Firenze, Last Day

photo: Just because you're on your horse you shouldn't be disconnected from modern conveniences ...

Man in Santa Maria Novella Piazza on a horse ... on a cellphone.

The first stop of the day was St. Trinita, which had been having a service when I'd tried to enter on Saturday evening. So now, early Sunday morning, I got in without trouble. The front doors are wonderfully carved wood.

At Ognissanti (one of the closest churches to my B&B, but a relatively small one that I hadn't visited yet) there was a service, so that had to be put off.

Palazzo Medici-Riccardo was owned, as you might suspect, by the Medicis. And later the Riccardo family, whose eventual financial ruin left this rather nice palazzo to the state. For the most part, it's a sequence of attractive period rooms. The stand-out is the small chapel, which was painted in considerable detail on four walls and the ceiling by Benozzo Gozzoli. The courtyard is also quite lovely, although it - like several cloisters I've seen - is half covered for renovation.

The San Marco church was most memorable for its organist: I don't know what he was playing, but I really enjoyed it. I have to suspect that he was doing some well-translated piece of 60s or 70s rock rather than liturgical music. Sadly, he was only at it for a couple minutes.

photo: San Marco Church

San Marco church - clergyman before an image of the crucifixion.

Attached to San Marco is its "Museum," which is more the former monastery and its cloisters. But it's most famous because there are 43 monk's cells - every single one of which was decorated by Fra' Angelico, one of Italy's most famous Renaissance painters who was himself a monk (although he later married a nun and left the order). San Marco was also the home and headquarters of the notorious Girolamo Savonarola. If the name doesn't sound familiar, perhaps the term "Bonfire of the Vanities" is (apparently it wasn't singular - there were several). Savonarola was hugely influential in Firenze circa 1490, where he convinced many people that worldly goods (particularly scandalous stuff like nude paintings, but also many other expensive trinkets) were not only unnecessary, but an impediment to entry into heaven. So a huge bonfire was made in one of the main squares - and a lot of great Renaissance art works were lost. His rule lasted about a decade, before he too - like the vanities - was burned (after being hanged).

Then came the very long walk in search of lunch - I think I need a sherpa. The Central Market was packed full so I passed, and the Oil Shoppe isn't open on the weekends. I found another specialty beer bar, but they seemed to have only imports, barely anything domestic. It was interesting to notice that the primary language spoken among the guests there - as well as at Beer House Club - seemed to be English. There are a LOT of tourists in Florence, but English isn't particularly common in general (I'd say a quarter of the tourists are Italian). I finally tramped on over to Oltarno and went to Enoteca Fuori Porta, where I had a glass of Chianti Classico with a brilliant potato ravioli with rabbit ragu - probably the best meal of the trip. As I was in a wine and liquor bar, I followed it up with Rapa Giovanni Moscato Reserva Grappa (from Piemonte?): my waitress had recommended it when I asked after grappa, saying it was "smooth:" I wouldn't particularly say so. Mild but distinct licorice flavour, served in a very accentuated thistle glass. Still didn't convince me I needed to bring any grappa home, although it was interesting.

Very near there, by good fortune I came across the source of the comedy "No Entry" signs I've been photographing all across Firenze. The first one I saw had a standard "No Entry" sign (at the wrong end of a one-way street) modified to show a sumo wrestler struggling with the white bar. There are dozens of variants, and they've also modified some other street signs (they generally remain serviceable for their purpose). It's been an amusing pursuit photographing them as I went around the city. So I bought four stickers of these signs, each about 10cm in diameter. I'm sure one will end up on my laptop.

The Santi Apostoli church proved hard to find: I eventually made my way to the justly named Piazza del Limbo - it's a well-hidden dead end off a relatively obscure street. For all that, I wasn't sure why Rough Guide had sent me there: it was a small and not terribly interesting church.

Ognissanti on the other hand ... that was my last tourist stop on the entire trip (unless you count dinner). And it was a pleasant surprise: not only a more interesting church in general, but it also had a trompe-l'oeil ceiling. This time, the short ends of the main ceiling had seating galleries, from which angels looked down upon us. I love the visual tricks, and a good trompe l'oeil painting is always a lot of fun.

photo: Ognissanti trompe-l'oeil ceiling

A gallery of angels look down upon us from the Ognissanti ceiling.

1730 Sunday evening is a poor time to try to track down a meal in Firenze: most restaurants open at 1900 or 1930 even during the week (and even if they serve lunch: most close from 1500 to 1900), but many are closed entirely on Sunday. I ended up back at Riva d'Arno, on their street-side patio watching the Ponte alle Carraia traffic (Carraia bridge over the Arno), and the business from the even-busier-than-yesterday Carraia gelato shop. Repeat business must be relatively rare in Firenze: I was welcomed back both at Riva d'Arno and the Oil Shoppe (or maybe Italians are better at remembering their customers). I had an Aperol Spritz and a "Gustapizza:" cherry tomatoes, rucola, parmesan, and mozzarella. Rucola, as it turns out, is a bitter salad green (they used lots) and BIG hunks of parmesan - it was very good.

So a good end to a good trip: early to bed for a painfully early flight, and I'll be back in Toronto Monday afternoon.

Post Script: The Rome duty free provided me with a bottle of Aperol (the LCBO has it, but this was much cheaper) and a bottle of Pallini Limoncello (the Pallini is the best big commercial limoncello I've found so far - available all around the world, but not in Toronto <sigh>).