I will use my powers of authorship to skip over the unfortunate circumstances which forced me to miss my coach to Heathrow and spend an extra £160 on a taxi and jump right into the brilliant Italian sunlight* of Tuscany. At the risk of seeming a cheat I will also take a miss at trying to describe Florence in general** simply because (a) I was not there for nearly enough time to really take it all in and appreciate the culture I was in, and (b) it's really quite exactly how I expected a Renaissance city-state with more culture than the entire Eastern seaboard to be like. My best advice it to just go there yourself. And take me with you.
**I will not be offended if you yell 'Bugger all this then' at the computer screen and tromp off to do more exciting things with your time.
So, what will I tell you? First of all, I was in Florence from Friday, 20th March to Monday 23rd. I visited fellow Micans who are studying in SACI this semester. They are wonderful. I stayed with Emma and Noel and they are also wonderful. You will find that this post will have an obscenely large number of superlative qualitative adjectives such as 'wonderful', 'awesome', and 'fa-bloomin-azing'.* But I've found that Italy is a very superlative place to be. It is true what they say, everything is better in Italy. Especially the food. Therefore, to keep the confusion down I feel now is a good time to enlist my good friend 'Mondo'** to help us out. Whenever I use the word 'mondo' know that I mean 'wonderful, awesome, and all that other fiddle-faddle.' Good. Now...
* Okay, maybe not that last one.
** Courtesy of Robin Brunelle.
:: Day One ::I flew from London to Paris to Florence and landed at 1740 or thereabouts. Emma and Carolyn met me at the airport and took me to SACI - that's Studio Art Centers International - where the MICA program is held. It's a very small place and cozy. Of course the ceilings in the studios are painted.* Very Italian. We joined up with Noel and went to an absolutely mondo restaurant, Club Paradiso, which was owned and operated by a little Italian man. Everything was homemade (by his wife) and he was very entertaining, in Italian and English. We had a brilliant two-course meal of pastas and chicken stuffed with bacon and cheese, with wine and dessert. Mondo #1. We met up with the other MICA and SACI students at a low-key club, and then... The Midnight Bakery! There is a mondo bakery just around the corner from Emma and Noel that opens at 1AM, and for the longest time they could not figure out where all the good smells were coming from. Luckily for me, they had found it, and a good thing too. Everything there was €1, and it was all freshly-baked. And obviously Italian, which automatically gives it +10 mondo points. Il cornetto cioccolato era fuori dal mondo!**
* As in, with cherubs and decorative borders, not Standard Enamel, White. Show-offs.
** It was a chocolate croissant. Also another excuse to use 'mondo'. Shameless.
:: Day Two ::The next day, Emma, Carolyn, Alyssa, and I went out to the Accademia. As many of you (should) know that's where this guy lives, you may have heard of him: →
Needless to say, it was beyond words. Even 'mondo.' First of all, he's a lot larger than you'd think from the pictures. Second, he's the most detailed human sculpture I've ever seen. I mean, there's veins under his skin! Plus, Michelangelo carved David from an already flawed block of marble. Damn. I feel bad for practically everything else in that gallery.
After that enlightening experience, we went over to the Duomo, the de facto focal point of Florence. It's huge, having been expanded a number of times, and the façade, featuring the distinctive Florentine marble, is of course very impressive. The inside is not as decorative and impressive as the outside would have you believe, but it is indeed very beautiful. They had plastic chairs instead of pews, which kind of killed the ambience. Downstairs was the tomb of Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo, which has the world's largest brick dome. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to climb up into the cupola of the dome to get the breath-taking view of Florence (it was closed) but it was impressive nonetheless.
Emma and I returned to await il dottore with Noel, whose foot had been incapacitated, rendering him unable to walk. By the end of the weekend he was able to join us on our excursions. Cait (MICA) and Stacey (not) came over for a potluck dinner. Again with the multuple courses! It was all delicious, and again we all went out for Midnight Bakery. Alyssa and I got croissants filled with lemon. Um... Mondo?
:: Day Three ::Day three was the unexpected day. Emma thought I was leaving on Sunday, which I wasn't, and so she hadn't planned anything in her List for John's Visit. We had breakfast at "The Diner" which was supposed to be American, and met Carolyn at the Uffizi. Things close really really early in Italy, and by the time we got there, the line to get in was super-long and the museum was closing in two hours. After much deliberation we decided to go to the Boboli Gardens instead. When we got to the Boboli Gardens, we discovered that they had already closed, at 1630. So that was a bad move.
The four of us hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is on a hill overlooking Florence.* It was just almost sunset, being 1700, and the view was... mondo. It was a tough walk, though, and afterwards we were ready for some gelato. Mm-mm. strawberry cheesecake and chocolate, please. So good, and I love the little plastic shovels they give you to eat it with. The rest of the day was spent hanging around and watching movies/TV, like Hana Yori Dango.** Come nightfall, pretty much everyone went out for, guess what... Gelato. Ha, see, you thought I was going to say Midnight Bakery. I wish Baltimore had a Midnight Bakery that wouldn't get you killed or otherwise permanently inconvenienced. Pistachio/straciatella/nougat with panna cream on top? I think so. I'll let you fill in the appropriate adjective... We're all about audience experience here.
* See photo at the beginning of this post.
** Don't ask. It's Japanese.
:: Day Four ::Day Four was spent exclusively with Carolyn, as everyone else had class. My flight back to London was at 1600, so we used the morning to visit the Boboli Gardens during operating hours, and otherwise walk around the city. The Gardens are huge and old and Florentine. Long tree-lined avenues and random statuary every so often, you know the drill. They offered a great view of the city, though not quite what we saw from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was a very pretty walk, and you could just sit in there all day and... I don't know. Sit. We found a cat.
Afterwards, we ambled about the city, visiting the rarely-occuring bits of grass and actually spotting some trees! From there on out, the trip steadily got less and less mondo. Unfortunately Florence doesn't like cooperating, and the shuttle to the airport only operates every 2.5 hours. A fact that we did not know until it was an hour before my flight and the shuttle got us there pretty much as the plane was taking off. So bad. But I got a rather cushy non-stop flight (at moderately-expected expense) and arrived in London at the scheduled time. Unfortunately again, I couldn't use my pre-purchased coach ticket* as I was at the wrong airport. But a good 2 hours on the train got me back to Bournemouth at 2300 or so.
* Not the first time. Remember the part I refused to talk about in Day One?
So there you have my Amazing Sojourn to Florence! It was fun and exciting and I (as always) want to go back. I apologize for taking this long to actually sit down and write about it, but hey, I'm a busy busy man.* As usual, more pictures can be found on Facebook and all donations may be made to John Rocco Jennette, cash please.
* And nothing will be said about the inordinate amount of free time I've acquired on account of it being Easter holidays here.