Let it be known that "Dash! con Actilift" detergent (not bleach, I checked), has a little too much "actilift" in it. Sam's many-year-old jeans apparently felt it necessary to share their blue (and still remain the same shade, interestingly) after last night's little batch of laundry. Everything else is now very blue. Towels, underwear, a previously black-and-white-striped shirt. I learned that there are actually stripes in my socks (of now differing shades of blue).
This morning we walked along the Arno to Le Cascine market in a park that used to be the manmade Medici hunting grounds back in the day. Cascine is supposed to be the largest, best priced, and widest variety market in Florence. I'd say that that is generally true. We walked the whole length, and it took quite a while. It was primarily made up of clothing vendors, surprisingly. There was I believe one stand of antiques, five of cloth and thread, a few food vendors in the middle (actually, even though there weren't that many, the food vendors were my favorite), and everything else was cheapo weird Italian fashion-wear, some of it previously worn. It was weird. Not quite what I was expecting in that case, but they did have some good prices on stuff. Like packing tape.
The need to purchase a giant leg of prosciutto or wheel of fresh cheese urged me again, but I resisted. We did get a couple of little things that I will not discuss here due to the proximity to and relevance for Christmas. Even though we didn't go crazy on the well-priced goods, it was fun to people watch. There seemed to be an area for Grandparent Parking, where the elderly sat side-by-side in their wheel chairs, leaning comfortably into the cushions and staring vacantly off into the distance. It was simultaneously sad and cute.
We walked home (passing the American Consulate on the way…good to know) in a light sprinkling rain, stopped for a minute, then decided to go on to our regularly scheduled programming. We walked down to the duomo, considered the baptistery, and then went inside the cathedral.
One cool feature was an ancient 24-hour clock, that, although it no loungers tells the correct time, is still ticking along happily as it has for the past several hundred years. The entrance (the clock is right above it) to the church is also the entrance to the old church, Santa Reparata, that was the original mini cathedral that so embarrassed the Florentine rulers back in the day, inspiring the over-the-top production of Santa Maria del Fiore.
|There's your clock|
It really was dinky in comparison. SMdF today is one of the four largest churches in Europe (the other three being the cathedral in Milan, St Peter's Basilica in Rome, and St Paul's in London-- I can cross off three out of four!). The Last Judgment painting by…some Renaissance fellow…is in the dome, and it is really quite outstanding.
|Tra la la|
When we walked out of the church, it was raining a bit harder. We considered climbing the Campanile (the bell tower) for a supposedly better view of Florence than even the dome, but decided it still wasn't worth it. We actually skipped going in the baptistery too, because it was expensive and I think the baptistery is pretty/cool enough from the outside.
|Here it is.|
|Lots of consideration|
|Sam didn't want to pose, so here are some cute Asian people.|
Instead, we walked down to the Museo Archaeologico, grabbed little baguettes for lunch from a teeny little grocery store nearby, and then went inside.
The primary reason for coming to this Archaeology museum was to see the Etruscan bronze Chimera sculpture and the Francois Vase, which is a groundbreaking and really cool black-on-red Greek Attic vase found in an Etruscan tomb.
The museum itself was very sad. I cried so hard, they had to put buckets periodically throughout the lower gallery to collect my tears. Actually, that was to collect rainwater from the leaky roof. There were no labels in English on the first floor, and there were several empty cases, and even empty galleries. We read that the museum was hit pretty hard in the 1966 flood, and that they were still recovering due to a serious lack of funding, but it was pretty bad. Kind of like at the archaeology museum in Tarquinia, we were most definitely the only patrons at the time.
An interesting fact about some less popular Italian museums: security consists of a few (possibly volunteer, definitely not serious) people sitting in chairs in the doorways to each room or gallery that look and act as if they would rather be anywhere else than sitting in a hard plastic chair in a museum full of ancient objects that no one ever bothers to come see. Many chairs were empty, so Sam and I took advantage of the absent Eye to take silly pictures with some objects (a necessity to retain interest since we couldn't read any of the labels and since I have seen enough Egyptian funerary inscriptions to last me a lifetime). Once we were walking through a gallery and smelled cigarette smoke, and sniffed around, surprised, looking for the source. Lo, there was one of the seat-sitters, half outside of an emergency door, puffing away, facing inward and spewing her ash like Mt Vesuvius all over the displays. Good grief.
|"Make a baboon face"|
Most of the really interesting stuff was supposed to be on the second floor (which, in Italy, means climb about seven sets of stairs to come out on a floor that may be the only second walkable one, but is about four or five stories up), so we hiked up. The first room had the Etruscan bronzes and…! The Chimera was not on display, but on loan to some idiotic museum in London. Oh how we were irked. There was a replica, but really? Boo.
So we walked on through more galleries (don't get me wrong, there were some really interesting things, and we took several pictures until my camera finally gave out, fortunately not until I'd filled the card half full with pictures of the Francois Vase).
Finally, finally we got to the Francois Vase. It was a bit bigger than I imagined, but not by much. I'd say it's about as big as a 15-gallon pot. The reason it's cool is because the scenes in the registers are painted in continuous procession, with no seams. Each register tells a different story from Greek myth. One is the procession of gods on their way to Thetis and Peleus' wedding (Achilles' parents, the wedding where the whole Golden Apple thing was started, which led to, you know…). That was my favorite. We went around and picked out all the different deities, conveniently labeled. One of the other registers was of Achilles defeating or punishing some group of other after the death of Patroclus. I think. There are a few other stories on there. On the handles is shown Artemis as matron of animals or whatever, and also Achilles carrying his dead friend's body.
|Whose name could that be in the upper right corner...oh! Amphititre! She's everywhere!|
There wasn't much more to see after the Vase except for a cool torso bronze, so we headed back down. We looked out the window to the gardens (closed except on Saturdays), which have rebuilt replicas of Etruscan tombs like the ones we saw in Tarquinia. We also looked out on the torrential downpour which had picked up, heard the thunder, saw the lightning, and made sad faces.
I have discovered that my boots are not all that waterproof. Further evidence that I do indeed need them replaced (these are the pleather ones, not the rain boots). Sam learned that the umbrella he selected from the coat closet on his way out the door was a mistake.
Affectionately called the Clown Umbrella, this thing sported every color of the rainbow. It also happened to have at least one loose arm and probably three bent/broken ones. Every time a tiny gust came along, a latent bent arm would squiggle around and flick water on us. It also had a very small circumference, so I gave up even walking near Sam because it would just dump water on my head.
After stopping for a pick-me-up of gelato, I unwrapped and flicked open the umbrella, which caused the head to separate from the post, sending the whole useless nylon rainbow half way across the street, handle still in my hand. I nearly collapsed in laughter (nearly, only with the thought of saving my gelato), and Sam chased after the bits, the whole time Umbrella Sellers staring at us hopefully.
Giggling, we ran off to our apartment (fortunately only a couple blocks away) in the rain, gelato held tightly.
Now I am sitting, socks, pants, and jackets drying by the radiator. We are trying to figure out what we will be able to do here for the next couple of days, as there is a 90% chance of rain until pretty much the hour we leave on Friday. I'm a little sad that we probably won't be able to go to Lucca to ride bikes on the city walls, or explore around Fiesole's Longabard ruins (who even are those people? I should look it up). We've looked up cooking classes and haunted night walks and secret passageway tours, but all are either too expensive or need days' advance booking.
We'll find something to do, even if it means going to Lucca just to go to Lucca.
Wish us dry weather. Sam is taking a hairdryer to my boots so we can go out for a walk before dinner. He says walking outside makes his nose not so runny. I say that's because he can't feel it with all the water dripping down his face. Good news, though: the rain has let up a tad, and we found a much sturdier (and massive) umbrella in the closet.