A few days before leaving for Italy, I ran across a June Calendar of Events for Florence. Included for June 12 was an Astromonia Event in the Duomo. I contacted the given email address and quickly received a reply…in Italian…that when I translated said, “if this email was for the 12 of June, then he has a reservation”. I thought that seemed clear enough. So on my agenda today was to attend Astromonia Gnomom and meet later tonight with Angela, Elisa’s older sister. Something in the morning, Something in the evening…a good day.As I roam to the Duomo, I watch for a few minutes as a store window and entry way come to life transporting the customer Over the Rainbow. On my studio602 instagram, I later capture the interactive window to the left.
On the printed response from the Duomo, there is a point of entry given. However, my Friends of Firenze are not familiar with this entrance. I see a line at the front and 2 lines to the side. When I show the email to one of the guards, he points me, in italian, to what I think is the other entrance along the side. There are about 50 people in this line so I figure it is my best bet. I still have a little less than an hour before the “event” begins…whatever it is.
When I make it up to the 2nd guard, I show him the email and he “entra”, and points me to another guard in the middle of this massive Duomo. I would like to stand and soak it all in for a moment, but fear I might lose my “escort”, so I continue to go from guard to guard until I, with about 30 others, are the nave off the left side of the main alter. This area is closed to the visiting public. I begin to take a seat in the front row, but am told by photographers, not to sit there…or at least I think that is what the words and hand motions meant. I move to an end seat on the 3rd row. Organize myself briefly, and then begin to take in where I am.I am now seated under the same dome I climbed to the top of 2 years ago. If you see the dotted row of lights, it is a walkway on the interior before you begin the claustrophobic climb up to the opening at the center. The magnificent Renaissance dome was designed by Filippo Bruelleschi. The cathedral was begun in the 13th century with the dome added in the 15th. I am in here….right now! The biggest artwork within the cathedral are Giorgio Vasari’s ( commissioned by the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici) frescoes of the Last Judgement (1572-1579). They were designed by Vasari but painted by his student Frederico Zuccari. Other themes taken from Dante’s Divine Comedy were added as well. When looking up at these vibrant depictions, little doubt is left in one’s mind of the eternal outcome of actions and choices.
So I sit and wait. The chairs fill up as well as the standing room behind them. Dark figures of visitors circle above adding to the presence of the frescoes. In the audience, there seem to be only Italians of all ages. Grandparents have brought grandchildren, scholars have hushed conversations, press have their cameras poised and their notebooks ready…and then there is Paige.
So let us cut to the chase here. This photo shows the spot where the sun is suppose to cross, on this day, as its beam enters the cupola- aligning itself perfectly in the larger circle. There is an older gentleman that takes a seat in the center, checks the microphone by blowing into it, and then begins to enlighten me…us….ok, them. I begin to tally the times he says “alora” which means, “ok, then, let’s see”. I also tally molto “va bene” as he checks the understanding of the group before he moves on.Slide after slide is shown. With them comes head nods and some chatter of awareness. I can only understand “finestra” (window), “piccolo finestra” (small window) “giugno” (june)….you get the idea.
And then a collective gasp as he points to the beam of light that is now hitting the wall of the Duomo. He continues to talk and show his slides, but people are now jockeying for photo positions.The circle of light draws nearer and nearer to the moment we have all been waiting for. I am starting to feel a little silly, but don’t want to exit and miss the big event or offend anyone.
As shown in my, oh so professional photo below, the light is about to enter the circle when….when….a cloud blocks the beam. It was almost comical. There was a collective slump as we waited. When the cloud moved…you guessed it, the light was on the opposite side of the circle. I have to chuckle even as I am writing this. At this point, individuals are starting to leave, but the Grand Astronomer continues. I collect my things, duck and go.After this…excitement…Ho fame. So I begin my walk for something to eat. As I enter the area of Santa Croce, I see preparations for the Calcio Storico (Historic Football) continue. I would REALLY like to see this event. They say it is barbaric. Elisa told me although she has never attended, that the only rule is to win. For several years it was forbidden because the injuries were many and great. Supposedly many of the players come from prisons. Sounds scary but fascinating as well.I ask about where I might get tickets for this event and am told the way to the “box-a office-a”. So I head in the direction pointed out on my mappa. When I arrive, I am told that Sunday’s final match is sold out but there are tickets for Saturday. I leave empty handed as I already have plans with Constanza on Saturday.
I uscita the box-a office-a and take a moment to look at a mappa to see where I am. I notice a couple of blocks away is the Museo di Casa Buonarroti. I figure it would be rude to be this close and not pay my respects. So I begin to navigate. When I am hungry, my skills are not as sharp and I track back and forth the same 2-3 blocks determined to find it. Finally, a beacon.Yes, this next photo is an “illegal” one, can you tell. I would say you could skip this point of interest on your next visit to Firenze. I have shared with you the highlight here…As I uscita the museo, I see a Clet I have not seen before. How appropriate near Michelangelo’s casa.After the museo, I decide to head to the train station to purchase my ticket to Pontassieve tomorrow. The station is bustling. I wait in a short line to use the automated trenitalia machine. Punch the correct buttons, put in my 3.4 euro and receive my ticket.I’m pretty proud.On my way back to the appartamento, it begins to rain again. Those spots on Lady with an Ermine are raindrops. Moments later, she will be no more.I cleaning up a bit and I begin my walk to Stazione Leopolde. This is to be my meeting point with Angela. I walk along the Arno in the opposite directions of Piazzale Michelangelo for about 1 mile. At one point, a Vespa zooms by and I laugh seeing what looks to be da Vinci riding with his beard and hair flowing in the wind.
It is fun to discover different areas of a town. Ones that the typical tourist does not experience. When I arrive at the old, abandon stazione, I use my italian phone to text Angela. At that moment, a car pulls over and a girl with short, full hair checks her phone…it must be Angela reading my text. And it is. Ciao Angela! I am so appreciate of her willingness to take me to visit her friends.
I hop in the car of yet another stranger I have never met and am whisked to the country side. We are headed to the agriturismo of Angela’s friend Massimo located outside Malmantile.we find Massimo and his friend (another) Elisa preparing the grill when we arrive. Massimo works for a bank in Florence and Elisa is an interpreter. They are both very kind and welcoming. Massimo is warm and humorous sharing his approval (or disapproval in the case of Pisa) on my future agenda. Massimo speaks very good english but laughs and says he fears he sounds like a “Native-a American-a” in the american movies, speaking in present tense when something is is needed.After a short while, 2 other guests arrive, Lorenzo and Francesca. Lorenzo is a vet originally from Siena and Francesca is in the fashion industry. This excites me and I question her a bit about it. She is a seamstress and works for many houses; Dolce & Gabbana, Vivienne Westwood, etc. She tells me that this next week is Fashion Week in Florence and that she is very busy. I show her some photos of my students during a Design Challenge I gave them. They had to create a garment to wear to their 8th grade dance using only newspapers, tape, scissors and an old art book. She looked through the photos and said, “Yes…that is me.” She also got a kick out of the short video I had of them “walking the runway”. Seeing a couple of the student designs and executions, she said, “Ah…Brava!”. High praise indeed!
Angela met Massimo and Lorenzo while taking a sommelier class together. Wine was, as I guess always is, a topic of conversation.
Our wonderful meal al fresco consisted of Affettati, Pasta con Pomodori, and Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
We enjoyed due Chianti. One, Il vino di mio padre (Lorenzo’s only english of the night was when he translated Massimo’s introduction of the wine, “The Wine of my father”, which was met with “Bravo” from all) and one from Lorenzo’s collection. I asked Lorenzo and Francesca about La Volpe e l’uva and they knew it well. Even being familiar with the wine and many people in the photos I showed from last night.The comfortable evening ended with a wonderful torta brought by Angela. I had due pieces not getting enough of the sweet of the cream and the crunch of the meringue. Molto buono! Brava Angela!!
After a lively discussion and production of the many ways to make cafe in ones Moka, Angela and I hopped in her car and made our way back to Firenze. As we are driving, I am recounting the concern I shared with Elisa of having to walk too far late at night like this (almost 1 am). Angela assured me she could get me close. Although cars are restricted to enter the city center during the day, it should (should…did I understand “should”) be open at this hour. Well, our first point of entry was not. At our 2nd and 3rd attempt, we were once again met with a red light. If Angela were to pass, a fine would follow. At this point, I will be honest, I am nervous. She is doing her best, no doubt, but I am still nervous. In the end, she lets me off at the Biblioteca Nazionale where I met Elisa earlier in the week. Angela says it is a Friday night and should (again this word “should”) be very safe. It is located right at the Arno and figure I can make the mile quickly to my appartamento. I pass strollers and lovers, students still out for the night, glance down alleys to find people still chatting the night away and safely make it back to my “home”.