Monday, 28 October 2013

Our European Adventure: Days 24, 25, Firenze (Florence)

Our last night in Viareggio was as dark and stormy a one as I’ve ever encountered on our travels. Loud thunder claps accompanied by both sheet and fork lightning made a dramatic backdrop to the wild surf. In the morning it was still raining, but the thunder storms had pretty much abated. We were relieved since we were scheduled to drive to Florence.
There was nothing picturesque about that drive on the traffic clogged truck route that is A-11 into Florence. We were simply relieved that we made it to the airport unscathed. There we turned in our car. We had driven it 1500 kilometers since picking it up at the airport in Rome twenty two days before. 

The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
View of the Ponte Vecchio, Florence
We loaded our bags into a taxi and made our way to the Hotel Bretagna on the banks of the Arno, about a block from the Ponte Vecchio. The hotel was initially something of a shock. I expected the usual glass doors and man ready to help us with our luggage. In retrospect I should have realized that in Florence I’d have had to choose a hotel with several more stars than the Bretagna’s modest three for that. The street entrance was just that—the entrance to a building. It was necessary to take a lift to the second floor to reach the lobby of the hotel. It occupies the second to the fifth stories of a building that is a palazzo from the fourteenth century — that at one point in its checkered history belonged to the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. The original Florentine owners were the Guelf’s, one of the two reigning families of Florence for many centuries.  The elegance of those bygone years may still be seen in the sitting room and breakfast room of the hotel with their art encrusted, gilt trimmed ceilings, and their crystal chandeliers. The breakfast room is decorated with charming china plates set into the walls.

Piazza della Signoria, Florence
Piazza della Signoria, Florence
Our room is small but our beds are very comfortable. On that first night we simply had to walk down to the Piazza della Signoria, the square at the very heart of Florence. We paid more than we should have to dine at one of the cafes on the piazza just so we could feast our eyes on the wonderful sculptures adorning it, including a replica of Michelangelo’s David and a bronze by Cellini of Perseus with the head of Medea. 

Then we stumbled back to our beds. We had tickets to the Bargello in the morning.

Florence is a city of museums and palazzos and churches. We have only six days here, so we had to pick and choose what we would see. We bought our tickets on line before we left home. This has saved us hours in long lines and had guaranteed us entry.

Donatello's David in the Bargello, Florence, Italy
Donatello's David
The Bargello was my first choice. This ancient building, formerly a jail, houses one of the finest collections of sculptures in the world. My favorite is a Donatello’s bronze depiction of David as a young boy. He appears childlike, wearing a flowered hat, holding a stone in his hand. I will see all three of the great Davids on this trip. Tomorrow we will go to the Academia where Michelangelo’s David lives. Certainly this is the best known image of David, no child but a young man in his prime and a model of perfect male beauty. He stands at rest. Completely relaxed. Bernini’s David that we will visit in the Borghese museum in Rome next week is different still. His David is shown in the act of hurling the stone at Goliath. Every muscle is strained, his face is contorted with effort. 

I love all three of these Davids. I consider them some of the finest sculptures ever created and it gives me joy to be able to see them this way, one after the other.

On our second day we went to the Uffizi. How can one possibly describe this vast museum dedicated to showing the greatest works of the greatest artists? One could spend months, years, here and not take it all in. We tried to pick and choose. We wanted particularly to see the paintings of Leonardo, Botticelli and Caravaggio.  It seemed simple enough. The guide books said where these were located in the vast maze that is the Uffizi. Except that we couldn’t find the rooms. Nothing was where we thought it would be. Eventually we stumbled on them, but it was not through careful planning. Fortunately the museum has a lovely coffee shop on an outdoor patio on the second floor. We revived, refined our search and managed to find everything we had come to see. It was almost impossible to get close to the two Botticelli paintings, the Birth of Venus and Primavera, since these seem to be the primary destination of every tour group in Florence.

We left the Uffizi and had lunch on the Piazza at Rivoire, one of the great old cafes of Europe and well worth a stop.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Then we decided to tackle the magnificent government house, the Palazzo Vecchio. What a treasure trove! The walls and ceilings of every room were works of art. They told in paintings by the great artists of the day the story of the Medici and the history of Florence. We were delighted that we had ventured into this palace that wasn’t on our master plan. As we left it they were closing off the main reception room, preparing it for a banquet. We could see the cases of champagne being readied. It brings to attention that this building is still a seat of government.

Tomorrow, on to the Academia and Michelangelo.

Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.

The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.

"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?

“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?

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Blair McDowell