Firenze - the Uffizi and Shopping

photo: A bust in the Uffizi labelled "Leopoldus Cosmae II Medices" (I love it for being too honest)

An excessively honest bust with a hook nose and protruding lip.

I needed to get to the Uffizi Gallery relatively early this morning, so I left the B&B before breakfast was served and had breakfast instead at Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano: a panchetta and tomato sandwich on a good bun (by which I mean moister/chewier than most Italian bread ...), a cream croissant, a basket full of supplied buns with butter, and a cappuccino.

And then to the Uffizi on my timed-entry ticket, where they noticed my Swiss Army knife in their x-ray of my bag, and politely seized it and gave me a number on a card. After which I trotted up to the second floor (by Canadian standards that's the "third floor" - because here what we call the "first" is the "ground floor" and what they call "the first floor" is what we think of as the "second" ... you get used to it). What confronts you first is a very long corridor of classic Roman sculpture collected by the ever-present Medici family (this was another of their homes, like Pitti Palace). The corridor is also lined by portraits (of the Medicis?) - but as they're only 30x40cm and hung four metres in the air, I suspect most people don't notice. And then there are the rooms. Room after room full of quite possibly the greatest collection of Renaissance Art in the world. Let's just say they have "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli ( ) and I leave it to you to imagine what it means that they have dozens more in that class. I think my brain is adjusting to continual sensory overload - I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I was pleased to see another copy of "Laocoön and His Sons" - which I've come to realize is one of the seminal Renaissance sculptures, and all the more impressive for being Roman ( my picture from Rome ). It was hugely influential in that period. When you get done the second floor (it only took me two hours ... I'm not claiming that's a good thing), you realize you still have "the foreign painters" on the first floor. You know - minor stuff like Rembrandt? Although I got through that floor faster, in part because a large chunk of it is currently occupied by a lot of that gold-leaf religious icon art that I'm not entirely keen on. So yes, a pretty impressive museum.

I board a flight unpleasantly early on Monday morning, which means that today was shopping day. The problem being that most stores aren't open on Sunday, so if I wanted anything, I had to buy it today.

My first stop was the Scuola del Cuoio, or "School of Leather" (I think). Where leather workers train, and where they sell the products they create. Not perhaps as cheap as I'd hoped, but the products for sale in the store were of good quality. I ended up buying a belt for €39. Very plain, black. One would hope also of very high quality.

On the way there, I spotted the "Beer House Club," which is doing its best to be a artisanal beer pub. I didn't want a drink at the time, but carefully noted it on my map.

From the Scuola I visited the church it's attached to, Santa Croce (my Italian is pretty weak, but this seems to translate as "Saint Cross." Google Translate gives me the more likely "Holy Cross"). Very large church - although I have to admit that my scale has shifted having seen particularly Siena's Duomo. So - "very large," not "huge." The place is utterly littered with graves, both on the floor and on the walls (their brochure claims 270 of them). Toward the front and the chapels, you essentially can't walk without stepping on a grave marker. And the ones on the walls include a number of very famous worthies, including (just ones I noticed myself) Marconi, Macchiavelli, and Rossini. The building also has two utterly gorgeous cloisters, although sadly the larger of the two is partly covered for renovation.

photo: The Santa Croce cloister

A church cloister framed in an arch with a rose bush and a tower behind.

I rushed back to Alberto Cozzi for 1500, because they said there would be a demonstration of paper marbling ... but: "my brother-in-law is not here, can you come back at 1600? We aren't sure he'll be here at all ..." I ended up choosing three sheets of marbled paper to add to the five I already have from Venice. They packed them up in a shipping tube for me. I returned at 1630 - Cozzi never showed, and the woman sounded kind of pissed - they actually had a customer who wanted to see the demo ...

I trotted on over to St. Trinitas, which was - as my guidebook had claimed - open, but was in the midst of a service. So I moved on without visiting. I went back to Riva d'Arno (yesterday's pizza place) where I had an Aperol Spritz - and this time actually got my Calabrese Pizza. Which was in fact quite good. And then another Aperol Spritz - which was perhaps unwise given my next destination.

I found my way to Beer House Club, where the bartender recommended Brewfist's "X-Ray Imperial Porter," as I was asking after dark Italian beers. These aren't a common thing: Italy has Moretti and Peroni, both relatively light beers, and the stuff in the mini-marts pretty much stops there. So I was pleased to find any dark beers at all in this wine-obsessed country. As it turns out, quite a nice porter. I'll spare you my attempts to describe it, beyond saying it was a fairly classic Imperial Porter and it was 8.5% alcohol (although it didn't taste strong). I should have left it at that because he didn't have anything else that was dark and Italian, but I was interested in the Kloster-Scheyern "Kloster-Dopplebock Dunkel," so I had that too (7.4%, "500cl). He mentioned "coffee," but what I got from tasting it was "HONEY."

From there I went to Piazza della Signoria at dusk. A zoom lens is a wonderful thing for taking pictures of people who have no idea you're even in the square with them. We'll see if any of the pictures are actually any good.

The last stop of the day was La Carraia, a gelato place in Oltarno (although barely - you just cross the bridge and you're there). Nothing beats dark chocolate and lemon. Yum.

At night, most Italian businesses shutter themselves. Gray metal industrial rolling doors, it makes streets look really grim.

Tomorrow is my last day! I'm very sad.

photo: One of the many comedy no-entry signs I photographed across the city

A "no entry" street sign modified to show someone in a wheelchair attempting to support the white no-entry bar