Thursday, April 7, 2016

Day 1 - Flitting About Florence with Family

The courtyard of San Marco Friary, one of the original interests of the Medici.
The first lesson I learned was not to wait for a man's rescue. History is written by the survivors. I am surely that.
-----Catherine de Medici

So before Paul booked the tour with the Balboa Winery in Walla Walla to come to taste Tuscan wines, I got very excited about the possibility of visiting Florence, Italy.  Not only is the art work stunning, but I read a book about a decade or more ago called The River of Fortune---about the Medici family and all the prosperity for a time along the Arno River.  So I have wanted to come here for a long time.  And in the preparation for coming here, I also saw a very interesting documentary about The Medici Family on called Godfathers of the Renaissance. And for that reason, I wanted to take a tour specifically about the Medici Family. We were able to find a guide, Francesa, who met us at San Marco Square this morning.

We are staying a perfectly adequate but not overly special hotel about 20 minutes from the hubbub, It makes us walk and is very quiet. On the way, we might have acquired breakfast.
The man studies breakfast options.

We had a breakfast pastry, but we could have had this:
Nice breakfast in theory!
We met our guide and off we went to explore everything Medici...well, you couldn't possibly do it in one day, but we made a stab at it.
White lead and lapiz for your fresco painting pleasure.

We started at the San Marcos friary of which the Medicis were patrons. They sponsored art work by friars within the facility, mostly by the original patrons  of the family.  The monks and lay brothers lived side by side and most of the work celebrates either the passion of Christ, his life or patron saints of the city and church.
St Benedict embracing the blood of Christ. The blue color is embedded lapiz azul. Very dramatic and expensive.
One of the things that took place daily was chanting. So for this reason, there was a huge music library at San Marcos and the monks made the "hymnals" of chant. Beautiful artwork!
This library, commissioned by the Medici, held the hymnal scrolls and other books and writing found in the 1400-1500s

An example of the amazing art work that the chant books contained.
These are the oldest frescoes commissioned by the Medici Family who interestingly, despite their name, contained NO doctors, and were first successful as wool merchants. They eventually broke into banking and eventually secured the banking of the Vatican and ultimately had a pope X2 from the family
This fresco in a small chapel that also served as a governing chamber shows not only the passion of Christ, but many saints at the foot of the cross. 

St Peter, a local saint who was matyred, is seen in many Florentine frescoes, often inviting you to shut the **** up!

The San Marcos depiction of the last supper. Not Leonardo da Vinci although he lived in the hood. This one shows the eating customs of the pre Rennaissance era. Water bowls because you needed to eat with your hands. The fork hadnt been invented yet! There is a table cloth but no plates. Hard bread served as a surface for food. Judas is seen on the opposite side as the 'nonbetrayors."

The tour through San Marcos took us to the chambers of the priests and eventually to the chamber of Savonarola, the priest who opposed the Medicis and instituted the bonfire of the vanities. I wish I could discuss all the history and all the photos but condensing 6 hours is pretty difficult. COME HERE and see for yourself.

From here we gravitated to the Medici palace which eventually was purchased and renovated by the Riccardi family. It isn't terribly ostentacious outside but it is BIG and is made of tremendous large local stones.  The chambers at one time received wool for export in addition to housing the family once they acquired some wealth.
The salon of Charles V. He was a French King who visited here to get strategic passage between Tuscany and Naples to conduct a little battle or so.
The ceiling of the ballroom was really lovely.

A statue of Hercules in the open courtyard area, This is one of many symbols associated with the Medici family: the diamond, the ram, the lion, the turtle, the fleur de lis with pistils, the coat of arms with a shield and "balls"

From this palace, one of several, we progressed to the Cathedral San Lorenzo. This was the Medici family church and holds all their remains to this day.
The San Lorenzo church. There was supposed to be a facade designed by Michelangelo but somehow, he never got around to it. 

The family is buried in the basement but have elaborate works of art as burial tombs. Empty but imposing!
Why not have Michelangelo put a glaze sculpture at your grave site?

The cathedral itself is lovely, but not nearly as opulent as the tomb area which is grandiose, but never completed.
Internal view San Lorenzo cathedral

 We proceeded from here to the lunch. :)
Medici Pizza !
The city hall is impressive as is the statuary outside it.
Florence City Hall. WE did see the mayor, but we dont think he is as cool as Madeline Rogero.

Replica of the statue of David. The original statue is in Berlin. It has lead a rough life.

Perseus Kills Medusa
This statue commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent, supposedly represents his triumph over rival families.

From here, we were privileged to visit the sanctuary of the Il Duomo. The story of the dome is an architectural miracle and much of it remains misunderstood. That's a whole blog to itself and again, if you are interested in such things, check out the YOUTUBE 4 hour miniseries about the Medicis.

Dante in the Divine Comedy. Hell on the right, purgatory in the middle. And heaven? The city of Florence . 

The dome of the Il Duomo. An architectural masterpiece. 

This only touches the surface of the Medici lives and legends and took quite a while. Most of the Medici legacy we didn't have time to see in one 6 hour tour.

From here, we moseyed on home and made our way eventually to dinner at Cucuchulia, a very tiny restaurant across the Arno River.
Just getting there was aesthetically pleasing.

There's a traffic jam on the bridge, but it is so gorgeous, you barely notice it. 
Dynamic duo on the way to dinner

Amuse bouche: cauliflower puree soup

Cocoa daisy pasta with lemon potato stuffing.

Chocolate cake. YUM

 I had a stuffed artichoke. Completely vegetarian. Completely scrumptious.
 The walk home didn't suck either.
Along the Arno in the evening.
It was a  great day with so much history and a better understanding of Florence, and how one family, quite flawed, made an impact on their city and the world.  The Medicis---forefathers of the Renaissance. I am GLAD I never knew you (and escaped with my head) but grateful for the good things that were accomplished.

"As they say in Italy, the Italians were eating with a knife and fork while the French were still eating each other.  The Medici family had to bring their Tuscan cooks to France, so they could find something to eat."  
                                 -----Mario Batali.

Paul's Ponderings:  Great start to the trip over the past 36 hours.   Florence is full of history, but very manageable.   As noted, this is a core wine country for Italy as well!   We've had some great dining and it has been around 80 degrees both days -- quite warm!    The Medici history was quite interesting.   They were a very subtly manipulative family who acheived broad power in a short time, but at the same time made a huge difference that endures 'til this day in cultural world history.   We are off to a good start, tomorrow it's off to Cinque Terre for a walk and scenery!

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