La-Dolce-Vita (part II) – Of Michelangelo and Renaissance

Vegetable Florentine was my favorite dish as a young girl. I feel nostalgic now to reminisence of the restaurant Palace Heights where it was once made of an impeccable standard. What I didnt quite know then was how it was made or where it came from. Many years later I discovered the cheesy creamy spinach dish comes from Florence, and the city like its namesake dish is unbelievably delicious.

Its the city in which Renaissance peaked, art and architecture of the Renaissance age are at their Sunday best here. Its also the city thats home to one of the world’s most gifted architect, painter and sculptor – Michelangelo Buonarroti. The great artist signed off only one of his works, the Pieta, on which he wrote Miguel Ángel de Florencia, translating to Michelangelo of Florence.

Piazzele Michelangelo is on a hill along the south bank of the Arno River in Florence. It offers a stunning view of the city. On the piazzele is the statue of David. Not the original ofcourse but a huge metal work on similar proportions. The sculpted man David is considered by many as the symbol of a “Perfect Man”. The piazzele offers the skyline that constitutes of the Duomo, the Campanile and the Baptistry. The three ingredients of the Catholic churches. Looking down at the clear blue skies and the burnt sienna roofs supplemented by stone facades the picturesque quality of the piazzale is premium. Art is sold on the street in Florence. Am not talking of poster prints or else, its the oil paintings of a brilliant standard, all sold for paltry prices of 5 for 10 dollars if you get lucky. Getting lucky also means not getting caught with such possessions. It is illegal now to buy art off the streets of Florence.

A pretty picture is a picture of Florence with sunflower fields in the foreground. Italian fields tend to acres and acres of sunflower fields. They are so yellow and so optimistic. Like it is believed it was incrdible to see them turn towards the sun. Water-colors, Oils, stone sculptures and all things of the Renaissance age are everywhere in Florence. Some you can see, some you can feel and plenty you can buy. As a fine art conoisseuer there is a feast for one’s senses in this age-old Magnificient city. One remarkable quality I personally found in Florence is its state of timelessness. The Buildings of Florence do not look old, or if they do they aged very very gracefully. It is one of those cities that manages to look young and ever fresh as a daisy.

The piazzale done we were now all set to meet our guide Mark, sorry Marco, at the Duomo just after lunch.

Lunch was delicious. If one thing Italians know how to do very well, its cooking. They are masters in many trades. Pasta is at its best here. For a while I scouted for vegetarian pasta at the Cafe Duomo, right across the Duomo. So happy to find an array of veggie options, my plate was stuffed with gourmet Italian fanfare upto the very brim. I dont remember well enough the names of the dishes I got to eat. But I assure you it doesnt matter cause everything you get to eat in Italy is bound to be out of the world. One of the pastas on my plate was Spinach agnoletti, the other a tomato based Fusili. A hearty Italian meal I say! To top it off with a cut fruit drink. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name but will give you a description. A large mug is filled with cut fruits of watermelon, melons, apples, cherries, plums, blackcurrants and like. Cool water is poured in the glass upto half. The water from the fruits trickles into the rest. The result is this refreshing fruity drink/fruits that is a saviour in the harsh Italian Summer!

Marco, our guide, waited with us as we queued to the Duomo. The Duomo like its contemporaries is oriented in the east-west direction. The Baptistry to the duomo heading west to east while the bell-tower or the Campanile is flanked to the northern  side of the Duomo. The Duomo is very densely decorated on its outside with rather stark and simple interiors. False windows and irregular sized of columns are used in the Duomo. Legend goes that the Duomo was built as a competition to the one in Sienna. People wanted to build a bigger and better Duomo than the one in Sienna. Hence they kept improvising on the original plans as and how they were constructing. Renaissance churches serve as pictorial books. Christianity is propelled and taught throught the imagines and stories depicted on the walls of the church. The gilded doors tell a story, the dome tells a story, whats more the rose windows too tell a story. It is indeed a beautiful and marvellous way to proclaiming a religion.

The cobbled streets and the hoards of tourists make the ride for a Florentine a tad bit more adventurous. They will drive close to you, scare you and have the last laugh. Its a miracle that a dozen people dont get killed in Florence going by the driving skills exhibited here. One gelato per hour may be the only thing that keeps one sane in the mercurial temperatures. The Uffizzi Gallery hosts the original marble statue of David. Male nudity is exhibited a plenty as it was considered beautiful in the Renaissance age. Medusa’s chopped head held by a gallant warrior is another pride of Florence. The piazzas are the best part of Florence and the architecture sublime. Ahead of the Uffizzi gallery is the Arno River and the last remaining bridge across the Arno. Germans have been said of bombing all the ancient bridges across the Arno in Florence during the second world war. What a pity!

The kings old palace leads to the new New Palace, that is bigger and hence better. Folklore speaks of a tale where men would tie a lock long the balustrade of the Arno and throw the keys into the River, claiming their love is locked and will never be opened or let loose. It neednt be said that the number of locks found there are just too many. Kiosks are up to sell more locks. The Arno flows out gently and swiftly without as much as a hiss. The Florentines love their city and the noble families here have patronised art for over a dozen centuries. Most of the ancient marvellous architecture found here are a result of a community donation. Its very warm and touching to feel the air of Florence.

Sometimes the locals are found to be grunting at the multitude of tourists here. Thats their way of marking their territory. My suggestion would be to tread softly. Its a beautiful place and thats a definite. Top five by Forbes and thats proof!


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