Dante, David, the Duomo, and some Medicis
The Dante house/museum is in Florence of course, and I knew that before going on this trip. So I can't understand why, when I stumbled across it while wandering the city in the second or third day there, I was surprised. And awestruck. It actually brought a couple unexpected tears to my eyes, and the woman working there surely thought I was insane.
Yes, this is the actual David (in the Galleria dell'Accademia), and no, I wasn't really allowed to take this picture. I respected this rule everywhere else we went, but since this is made of unpainted marble which isn't susceptible to damage from camera flashes, I cheated. And just for added safety, I didn't have my flash on anyway. (By the way, even though I used my real camera, there were an awful lot of people in the gallery "looking" at their cell phones. You know, the kind that coincidentally have cameras...) Anyway, I honestly wasn't foaming at the mouth to see David. It was one of the things I wanted to get to, but figured it wouldn't be tragic if I ran out of time first. My mom had been dying to see David, so it was no surprise when she was rendered speechless. But he really go to me as well. He's breathtaking and had a much deeper impact on me than I ever expected, mostly because of what the statue says about humanity. For example, I learned that during WWII, people built a huge, casket-like structure immediately surrounding David, so as to protect him from the bombs and raids, which I find fascinating. Most people weren't that well guarded during the war (that one or any other, for that matter), but I guess everyone knew that regardless of war or peace, David could outlive any human, and they were going to do everything possible to make sure that happened. I wonder what we in America would go to such lengths to protect for the pure beauty of it.
The Duomo (cathedral) is enormous and beautiful. It's also damn near impossible to get inside. Daily, the line for the entrance wraps around the building and people wait for hours. Amy and I innocently thought that if we got there before it opened one morning, we might stand a chance of getting in without having to pitch a tent outside and wait all day. But no such luck. Apparently, that's everyone else's thought as well. Ultimately, we did not wait in line and go inside, because as amazing as I'm sure it is, we weren't willing to give up an entire day of being in Florence to standing around in one place. Besides, the outside was quite remarkable itself.
The entrance to the Medici Chapel (including a statue of Anna Maria de Medici, below) is amazing, aesthetically and historically. Much of it is covered with scaffolding right now, but there is no hiding its beauty. Again, I was only allowed to take pictures on the outside, and I fully repsected that rule here, as the color on the inside is gorgeous and rare. I'd never do anything to potentially damage it. By far the most frustrating and exciting thing about visiting the Medici Chapel is that they were in the process of excavating one of the tombs while we were inside. There was a curtain drawn over one of the rooms, where a Medici (though I don't know which one) is buried, and all through the chapel, we could hear the machinery, cranking and pulling. The marble had been broken to pieces, and I could see shadows and silhouettes of all this taking place--of something (someone?) actually being lifted mechanically from beneath the marble slab. It was killing me. Absolutely killing me that I couldn't watch, and I did all I could to sneak a peek without getting kicked out--which almost happened I think when I actually had my hand on the curtain about to lift it back and one of the docents yelled something in Italian at me. Don't know what she said, but it was probably something like "Get the hell away from there, you stupid American!"