Thursday, July 19
It's that time of the week again – laundry time. I'm sitting in a little laundromat and have about an hour before the wash and dry is done. This one is strictly self-serve. There aren't any employees around.
This morning I went to the Duomo Museum. It is given 3 stars (out of 3) by my guidebook. It documents the history of the Duomo, which is rather complicated. The nave was built with a hole left for the dome (something about they wanted one but nobody knew how to build one yet – though that could be my guidebook being a bit snide). They built the dome. They built the choir (the part across the the dome from the nave). They decided the original facade was just too old-fashioned and tore it down. They had design contests for a new facade, but didn't get serious about it until the 1850s, a few hundred years later. Then the new facade went up.
So the museum documents all these changes. There are statues from the first facade, designs for the second, models for this and that, tools that were used to build the dome and descriptions of what had to be done to make it happen, and originals of various things that were getting damaged by the elements (and pollution) and were replaced by copies. My favorite display was the small choir balconies that were created for a festival that have dancing children and youth all around them. The whole thing is to represent Psalm 150. In this photo the kids are playing cymbals. In flickering candlelight the figures would have appeared to move. I don't know why they were taken down and moved to the museum.
After lunch I toured the Pitti Palace. It was built by the Pitti family, then home of the Medici family for 200 years, then for a while by their successors. Even Napoleon took up residence for maybe 15 years and the King of Italy lived there before the capital was moved to Rome. Definitely rich and sumptuous. The various families bought lots of artwork, so the place is now a museum. The major tour was more of the same that I've been seeing for the last week – though this time the the big name artists were Titian and Raphael.
After a snack I explored some of the Boboli Gardens behind the palace. Some of the landscaping inspired the gardens of Versailles. Lots of statues about and one area looks like a Roman ampitheater where outdoor places and concerts were staged. This photo is of the palace from the top of the garden.
My favorite part of the day was the modern art galleries one floor up from the first tour. What a relief! No crucifixion. No Madonna and Child. No annunciation. No taking Jesus from the cross. No Pieta. No road to Emmaus. No collection of saints.
I did have to work through portraits of Important Personages and canvases of huge battle scenes. But then I got to the Italian Impressionists and the work was lovely! Idyllic countrysides, ordinary people, everyday scenes, and landscapes. I saw some techniques that reminded me of French Impressionists, though an Italian impression of an Italian countryside is different from a French impression of a French countryside.
I wondered about a few paintings early in the series (they were arranged in chronological order). The scenes looked straight out of the American Plains, complete with mountains in the distance and cattle drives. The notes were only in Italian so I don't know what it was all about. Then again, the scenes of battles of Italian independence and unification looked a lot like the American Civil War.
Alas, no photos of this wonderful art, though I did get a few postcards.
Dinner was at an out-of-the-way place and decent prices. The meat was “meatballs grilled in lemon leaves.” They weren't exactly balls, more flattened patties between two leaves. The leaves looked too dry and burnt to be edible, so I didn't. The meat had a good flavor. It came with fries (though described simply as potatoes) and I added a drink and salad. All for $26. A bit much for the non-tourist areas. It was also early for dinner. The entire time I ate I was the only customer in the place, normally not a good sign. The hostess and the cook took an opportunity to eat their own meals. The hostess was very much the Italian grandmother, urging dessert or coffee on me and even practically handing me a fresh apricot (which I don't care for).