Since I’m not sure if I mentioned it in the last post, you should be aware that my first day in Florence I came down with a head cold. Stuffy nose, sinus congestion, that kind of thing. Apart from deciding against a day trip to Lucca in favor of resting, it didn’t affect my trip, but it is critical in understanding this story.
The day after I visited David (we’re on first-name terms), I was feeling lots better but wasn’t sure I was up to the dome climb. I was going to see Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) and the Baptistry and the museum, but probably was going to skip the climb. 463 steps in both directions is a lot when you’re wheezing to begin with. So I headed over there.
For two days I had seen a line that wrapped all the way around the building and presumed it was the line for everything Duomo-related. Fortunately that morning I was early(ish) and the Firenze Card line had maybe 10 people in it while the “without reservations” line had at least 100. So I jumped in line.
*Brief interlude to extol the virtues of Firenze Card: If you plan to be in Florence for two days or more and want to see three or more museums, get the Firenze Card. Kinda pricey (72 euro), but gets you into everything, and you just jump right on into the “with reservations” line whenever you please. Having caught a cold and needing to change plans accordingly, this flexibility was priceless. And I think my longest wait for anything was 15 minutes. David, Duomo, Pitti, Uffizi; never more than 15 minutes. In June.
Ok, interlude over. So I get in line, wait five whole minutes, and when I get inside I see the line leads to this:
And all I hear in my head is a line from Hamilton, “Ok, so we’re doing this”. No backing out. I was on the Dome climb, and I’m so glad I did it. Fortunately, I had old(er) people ahead of me, and under the guise of politeness I paced myself and wheezed and stopped for breath along with them. And when we reached the top, it was glorious.
My local church, Santa Croce. More about this later.
I got many long minutes to circle the lantern and enjoy the beauty before I decided it was time to descend. On the way down, the two-way traffic jam gave me a sense of what this climb is like if you show up an hour later. Hot tip: Be early in Italy. Let everyone else nurse their hangovers. Get going early and your experience will be private, unhurried and moving.
Two sights that had no line whatsoever were among my favorites: Santa Croce and the Galileo museum. Something about Santa Croce is inexpressibly graceful. Maybe it’s the stone arches, maybe the gorgeous wood timbered ceiling, or maybe the fact that most of the frescoes are pre-Renaissance. For whatever reason, it is my favorite church so far. Maybe you can see why.
Michaelangelo’s tomb. Having admired so many of his works to this point, it was a privilege to see where he is buried.
The Galileo museum is a welcome break from paintings and sculpture, and gave me a real appreciation for the curiosity and ingenuity of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. These guys wanted to understand everything. They came up with ingenious ways to solve problems I now take for granted. For example, this clever gizmo. It has a sloped plane along which a metal ball descends. There are five bells placed so that the ball triggers each bell at regular intervals. But the bells get farther and farther apart, showing how an object picks up velocity the longer it descends.
The show was being performed in Florence’s oldest standing theatre, Teatro Della Pergola. Of course I didn’t know any of this when I bought the ticket. I made a wrong turn, saw the posters, and decided to go for it. The show was really very good. One part performance art to two parts Shakespeare with a female Lear who was really effective. The actors were excellent and the design simple but striking. I loved every minute.