13 December - Day at the Museum

Overnight, Justin had a crazy dream about having a dinner meeting with Vladimir Putin, one that seemed more realistic than most, so he was a bit distressed when he woke up.  Neither of us was able to sleep past the bells from the Duomo that sounded at 07:00.  When Crystal checked her phone, there was some worrying news about Lola.  The dogsitter indicated that she was acting kind of lethargic and hadn’t eaten in the past 24 hours, and he wanted to know if we wanted him to take her to the vet.  We asked Heidi if she could check on Lola, so we had a better idea of how she was acting.  She said she’d check in the morning (she was about to go to sleep, as it was Monday night Pacific time).

We met Dewey and Clarita in the lobby at 08:00, in order to walk over to the Accademia Gallery that was supposed to open at 08:15.  There was a short line outside, maybe just two people in front of us.  There was also a different line across the street; we assume these were people set to meet guides for tours.  Even with our Firenze Cards, which made the tickets free, we theoretically needed a reservation time, which is why we decided to arrive right at the opening.  But they didn’t bother to ask us for a reservation, they just let us in.  We walked in, made a right turn, and then down the hallway there was the statue of David.

After seeing the statue so many times in pictures, it was surreal to see it in real life.  The statue was much larger than we expected, far larger than life-sized.  It was also on a large pedestal, which was nice because people standing didn’t block the view.  When we arrived there were maybe 5 people maximum by the statue, so it wasn’t an issue, but even if it was packed the viewing angles would be fine.  We admired the statue for a bit, then went on to explore the rest of the museum.  There was one hallway that was full of unfinished sculptures (many from Michelangelo), a room that was full of plaster busts (all of us wondered about the nails in the busts), and some other areas that didn’t particularly stand out.  

After an hour or so at the Accademia Gallery, we headed over to the Uffizi Gallery.  We knew there were often long lines there, but we had no line at all.  What we did have, however, was a crazy circuitous route to get through the ticket office, the security area, and the actual entrance into the museum, all of which involved going up and down lots of stairs and through a litany of hallways.  We weren’t sure if this was the normal route and was to account for large queues, or if they were re-doing the entrance and we were just dealing with a temporary path.  Whatever the case, Clarita wasn’t a fan.

Once (finally) inside, we saw lots of Roman busts, and also stuff from all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael.  We are not art people at all, and don’t/can’t really appreciate what makes something iconic or not.  After looking at so many things that were famous from the Renaissance, some stuff seemed three-dimensional and incredible to us, and other stuff made us wonder why it was in a museum - let alone this museum - at all.  Some of the memorable items we saw included:  

We also learned that Hermaphrodite is spelled the way it is because they were the child of Hermes and Aphrodite.  There were a bunch of people milling around, and we can’t fathom what this place must be like during the summer months.  So even though our weather wasn’t great because we came in December, in return we were getting much smaller crowds inside all of the museums.  We left around 11:30, so after almost 2 hours at the Uffizi.  Just before leaving, at the gift shop, Crystal got a refrigerator magnet of Medusa.  Outside the exit, there was a store or restaurant with a huge sign indicating it was set to open on 14 December, i.e., the next day.  We could hear all sorts of construction equipment, we could see them dragging in materials, we could see exposed drywall, and we wished them good luck in opening tomorrow.

For lunch we went to Trattoria Mario, to try again for lunch.  This time we were successful, although we had to eat in a separate room downstairs, for “overflow” we assume.  They had a couple of different steak options, and the server explained the difference between them - one was just the filet portion, one was the porterhouse portion, and one was the combined T-bone.  We ordered the combined T-bone, which came in a 2 kg (4.4 pound) portion.  They told us when we ordered that we had no choice in its temperature - it was coming out rare.  They showed us the cut before they prepared it, and when it came back it was cooked on the outside and cut into large pieces.  Justin and Clarita tried to eat the more done outer portions, and Crystal and Dewey feasted on the rest.  We also feasted on a plate of French fries and a liter of house wine.  Overall we did a respectable job finishing everything (see the before and after below).

After lunch, apparently because we hadn’t had enough to eat, we walked over to a gelateria (Grom) that our guide in Iran in 2017, Amin, had told us about.  He told us about Grom, and then he sent us a Google Map screenshot to confirm the location.  Before coming to Italy this year we pulled up his screenshot and cross-referenced it against Google Maps, and it was pretty clear he had to be referring to Grom.  Crystal ordered Crema di Grom and Justin ordered Salted Caramel.  [We can’t remember what Dewey and Clarita ordered.]  Even though it was cold outside, we had no issues wolfing down our gelatos.

We separated from Dewey and Clarita after leaving Grom.  They went back to the hotel, and we headed over to Santa Croce Basilica.  On the inside of the Basilica, along the sides, there are burial places to an eclectic group of famous Italians, including Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli, plus monuments to other famous Italians that are buried elsewhere, including Dante, da Vanci, and Marconi.  There’s also a ton of artwork and sculptures.  We couldn’t remember many (if any) churches we’d been to that also functioned as a museum and a cemetery.  Outside, we enjoyed the eclectic Christmas Market with Santa Croce as a nice backdrop.  

We decided to head over to another of the museums, the Bargello, which supposedly had a lot of the nicest sculptures in Florence, and theoretically was never busy.  But it was closed.  So then we tried to visit the Galileo museum just a block or two away.  But it was closed too.  One of them was closed altogether on Mondays, the other closed early on Mondays.  So we decided we’d visit both of them tomorrow, and headed over to the Duomo, which we figured would be open.  Right next to the ticket office we bought a postcard for our friend Roy, one we figured he’d appreciate.  At the ticket office, we were surprised to hear that our Firenze Card didn’t cover any of the items involving the Duomo, so we had to buy tickets.  Crystal got a ticket that covered the cathedral and downstairs museum only, whilst Justin got one that included those plus a dome climb and campanile climb.

Inside the Cathedral, there was a ton of construction noise, even more than we’d experienced at Santa Croce earlier.  For as big as the Cathedral is, the inside isn’t that remarkable, save for the ceiling of the dome, which is justifiably famous.  The dome, constructed by Brunelleschi and completed in 1469, exemplifies the Renaissance, and even to this day remains the largest masonry dome in the world.  Downstairs there were a lot of old Roman mosaics that were discovered when doing excavation work in the 1960s and 1970s.  

After seeing this, Crystal headed back to the hotel, and Justin walked around to the north side of the building to start his Duomo climb.  He was behind about 20 people when they entered, but behind only 5 or so by the time he got through the 463 stairs to the top.  There was a stop about 85% of the way up, on the inner rim of the dome at its base.  From this vantage point, all of the artwork on the dome ceiling was much closer and decipherable, and the quality of the painting was much more evident.  

On the outside, it was about sunset time, and the views in every direction were good.  Lights seemed to come on by the minute during the time Justin was outside.  It was nice to do this after being in town for a bit, as Justin was able to tell what was what.  He went back down the 463 stairs in the Duomo, went outside, walked around the building, and then went into the Campanile to ascend its 414 stairs.  This was more of the same, but with less people and with a slightly different view.  After coming back down, Justin’s legs were about done, having gone up and down 877 stairs in about an hour.  Justin returned to the room about an hour before dinner, and just crashed.  

At about 19:15 we met Dewey and Clarita and embarked on the 10 minute walk up to Trattoria Tito.  We’d read that this was a very low-key, local place that was the opposite of pretentious.  When we walked in, they took us to a table in the back part of the restaurant, and the walls were covered in graffiti.  We were expecting 1980s music based on our research, but instead it was all Motown music from the 1960s and 1970s, including some Stevie Wonder (this was starting to get weird).  

As for the food, Justin ordered Pappardelle with wild boar ragout and then some meatballs, Crystal ordered some meatballs, Clarita ordered some magliata with sausage and mushrooms, and Dewey ordered fettuccine with black cabbage and then rabbit cacciatore.  For our wine we ordered Brecciolino 2015, which was a mix of Merlot, Cab, and Petit Verdot.  Its taste was like that of a Pinotage, very tasty.  The food was excellent, but the plating was eh.  They seemed like they were waiting for Crystal and Clarita to give up their dishes before they brought Justin and Dewey’s mains, but Crystal and Clarita were eating slowly to wait for Justin and Dewey’s mains to arrive.  Fortunately we had wine.  At dessert time, they brought some limoncello on the house, and we introduced Clarita to it.  She pretended to not like it, but she may have finished her glass before we did.  

On the walk back to the hotel, Justin peeled off to go in an Irish Pub to watch the semifinal between Argentina and Croatia.  He peeked in and saw it was 3-0 Argentina very late in the match, so there was no reason to stay.  He joined back up with Crystal and her parents in short order.  When we got back to the hotel, Justin decided to head over to 7 Secoli, figuring there might be a party atmosphere.  To his surprise, however, everyone was emptying out.  He ordered a Quilmes and sat down at the bar, ordering a Tucuman for his second round.  Willy remembered him from the night before, which was nice.  But there was no party…until right after he left to head back to the hotel, when coincidentally a group of 15-20 partiers supporting Argentina happened to walk by.

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