Olivia Alexander Art Blog
Artist Traveling Italy -- day 4 of the Cosmos coach tour
Wed. Apr. 28 2010 Florence -- this is my second time in this beautiful city. First stop is the Perizzo leather factory and showroom n the city centre. I decide to buy an exquisite jacket, it is so soft. Every time I wear it I'm transported back to Florence. We then have a walking tour with local guide, Francesca. By the end of this day I'll have walked 5 hours. We set off from the Piazza San Croce. Francesca points out interesting architecture including the large metal rings in the walls for tying up horses and the small windows in the walls next to the front doors. Apparently for putting carafes of wine in to customers. These guides know their stuff and study for years to become a city guide. After wandering the streets for a while we stop for lunch. Ian and I eat at the 'Caffereria' in the centre not far from the statue of David. We eat here because we can sit at the tables outside without charge. Pigeons scuffle at our feet looking for crumbs and I drop them a few extras. We sit eating and sipping cappuccino, a band and singers stroll through the Piazza, their voices reverberating around the ancient buildings. It's beautiful.
After lunch we again join Francesca for a special tour of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the best known galleries in the world. It was begun in 1560 and finished 20 years later, commissioned by the Medicis. She takes us around, step by step explaining the history of each painting and artist. She is amazing with her knowledge of art and architecture. We learn about the Medici family, a bit like an ancient day mafia, and view Renaissance works by Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci's 'Annunciation', Botticelli, Giotto, Caravaggio and Titian. An unfinished work by Leonardo da Vinci gives me a glimpse into the artist's studio life and the processes of his work. I also have a look at the portraits of 'The Duke and Duchess of Urbino' by Piero della Francesca. This is the one of the really ugly guy with the smacked in nose. Apparently this was his best side! The other side of his face had an eye missing due to a hunting accident. Two and a half hours later we leave the gallery -- my feet, back and legs are killing me and we haven't finished yet. Ian and I wander the market stalls, they are selling Italian leather goods, belts, jackets and bags in every color imaginable. I buy a few things for my daughters and then go and take a photo of the huge bronze boar on the edge of the market area. Time now for more gelato. We find a gelateria and sit out side at the tables under big umbrellas enjoying our ice cream and a respite from the hot sun. As we will be back in Florence later in our trip we decide to save more sightseeing until then. Returning to our hotel in Poggibonsi we enjoy a sumptuous evening meal in the Restaurant. We met many wonderful people on the tour, Ron & Iris from the UK, Sally and Harry from the US, Jerry from New York, to name a few. Next day a trip to Pisa was planned -- Ian and I had been before so we decide to spend the day exploring Poggibonsi by ourselves. We set off on foot into the town centre, walking along a path beside the canal. The town has a modern centre and a medieval section. We head for the medieval streets, cobbled roads and more Tuscan style buildings. A dog looks out an upstairs window, watching us pass; He seems very interested in the two strangers walking past his home. We find a café and order cappuccino and several small canaloni -- cream filled pastries, a specialty of Italy. It's nice to sit and watch the world go by like one of the locals. We pick up snippets of Italian conversation -- a young mother sitting near by telling her friend about her new baby. We wander around more streets, the shops are quite nice. As there are no public toilets we have to keep nipping inside cafes and bars to order something, just so we can use the 'water closet'. We find the public square, Piazza. Old men sit on the benches playing cards or chatting, mothers bring their children to play with others -- it's a meeting place. We sit too and enjoy the everyday life of the people of Poggibonsi. Later on our way back to the hotel Ian and I buy a kettle from an electrical shop. Mmm, now we can make our own cappuccino and cup a soup in our hotel room, saving us a fortune! For our final evening at the hotel the chefs prepare a special meal. They all troupe into the restaurant carrying a large silver platter with the biggest Turkey I've ever seen perched on top. It's a flame and has sparklers on its enormous back -- Ian cracks a joke about it being another volcano and we had better book our plane tickets1 Every one has a giggle about that as some had been stranded in Europe due the volcano in Iceland erupting. Actually it reminds me of the turkey in the Mr. Bean episode -- you know, the one he gets his head stuck inside of! It was delicious, actually, I'm getting peckish thinking about it.
More on the trip a bit later. you can read all of my blogs or sign up for my monthly newsletter at my website http://OliviaAlexander.com