Alarms go off and we both wake up a little buzzed and silly. “Dude. I’m, like… still drunk haha!” “Ya. Dropping shots and going straight to bed doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” “Or does it?!” “Haha shit. Guess we’ll find out.”
We get situated and figure out a loose plan for the day. Not sure if we’ll stick around Florence another night or continue on to Bologna to meet with a deep cover informant there. There are free lockers in the lobby that we can lob our loot in so we lock up and figure that further plans can be formed by future us.
Piazza del Duomo
We beeline it to the Duomo since we can basically see it straight down the street after getting a block away from the hostel.
We get down to the Duomo around 10am and it is already crazy packed with people. “Wow the line to get in is around the whole building. Not bad for a Tuesday.” “I Forgot how insanely cool this building is. We could probably grab some super expensive breakfast right beside it, because we’re baller like that.” MacKay is already browsing streetside menus. First one is a winner, “Boom! Full English breakfast.”
The table is hilariously close to the Duomo, “We’re almost in line just sitting here.”
We enjoy our coffees while watching some cute Asian kids in trench coats chase pigeons around screaming. We both seem to be in no rush, total dgaf moods today. Probably on account of waking up half-towned. It’s a funny juxtaposition to the frantic and relatively stressed looking tourists surrounding the Duomo (formally, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). Everyone is bustling, getting in each other’s way, impatiently waiting, overly conscious of their tour time slipping away in line.
The anxious looks on their faces quickly flip into perfect smiles for their selfies, then back to worry immediately after.
A well dressed server with an honest smile drops off the goods.
“There are few things better than a good full English breakfast. ” “Agreed. Can’t wait. Man. The people watching here is amazing.” “Possibly better than the architecture. Check out this aggressive selfie stick salesmen.” “Oh yeah, that guy. So annoying. I’ve been watching this Chinese couple over here. Dude’s been taking pics of his girlfriend for a solid ten minutes.” “Oh, I know. Pose. Check. Redo. Slightly different pose. Check. Redo. Tethered to the gram.” “I’m soooo glad Queenie’s not like that.” “Fuck it.. let’s get beers, eh?” “Yep. That totally makes sense.”
We relax with some beer, a slow bubble in the tourism chaos around us. I get a few pics from our seats of this marvel, angling just above everyone’s heads to remove the masses from the shot. That’s a little better.
“So, I’m not really interested in getting in that line. It’s not even moving. Probably 3 hours long” “No. Not appealing at all. Doesn’t matter to me, man. I’ve already been in there. Guess we’re idiots for sleeping in while visiting the cultural capital of the planet. Waking up drunk and shit.” “I am an idiot of my own volition. We’re smiling and laughing over here though. None of these people are.” MacKay waves his beer at the churning throng of madness right beside us. “That’s true. Not having a plan, something to it. Not treating tourism like it’s a chore.” “Chorism, more like borism.. or something.” “Yep. Something there too, Billy Madison.” “Get a few more beer?” “For sure. Getting on the brain suds is proven scientific method at this point.”
Over the course of our next round a cold front moves in quickly and a crooked rain slicks the pavement. I’m just wearing shorts and a t-shirt. “Might actually be time to get in a museum or something.” “Florence in the rain. So fucking romantic.” “I know. Ding ding. I remember there being a square around the corner with all these killer statues. Let’s roll over there.”
Piazza della Signoria
Just South of the Duomo towards the Arno river we come to the plaza I was thinking of. A fortified clock tower dominates one end, the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace). It is the Town Hall of Florence that dates back to 1299. Beside this is a covered, arched area known as the Loggia dei Lanzi which was built in 1376 as a place to hold general assemblies and public ceremonies. Nowadays it holds tourists and badass statues.
(Since I failed to get a shot of the general area, here’s a piazzorama I pulled from wikipedia)
We cut through the crowds loitering in the square straight to the statue bonanza.
Loggia dei Lanzi
The statues range in dates from the early second century, the Sabine women statues, up to 1865 with The Rape of Polyxena.
“Lot of rape going on in this square. The Rape of Polyxena, Rape of the Sabine women.” “Yeah what’s up with that?” “Square’s kinda rapey.”
The word “rape” (cognate with “rapto” in Portuguese and other Romance languages, meaning “kidnap”) is the conventional translation of the Latin word raptio used in the ancient accounts of the incident. Modern scholars tend to interpret the word as “abduction” or “kidnapping” as opposed to a sexual assault.
The Rape of Polyxena – Pio Fedi – 1865
Polyxena was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. The Greeks were kinda pissed after Polyxena’s brothers ambushed and killed her betrothed, Achilles, with the whole poison arrow in the ankle thing. This statue shows Neoptolemus, Achilles son from another relationship (obviously not the Patroclus one), carrying Polyxena away after killing her brother Polites, or maybe Hector, while her mother Hecuba protests. She was then sacrificed on Achilles tomb. The Trojan War was a crazy time.
Rape of the Sabine Women – Giambologna – 1583
This was cut from a single block of white marble.
When Romulus founded Rome it started growing fairly quickly compared to the neighboring locales. Unfortunately, the population was abundantly male being mostly his followers and bandit bros. They propositioned the neighbors for some help but the Sabines to the North were worried about them quickly becoming a rival society and forbade marriage to Romans.
So the devious new Roman folk concocted a plan where they held a festival of games and invited the neighbors. Then during the games, on Romulus’ signal, they snatched around 30 of the Sabine woman and took them back to Rome.
This pissed off basically everyone in the area and Rome fell victim to multiple attacks from neighboring colonies. They fended them off one by one and gobbled up the defeated cities in a quick expansion of their burgeoning empire.
When the Sabines finally came for their revenge, the conflicted woman, now wed to Romans but daughters of the opposing warriors, stood between the forces in the final battle and begged them not to leave them fatherless and widowed. And everyone was like, hmmmm, ya that kinda sucks, and they decided to unite together as one big happy family. The end.
This story left a lasting impression throughout the ages and was adopted by many Renaissance artists since it allowed them to depict both female and male figures in strong dramatic poses with a sexy-time bonus while also bringing home the theme of family and culture.
Aaaaaaaaand the hits just keep coming. Here’s Hercules kicking the shit out of the centaur, Nessus (also by Giambologna in 1599)…
…and Perseus beheading Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini in 1554
Nearby is a copy of Michelangelo’s epic statue of The David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia North of the Duomo)
“Isn’t this supposed to be the shit?” “The original one really is the shit, actually. I remember having a mild feeling of Stendhal syndrome when I saw it. Racing heart, anyways.” “Really?” “Ya dude. It’s incredibly perfect. And huge.” “And probably a three hour wait to get in.” “Oh yeah, for sure.”
We bump knucks with David and head into the Old Palace. Incredibly cool in here too.
“Florence back in the day?” “Guess so.”
I find some symmetry in the middle looking up at the clock tower.
We just walk the foyer and come back out. This place is just insane. Birthplace of the Renaissance? I can believe that.
There’s a great Fountain of Neptune right here too
Water on the lens?
Equestrian monument of Cosimo I (also by Giambologna. Didn’t realize he was so prolific)
“And then just a fucking dodecahedron with a tree in it? After all of that?” “Haha ya. Modern art just doesn’t really compare does it?” “This would probably be cool in downtown Halifax but here it just seems like bullshit.”
“The Uffizi is right over here, wanna check it out?” “Not really interested in standing in a line.” “Well, we don’t have to go in. But I remember all of the ninja turtles statues were right over here.”
“What? No Raphael?” “Actually Dante was the original forth ninja turtle. A lot of people don’t know that.” “I smell bullshit.” “……………..” “That’s bullshit.”
Florence is just unreal. I guess this place really left an impression last time I was here. Memories flooding in.
“You know that Super Troopers pinball machine that yells “Suck it up you MAGGOTS!” is just up the hill there by those olive trees.” “Is that where that came from? You and Isaac at some hostel up there?” “Ya, we should go back.” “I think I’m good coming to Florence and skipping that one.” “Alright, well the Arno is right here. Might as well cross the super gorgeous, picturesque bridge.” “Should probably re-up on beers soon.” “Yep. Be good to get out of the rain for a bit too, actually.”