

While they were here we did a lot of the touristy stuff that I'd been dying to do. We did walking tours with a guide-- one up to Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato al Monte, and the other to the Accademia. We also got to see the Pitti Palace and I took my third (yes, third) trip to the Boboli Gardens. It was just such a good week filled with laughter and fun. Except for when we miscommunicated about where we were going to meet and then my mom got panicky because she thought I was dead but I was really just sitting outside of the hotel room. There wasn't a lot of laughing then.

My palate also got to benefit from their visit. The food that we ate was absolutely phenomenal. I haven't been doing a lot of eating out since I've been here, as my house mom cooks dinner every weeknight, including Fridays.

Well they left Saturday morning, and so I had the day to myself. I had a ticket to go see the Calcio Storico (historic soccer) game. It's an annual event in which each of the four quarters of Florence has a team compete for the title. The four quarters each have a team color to identify them, and I was cheering for Santo Spirito, or i Bianchi (The White).

Calcio Storico is absolutely nothing like soccer as we know it today. It was more like a cross between MMA fighting and rugby. The ball is tossed around, and to earn a point or a "calcio" you have to toss it over a low wall at the opposite end of the field. If you hit the fence behind the wall though, the other team gets half a point.

So while some people are working on scoring, other people are just beating the crap out of each other and pinning each other to the ground. There's some strategy in this, I'm sure, but I really couldn't figure it out. Both teams lose players so it seemed kind of strange.

Anyway, i Bianchi won the game 9.5 to 2, and they'll play again this weekend against Santa Croce's team, gli Azzuri. Oh yeah, the whole thing is played in a sandpit in front of Santa Croce church. It's wild.

Maria Palombo came to visit me on Sunday. Again, it was great to see someone that I love so much! We did touristy things (I got to see the Palazzo Vecchio and the tombs of Lorenzo il Magnifico and Giuliano de Medici!) but were both pretty tired by the end of the day so we just wound up sitting for about 2 hours eating and drinking wine. If you told us 10 years ago that someday we'd be sitting in an Italian cafe, sipping Chianti and Vernaccia, I'm not sure we would have believed you. It was almost too good to be true.

This week absolutely flew by. I had a lot of homework which was a little frustrating, because I had a laundry list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go. I began crossing things off on Monday, taking a tour of the Duomo Museum that houses the works that have been in and out of the cathedral since it was consecrated. The museum stands were the workshop for art for the cathedral was housed. It was here that the David was carved, and it was difficult not to get chills just thinking about that. 

The real Gates of Paradise were not on display because they are being restored. I was really disappointed that I didn't get to see them, but I guess it just means that I'll have to come back. On the upside I did see Donatello's Maddalena, and the unfinished Pieta of Michelangelo.

On Tuesday, I had two class field trips. In my philosophy class we went to the Galileo Museum, and in Renaissance Civilization I took my fourth (yes, fourth) trip the the Boboli Gardens. 

Wednesday was all presentations-- I had presentations and papers due in both classes, so by the end of the day I was wiped. I felt kind of lame for not really doing anything touristy in between classes or after class, but I think it'll be okay.

Wednesday night, Anastasia took us to an art opening near Santa Maria Novella. It was so incredibly weird. I love art. I love galleries. This was strange. It was a documentary photographer's 30 year commentary on materialism. But it mainly was just a lot of objects made to appear as if they were bleeding. Including, but not limited to, a banana and a bunch of different dolls. 

I had to leave the gallery early (thank god), because I had a ticket to see "La Traviata" at a local theater. I was alllll the way at the back of the house in the top mezzanine, but oh my god. This was probably my favorite thing I've done here.

As I took my seat, I began to tear up. Maybe it was the high altitude, but I'm pretty sure it was because I felt one of my dreams coming true. I've wanted to sit in an Italian opera house and take in a classic for many, many years now. And it happened.

I also cried a lot throughout the performance. It was gripping and moving, and the soprano who played Violetta was absolutely perfect. I am so grateful that I got to see such wonderful art.

Yesterday I began the grand tour of the museums left on my list. I went to the Bargello after my first final exam. The Bargello houses most of the works of Donatello, and was quite remarkable. My favorite piece in the museum, though, was the panel that won Ghiberti the Gates of Paradise commission. The museum has both the panel of Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, each depicting the moment that the angel stops Abraham from killing Isaac. Brunelleschi's is amazing-- but Ghiberti's is masterful. It's clear to see why the committee chose him.

The Bargello also has a large collection of Renaissance-era jewelry which was quite remarkable as well.

After the Bargello I went to Santa Croce. I saw the tombs of the famous people buried there, and went into both the Medici and Pazzi Chapels. The Pazzi Chapel was designed by Brunelleschi which I found interesting given his close ties to the Medici. The Pazzi family desperately wanted to overthrow the Medici, attempting a double assassination during mass in Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo). They managed to kill Giuliano, but Lorenzo escaped. There is a monument to the man who saved the life of Lorenzo in Santa Croce. Perhaps he is the man that is truly responsible for the success of the Florentine Renaissance.

Last night, Alanna and I went out to celebrate the end of classes. We met up with some friends at this huge block party/concert/dance party— I can't really explain it. Unfortunately I don't have pictures either because I didn't bring my camera. But it was so cool. Things like that just don't happen in Chapel Hill.

Today was absolutely wonderful as well. I started off the day right with a trip to Santa Maria del Carmine, where Massacio's famous fresco depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of  Eden is painted in the Brancacci Chapel. That's a piece that I've studied quite a lot in history classes over the years, because it is incredibly significant in the development of Renaissance art. This piece illustrates the shift from idealism to humanism in art, and is just absolutely striking.

Stop #2 today was the Salvatore Ferragamo museum. You can guess why I went. I love shoes, and this was amazing. The main exhibit in the museum right now is all about Marilyn Monroe, who was a big client of Ferragamo's. The exhibit featured dresses and costumes from all her movies, as well as from her private wardrobe. The highlight of this experience was standing a foot away from the iconic pink gown that MM wore while singing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend." The. Dress. No glass, just the dress.

After SV I was hungry, so I stopped at a caffeteria on my way to Stop #3, the Uffizi Gallery. As I was in line, I realized I had yet to eat a cannoli. Cannoli are my all time favorite dessert, hands down. And somehow I had forgotten to eat one IN ITALY. I picked one up for dessert though, don't worry. It was excellent. But not necessarily that different. Looks like at least one Italian food survived the trip across the Atlantic.

I finished my day out at the Uffizi Gallery. I rented an audioguide, and spent about two and a half hours winding through the rooms. It was a fantastic way to spend my final day in Florence, breathing in the art of the masters that I have spent so many years learning about and admiring.

My night began with a lovely final dinner at the house, and ended with a walk with Alanna to get gelato. It was reminiscent of our first night in Florence-- a warm, pleasant evening, streets alive and glowing. After picking up some gelato at our favorite place, we watched a street performer for a while. He was a Chaplin-esque clown, and I got pulled in to be part of one of his "numbers." I was the "sexy lady" for his risque bit, and in front of at least 100 people he did something ridiculous with the hem of my maxi dress. I'm not entirely sure what the joke was, because I wasn't allowed to look down, but people were dying with laughter. It was ridiculous, but a rather funny ending to my time in Florence.

I realized that every day I was here I discovered something new about this city. That's pretty cool. I'm not sure if that's something that's unique to Florence, or if I've just become more acutely aware of what's going on around me. I wrote in an earlier post that I've truly been living in the moment here, and that's still the case. I've never felt more lucky, blessed or happy.

I am thankful.


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