June 11, 2013 by Dan
Florence is a ridiculous place. When I started writing about it with my little treatise to Florence at night, I was trying to create a mood – quiet, reverent, art-ish – that doesn’t exist in the city during the day. It’s a hyper, crowded town, with endless piazzas, tens of thousands of tourists, the requisite thousands of touts, guides and sellers, overpriced restaurants, terrifying lines, and a general feeling of unsettled-ness. It’s like being in an incredibly big, crowded city, except it’s a pretty small place.
We had arrived in Florence and checked into our Airbnb, a fantastic apartment right near the central leather market, in a stone building hundreds of years old, hosted by a cheerful mohawked Italian and his friendly German girlfriend. They lived in a loft in the living room, we were in one of the bedrooms, and some other guests had the second bedroom. It was quiet, comfortable, and had the most amazing door:
Bred the host was kind enough to make us coffee and give us a first-day lunch recommendation. We went and had maybe the best plate of pasta I’ve ever put in my mouth. Spaghetti with spicy sauce. So, so, so, so good.
That, plus wine and bread and grappa, and we were ready to go. The name of the place is Trattoria Barrasca, and if you’re there, go. Over the next couple of days, we saw a good bit of town, and while I won’t say that I know Florence or have done Florence, I got a bit of a sense for the place – a fantastically arty (classical) town with a bit of an arty (modern, playful) underside.
Of course, the first pictures we took were self-referential. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hire a PI while here?
But we soon made our way to the Duomo, which really must be seen to be believe.
That picture? It doesn’t show the half of it. We paid the money and stood in line and climbed the stairs to get to the top of the dome, which is absolutely one of those things that everyone does that you really should do, because you climb and climb up a ridiculously narrow, low-ceilinged set of stairs to get there.
I’m five foot nine in shoes, and I was pretty glad that I’m not a tall fellow. Finally, you emerge to the dome, a few hundred feet off the ground, and it hits home that yes, somehow, they painted the ceiling of the thing.
The painting is huge – they apparently wanted to illustrate everything from the beatification of being in heaven (the top) to every possible torture that would await the damned (the bottom). When I was looking at it, I really only thought about safety issues. What did Vasari and Zuccari stand on while painting? Were they tied off? What were safety regulations like in the 1500s?
And then, from there, you get to go up and up and up some more, past silent guardians.
And to the top of town, where we took the kind of photo that may or may not show up on our Christmas card this year!
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