So… Firenze, Vincenza, Venisia

We started on our trek to Firenze or Florence on Sunday. Our hotel – Pensione Persua was right near the Duomo. The manager was from New Zealand so we felt right at home. After dumping our bags we wandered over to the Uffizi gallery where there was a long queue to get in. You can book ahead to get in faster but we had failed to do that in time.

We waited in the queue for about 1.5 hours. The Uffizi has many of the Renaissance masterpieces Florence has produced. Bottecelli, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Ghirlandio and a few others as well, Rubens, Rembrandt, the names so familiar it feels like visiting old friends. But the theme is for the most part very similar.

Afterwards I discovered that many non-religious paintings had been burned during the early part of Michelangelo’s life when a fellow called Savronola (or something like that) was about. He encouraged artists and patrons to “sacrifice” art which was not of a spiritual theme and a great many drawings, sculptures and paintings were lost. None of Michelangelos though…

You do get a bit overwhelmed with seeing the Madonna and Jesus but it is worth seeing them “in the flesh” so to speak. It is ironic that you are forced to cover yourself modestly to enter some of the grand cathedrals in Italy only to look at nude statues by the bucketload.

Unfortunately some of the museums we wanted to see were closed on the Monday and so I missed out on seeing the original David but fortunately the city has compensated with two copies. I saw both of them. They are impressive but I wished I’d seen his marble. I did see his later Pieta which is not complete in the Duomo museum and it is fantastic to see – partly because of its unfinished state but also to compare with the Pieta he did when he was in his early 20s at St Peters in Rome.

In the evening we walked up to Michelangelo park which overlooks Florence (where another David is) and enjoyed the stunning views.

The next day I confess I basically just went shopping! I bought a leather jacket and some jewellry and Dippity bought a Pashmina. The markets were great fun. After, Groover lent me his ticket on the sightseeing bus and that was quite interesting although a recorded tour guide is not as entertaining as a live person such as we had in Bath. Dippity fell asleep which gives you some indication. Did you know that Elizabeth Barratt Browning spent her last days in Florence? No, neither did I.

On Monday afternoon we left for Vincenza. Vincenza is about 70k from Venice (Venisia) and is a wealthy town full of computer chip manufacturers and a huge US base. They have a delightful little town centre though mostly built by a fellow called Palladio and we went there for dinner before collapsing in our hotel – just outside the town centre – the Hotel Continental. We chose to stay here because the cost was about 2/5 of the cost of staying in Venice!

So next morning bright and early we drove to Venice. Venice. How can I describe her? I loved every minute. The buildings, the canals, the twisty turny roads, the shops glittering with Murano glassware and jewellry. Fantastic. I even saw Tina Turner!!! True!

The first stop was to buy some fantastically overpriced fruit. The lady in charge was very protective and refused to allow dad to buy an apple because he picked it up himself! Non toccare!! He went off in a huff.

Then San Marco square. An immense square teeming with tourists and pigeons. This was regarded by the kids as the highlight of the day. Bag after bag of birdseed was bought and the kids were covered with pigeon feet scratches and no doubt a range of nasty bacteria – it didn’t bear thinking about so I went and had a look at the Cathedral – said to house the remains of St Mark himself. Are Catholics really that gullible? Honestly the relics they collect. Bits of The Cross, chains St Peter supposedly wore, jawbones, bits of fingers. Gruesome and probably some dead leper!

Anyway inside there is also this alter cloth which is dripping in gold and gems – they chare 1.50E to view that – pay inside and to go up to the loggia or balcony is another 3E. Don’t they read the bible??? I thought Jesus was a little bit against people selling stuff in a church or did I get the temple story all wrong. Anyway upstairs is a little museum and four gilt horses said to be from the 4C AD after the Venesians sacked Constantinople (or is that Istanbul)… beautiful statues – copies are on the outside of the Cathedral and inside it is a Byzantine feast. The ceiling entirely covered by gold mozaics.

We went for a bit of a tour of the shops in the afternoon and saw some of the most beautiful and expensive glassware. A set of champagne glasses caught Groover and my eyes – E1200 if you don’t mind… and Groover liked this Pauly vase, a cool E3000. I bought at E10 pendant instead.

Dad took us for a gondala ride next. What a treat! The last time I was in Venice I was about 10 months old and I can remember a photo of Mum and Dad and I in a gondala so it was very special to do it again with my kids. It’s expensive but what can you do? You have to do it!

Then the heavens opened and I longed for my new leather jacket which I’d left back in the hotel room – sigh. We had dinner in Venice and then headed back for Vincenza where we gratefully fell into bed.

Next day the party split up. Hugamuga lost his glasses again. No we haven’t found them yet.

My brother and I went back to Venice to see the Peggy Guggenheim collection and Groover, Mum, Dad and the kids went to Monterello to see the Ferrari museum. I’ll describe my visit to the Gug soon but my sister and her family have just arrived so I have to go! 🙂