July 24-25, 2012
Filled with delicious Chianti from the Castle Verrazzano, we made our way to the Hotel Albani in Florence. Arriving in the evening, drunk on wine and sleepy from food, we contented ourselves with a brief walk to the basilica and a stop for a cappuccino.
We began the next day with a walking tour with local guide Andrea. Not hiding his contempt for tourists and modern art, he guided us through crowds of people to the Academy of Fine Arts where the David is displayed in all its glory. Using all the technical language of an art historian and art lover, he described in great detail the emotions and technique of Michelangelo as he carved the multiple unfinished works called the Slaves, forever enslaved within their block of white marble. Michelangelo specially picked out each piece of marble he worked with and believed that the sculpture was trapped within the block and he was merely God’s hand removing the excess marble from the figure.
Seeing the David in person swept me off my feet a bit and my mind wandered back to my days in AP Art History. A projector slide became reality. Standing below the 17ft statue of the naked biblical David, portrayed not as a shepherd boy but as a strong young man with his sling over his shoulder, I felt he imposed a sense of ancient glory and embodied strength and perfection. The David was initially designed to be in the niche of a church; therefore the sculpture has larger than normal head, hands and feet. It is an optical illusion to make the statue appear balanced when placed in its intended location, the niche.
Andrea then took us to the Piazza del Duomo to view Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Gate of Paradise.
We then walked through the narrow streets of leather shops and cafes to the Piazza della Signoria. Florence is known for its gold and leather. However, due to the high tourist demand for these goods, there are many shops that sell inauthentic goods. It is very common to see fake leather marketed as real leather. It’s very important to go to a reputable shop when purchasing these goods.
After our walking tour with Andrea, we headed through the streets to Misuri for a demonstration in leather treating, making and design and a display of local gold. The jewelry shop brought out a beautiful display of pieces, gold with brightly colored stones, twisted and braided chains of gold, rings, a necklace made with an ancient Caesar coin, and more. I was most impressed with the diamond cut gold. It sparkled like diamonds and they designed necklaces and bracelets using yellow, white, rose and even black gold. Stunning!
The leather was incredible! Buttery soft and of spectacular quality. The sales associate brought out a few seasonal pieces and selected some of our tour to model, myself among them. We had an opportunity to wrap ourselves in the gorgeous pieces and strut around while others massaged the leather and admired the fit.
While I fell in love with a beautiful brown leather jacket, the store did not have my size, even though they offered me a custom made jacket for the same price. Instead I opted for a purse I loved just as much.
We ate a quick lunch at a local cafe before meeting up with Andrea again for a personal tour of the Uffizi Gallery. Sadly no photos could be taken inside, but Andrea walked us through the corridors to the most famous works of Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael and others. My art history lessons came rushing back to me as I recognized the paintings studied years ago. Andrea weaved a beautiful tale for each painting and sculpture, explaining the symbolism, the people in the paintings, and the premise.
After the gallery we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and prepare for a Tuscan dinner out in the countryside.
We drove about 30 minutes outside of Firenze to a small villa and winery to enjoy a delicious meal of local specialties. The meal began with a buffet appetizer including grilled vegetables, meats and cheeses. I loaded my plate with a little bit of everything, enjoying some eggplant and mozzarella the most. We continued with two pasta dishes and then a selection of grilled meats. One of which I’m pretty sure was wild boar, but I never confirmed with anyone. Regardless, it was delicious.
The highlight of the meal was brought out before the food. As we walked onto the property we were greeted by the owner, Saraceni, who gave a welcoming speech as glasses of blue wine were being handed out. Yes, blue wine! A delicious bubbly wine, light and crisp with a hint of sweet fruit. It was the star of the evening. You can order it through the link provided here.
Drunk on way too much red, white, and blue wine, delicious food, and charming people, we headed back into Firenze. I tagged along with a few people from our tour to wander the streets of Firenze to find the house the Jersey Shore cast stayed at. As our leader was a human map, we found it without too much trouble, stopping at a bar for some wine along the way and some strawberry daiquiris after the fact.