Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Italy - Florence, Day 2

Dedicated to the Greco-Egyptian Postal Service, for finally delivering all my Turkish ephemera and souvenirs to His Excellency the Ambassador Dr Bob.

The last couple of days in Florence have been busy. There's plenty to do here, even on Mondays when many of the major museums are shut. Today, I checked out the Palazzo Bargello, a fortress-like sculpture museum with a big emphasis on Donatello. Then there was Europe's first orphanage, which once hosted a revolving door for unwanted kids, a couple of significant churches, and my first real Florentine Queue.

This was for entry to the Duomo, the famous Cathedral of Florence. It's a stunning building on the exterior - all green, black and white Tuscan marble with crenellations, flutes, arched windows and quilt-like patterns. It actually only took about twenty minutes to move 200 metres. This, I'm proud to say, was well-planned around a good pizza lunch I picked up moments earlier at a fresh foods market. (You should have seen the shops of offal and very fresh poultry...).

This afternoon was spent at the Florence Archaeological Museum, mostly consisting of Egyptian and Etruscan treasures, plus a special if disorienting exhibition on ancient banquets. A notable object was a Roman ceramic vessel used to fatten up dormice for eating (rodenty things like squirrels). The evening, pre-dinner, has been spent watching wild otters amble about the banks of the Arno river, and the imaginative antics of street performers.

Yesterday was fairly similar - lots of exhibitions in smaller galleries, several churches of various size and artistic significance, the gardens of the Palazzi Pitti, and plenty of gelati. Never the same combination of flavours twice - a notable one was white chocolate, peanuts and banana, but the rich black chocolate with chocolate and coffee beans was also excellent! The hostel population has also been warming up gradually, so I'm going to bring back some nice wine this evening and see what happens.

Tommorrow, I'm going to the Uffizi and the Galleria dell'Accademia (the home of the David). I'm sure this pilgrimage is required for everyone who wants to legitimately call themselves an art historian! I'm likely to stay here for a couple more days to visit the town of Siena and the remaining galleries/churches I really don't want to miss. Who knows?


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