I've decided this apartment is haunted. Why, you may ask? Well, first of all, it's a 16th century convent. And by the international decree of ghostly hauntings, any building that existed prior to 1910 and was used for anything besides an office building, or the ordinary residence of ordinary, boring people who didn't decorate or do anything interesting ever, it has a very strong likelihood of being haunted. So a 700-year-old building for female religious devotees is a great candidate.
But where is my evidence? Well. Take your pick. There is a creepy white-curtained inlet near the ceiling in the bedroom that flutters gently whenever I talk about it. There are cemented-over doorways, one in particular by the bed. And right in front of that spot is...a hot spot! Well, it's a warm spot, and only on the floor, but it's very random and, like I said, right in front of the door. Ghosts, of course, can control temperature with their emotions. Cold spots are for fear and anger. Warm ones mean they're happy, so I'm not worried about these ghosts. Also. ALSO. I was sitting on the bed the other day and there suddenly came a tapping from inside the closet, like someone was asking politely to come in the room...oh my.
I'm not worried about sharing the apartment with the ghosts of nuns. They probably died old and happy. Anyway, I don't really think it's haunted. OR IS IT?
Ok, now here we go for real:
Today we slept in, as planned, and then, once ready to go, sat down to see what we could do. We planned just to walk around, but realized the things we wanted to see the facades of were close, and we'd be done in about twenty minutes. So we looked up other stuff we plan to see, and, since it is Sunday after all, nothing was open after 1 or 2pm, or it was only open for an hour, or whatever. Finally we found that Santa Croce was open in the afternoons after 2pm, so we decided to go there. It wasn't originally in the itinerary anywhere at all, but I'm not really sure why, because it has some pretty cool stuff there.
It was somewhere between 11-12 when we left the apartment. We didn't get very far before hitting a massive crowd and a metal barrier blocking the street at the Ponte Vecchio. Confused, we moved closer, and saw people running in the street.
Ahhhhh! It was the Florence Marathon! We'd heard some woman talking about it up at the Piazzale Michelangelo yesterday, but it hadn't really sunk in. It quickly became clear, as we tried to move through the narrow sidewalks so thick with people it was like moving through molasses, that our plans were going to have to be altered significantly.
But I wasn't irritated a bit. Everyone was in very good spirits. There were people blowing whistles, ringing cowbells, honking little horns, clapping, and enthusiastically yelling "Vai! Vai!" "Bravo! Bravi!"
Everyone we went past seemed to be in a festive mood. Shopkeepers (when they got a chance, businesses must've boomed today with all the crowds) came into their doorways to watch, a small middle school band struggled through motivational songs, dancing and smiling as they played (smiles during the rests, you know). We tried to move through the tiny crowded sidewalks, and potted plants were often knocked over, getting the short end of the stick (more puns??). Although it appeared the race had only recently begun, the avant-garde runners had finished and were moving through the crowds in space blankets.
We stood at the railing and watched for a while, taking some pictures of runners. I smiled and clapped for a bit, but I mostly loved watching the people. The spectators were so animated, and so hilarious, and seemed so excited and happy whenever their people went by. It was great to see the looks on the runners faces when they heard their friends and family cheering for them. They yelled and waved back, and a few took pictures from the track.
As I mentioned, navigating through the streets was very difficult. We had planned to go the baptistry at the duomo, but it was across the raceway, and appeared closed anyway. So we tried to find Santa Croce (it's another cathedral), but it was difficult to move through the roads. Several people actually came up to us (all in Italian) and asked where Santa Croce was, but we had no idea. Eventually we deduced that the end of the race must be at Santa Croce.
Eventually we made it to the cathedral (we had to cut across a couple of times, causing Sam to exclaim proudly, "I ran in the Florence Marathon!") and watched the finish line for a while. We checked the church visitor hours, and we still had another hour or so until they opened, so we walked back to the main touristy area and found a place that sold pizza by the slice. Sam got a caprese sandwich (approximately 1.2 million times better than the ones we got at the Chelsea Market in NYC over the summer, which I guess isn't saying much, because they were soggy). I got a slice of crispy-crust pizza with a bit of shredded mozerella, fresh sliced tomato, and shredded fresh browned tuna. Sam was shocked I was trying it, especially since I hate tuna, but it actually looked very delicious, and indeed it was. I made Sam try some, and he said that, yes, it was very tasty, but not something he would ordinarily think to try. I'm not sure I will get it again unless I was very hungry, but I certainly got brownie points for being adventurous with food today. Tuna pizza. Yum.
After the filling lunch, we walked back to Santa Croce (the race was wrapping up in most other parts of town, which made pedestrian travel easier). We paid and went inside, and spent a while gazing at the masterful frescoes of Giotto. The cathedral/basilica was pretty interesting. The altar area was covered in scaffolding for renovation, which was sad.
We read before coming that it was possible to see a tide line on the walls and pillars in the church from the flood in 1966, and we searched for them until our eyes started inventing them, but there wasn't really anything. It was kind of a bummer.
There are a few "interesting" people entombed in Santa Croce. There was Rossini, a musician of some kind who sounds familiar, Machiavelli, who you'd better recognize or I will disown you, a monument to Dante (he is actually buried in Ravenna, too bad we aren't going there after all), Michelangelo (yes, that Michelangelo), Galileo (yes, that Galileo), and the fellow who invented the radio.
We had a bit of fun poking at Michelangelo, who, ever the exhibitionist (and with everyone ever so eager to please the genius), had detailed his own tomb and requested it be placed directly to the right of the entry doors so that it was the biggest, most colorful, and very first thing everyone saw when they came into the church (assuming they weren't looking towards the altar, of course).
Galileo's tomb was also cool, mostly because it was Galileo. He didn't go all out like Michelangelo did, but there were statues of draped women holding a map of the heavens, some mathematical calculations, and other such relevant things.
There was also another tomb of some guy who was irrelevant in my mind, except for the fact that his tomb consisted of a larger-than-life statue of a woman placing a wreath on his coffin. Her eyes are neither open nor closed, but mostly closed, and her face is one of great sadness, without being overly emotional. It was captivating, and I stared at her for a long time. Sam came over, and I pointed out her face to him, and he made me aware of the creepy fact that the bust of the dead man (ten or so feet above the woman) was glancing down at her without moving his head. It was actually pretty creepy. We moved on.
|But who's that up there?|
Adjacent to Santa Croce is the Museo dell'Opera, which was included in our admission. We went in and saw a few generic medieval paintings, and several little exhibits on the restoration of art objects, particularly those from Santa Croce. There was an interactive screen where you could compare pre- and post-restored paintings. Also in the museum was the Crucifix by Cimabue, which used to hang over the altar in Santa Croce. It was pretty cool, but it needs restoring.
With the sun setting and everything closed, we decided to walk along the river to the Santa Trinita bridge and take setting-sun pictures of the Ponte Vecchio, but the sun was already too far gone, so we kept walking into the less touristy part of town near the train station and purchased bus tickets to Siena for tomorrow. We also got a little more cash for the next couple of days and walked home, completely beat.
I made dinner tonight. We had tagliatelle with pomodoro-romano sauce topped with zucchini (which looks pretty different from American zucchini, but tastes the same, although the texture is also a little different) sauteed in olive oil, balsamic vinger, salt, and oregano. We also had sliced fresh Italian bread, toasted and drizzled in olive oil. There were also grapes that we bought last night. Everything was incredibly delicious. The grapes, however, have tougher skin then we're used to, and they all have large seeds. It's a little too much work for me, which is disappointing because they are so sweet and juicy, so I didn't have many. It's a good thing Sam doesn't mind the work.
Sam just got back from a quick trip to the store to get orange juice and laundry detergent so we can have clean socks and underwear.
I like staying in an apartment. It's much less stressful than staying in a hotel.