The Road to Renaissance
A quirky anomaly about this part of the world, specifically France and Italy is their love of cafés. At virtually every gas station is a coffee bar, and specific to Italy, a real bar. The ease of grabbing an espresso is appriciated on this day as John begins to crash hard from jet lag. I offered to drive but he gets very antsy when not driving long stretches of road plus he is enjoying our Audi at sea level.
The roads of Italy are definitely showing the wear of the economy (except the toll roads) and the 'wealth' of state is becoming more apparent. Churches are charging for entrance and suspect street vendors with thick migrant accents hit-you-up for selfie sticks and umbrellas. Every where there are small construction areas that are dubiously protected from the public. I realized that since Italy, and all of Europe, are on a socialized medical system protections and OSHA are less needed, or at least are an afterthought. Part of the reason driving is more aggressive is because litigations are minimized. The people are not scared to exist for fear of an accident. Health care is health care and won't be enhanced by winning a lawsuit. Not that there are not other reasons to sue in the event of an accident, but hospital care is not a looming dark shadow. John also pointed out, when our breaker popped in our Florence AirBnB, that the "Int'l Building Code" is not international.
Out of Rome and an espresso shot later, we arrive into Pisa. We were not sure whether we would make this stop or not, when I was planning the Eurorail part of this trip. However, with our own car it is easy. When I was about 16, my family also made a 6-week travel adventure, some places I am revisiting, some places new. Pisa is oddly one I remember quiet clearly, much to my surprise. All the way down to the restaurant we haphazardly picked for our 2pm lunch. I kept having flashbacks to a late meal to this same location. Eerie but magical at the same time. The kids enjoyed the false-perspective 'holding up the tower' shots, made much easier now with digital cameras and John and I enjoyed yet another glass of wine. (A recurrent theme in Italy, when in Rome!)
Onwards to our apartment in Florence. The flat was our first AirBnb experience, and honestly, the couple were more helpful than any VRBO or hotel concierge I have worked with prior. They had maps and restaurant suggestions, parking arrangements and reasonably priced shopping options. Not to mention a washing machine and drying racks (my kingdom for a dryer!). The only downside is the 8 flights of stairs to reach the unit. The rest of this day was spent going to the local grocery store, making our own dinner and relaxing (or recovering in John's case).
In Florence, many tourist locations will all close on the same day. Thinking Sunday would be such a day, we decide to take in the DiVinci museum, ya'know since he's illuminati, we were highly disappointed as this was predominantly an interactive little kid play place (we did find a more adult version but didn't feel like spending the money). We left to have a picnic lunch and noticed long lines out of certain landmark museums, then the heavens start to open up. I need to get back to pull in our jeans hanging 4-stories above a courtyard on a clothing line.
As the storm passes, we jump on wifi to do some research, turns out Monday is the day when access to David and Uffizi Museums are closed. That's tomorrow, shit, no fucking planning on our part. After reading a bit more, we decide to attempt the cue for at least one location and then perhaps the other on Tuesday (our departure day) but I also read, if you go to the meseum info desk they can sell €4-more reserved tickets and you can skip the line. (Not a back alley migrant thing). Done, line skipped, David seen! So we decide to try this at Uffizi, too. Same awesome experience. I really am not sure why you wouldn't take this option, as the lines were reported to be over an hour long.
Florence is a college exchange city, I am hearing more American-English college kids than Italian being spoken here. While John went to suss-out the reserve ticket situ, we waited in line. Some college kids complaining, saying they'd be willing to bribe the guards with €50. I might not be a young, fresh millennial, but it helps to read travel reviews on the old-lady tripadvisor site. They didn't get in, we got both!
Florence is the heart of the Renaissance, we have now seen works by DiVinci, Michaelango, Dante, Botticelli and many, many more. We hiked the 414 steps up Giotto's Belltower, the final stairs are TIGHT. On the way down I had a small panic attack, not from the height but from the narrowness. It was a single file corridor filing people in two direction traffic. I was fine if we were moving, but if the flow stopped (wide person or babycarrier) and I was not at a window, well they almost had a crazy American cracker. And to top it off, the bells started ringing, thankfully, I step out of the confines onto the high platform just as the first gong rang throughout. I'm not sure I could calm myself down if I was 20 years older. This is not a visit for the elderly or overweight. We skipped the Duomo cathedral, which from pictures looks like other typical gothics instead visiting the Baptistery, the geometric marble inlay and symmetrical balance was pleasing to my fried senses. (A favorite so far, had an Ottoman Empire influence.)
Our final tour was of the Bargello, a former Duchy residence. The art here has significant damage and needs restoration; however, this tied together for us the connection of Pope Leo X and his exploration of natural sciences. Pope Leo was from the Medici family (Duchy of Firenze) and he embraced the Renaissance ideas of Alchemy and Intelligence, something Martin Luther in Germany felt did not belong in the dogma of the Chruch. All hail the rise of the Reformation.
While my understanding of the history of Europe, the Chruch and the Wars is sophomoric, I can definitely see a theme developing through the ages, best absorbed through the eyes of artists. One can simply walk through an art gallery or meseum and think if a painting or statue is pleasing or one can percolate with an active mind and dare not to repeat history.