A slightly relaxed schedule today, with only two stops on the agenda. But first to the bus station to get our tickets to Siena for tomorrow. It was surprisingly easy and seems straightforward enough. Then we walked through the back streets to the Museum of San Marco, where the former dormitory of the Dominican monks is now open to the public. The cloister is quiet, pretty, with a classic cedar of Lebanon (?) and a bell tower in the corner. The walls all around are painted with frescoes by Fra Angelico, but the picture I liked best was the Virgin and Child with St. John the Baptist looking particularly striking in a sumptuous purple robe over his furry tunic.
Upstairs are the cells of the monks, each decorated (if I can use such a secular term) with scenes designed for prayer and contemplation. St. Dominic with the tell-tale star over his head figures in many of them. The cells are small and bare – one wonders if there was even a little bed or if they just slept on the floor.
Then, at the end of the next corridor, are the cells that belonged to the prior, Savonarola, the man who became more and more fanatical, staged the Bonfire of the Vanities where who knows how many great pieces of art were destroyed, briefly ruled Florence and finally was executed. This eerie portrait of him hangs on one wall.
Also on display are his chair, his desk, and a few garments he wore to get closer to God through pain. I know I see him through 21st century eyes, but he really is a most unpleasant fellow.
Lunch was in a little hole in the wall described as a family place, and indeed it was. We chose pasta from the list on the wall after looking at our neighbors’ plates and declaring them good, and they were. We followed (in backwards order) with mixed prosciutto, etc. The Signora (Mama) served the food, while the boys took the orders and ladled it out. I was too shy to photograph the place in action, but here’s a look at the menu board and the fiascos of wine.
Alison had an adventure when she asked the Signora for the bathroom. Pulling a key off a high hook, she gestured to Alison to follow her out of the restaurant and through a doorway, up a flight of stairs to a tiny door. “Poco, poco,” she explained. Ducking her head, Alison entered what looked like a storage closet only to find the bathroom hidden behind a screen. Rightly assuming that if she locked the door she’d never get out again, she successfully concluded her interlude, finding her way back down and back into the restaurant. Grazie, Signora!Part Two of our day was the Accademia, which loomed as large logistically as the Uffizi but proved to be easy. There’s not really a lot to see there, but what you see is enough to reduce a strong man (or woman) to tears.
David is all over Florence – every tourist shop sells aprons adorned with his genitals, there are tiny reproductions of him, as well as postcards, posters and more tchotchkes than you can imagine. By the end of a day or two in Florence, you feel you’ve already seen him, and he’s just a cliche. Even the David copy in the Piazza is just a bit ho-hum.
But turn the corner in the Accademia and see the real statue at the end of the corridor, under a dome built just for him, all seventeen feet of him, and you’re left speechless. So I won’t say any more except that sometimes an artistic masterpiece will live up to or exceed your expectations, and this is one of those times.Dinner on our last night was at Coquinarius, which Alison had luckily booked, since people were being turned away right and left. More goose carpaccio, then pici for me and “roastbeef” for her, both absolutely delicious. When we left, the nice, energetic young man (owner?) ran out of the restaurant to find us and bid us farewell. I guess it’s true that if you visit a restaurant at least twice you’re considered a regular. We ended with GROM gelato and wended our way home through the crowds. Just a few more views of the Duomo at night, and then to bed.