Rapt attention

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Italia Tre

I woke late the next morning. The room and bed at the Ville sull'Arno was so comfortable I lost track of time. Leslie was up and gently shook my shoulder.

"Look out the window, dear."

I drew back the gauzy curtains and was immediately struck by the beautiful reflections of the trees on the Arno River. My namesake bird perched on the opposite bank.

We leisurely got dressed and then made our way to the dining room and to an incredible breakfast.

When I tell you they pull out all the stops on the buffet you will have to believe me.

All manners of pastries, eggs, salumis, fruit, fresh honeycomb and jams. Extraordinarily good.

We sat next to a bunch of brits of Indian extraction and talked curries. Nice people, down to earth.

We took the free shuttle into town and prepared for our morning appointment at the Uffizi Gallery, which I had made a month in advance. The square was a crazy bustle.

When they tell you to be in line at 11:15 to 11:30 they mean it. If you are a minute out of schedule you are sent to the back of a line.

I believe that I counted three long queues and a near interminable wait. We met a lovely mother and son, Doris and Luka, from Australia and had a delightful conversation with them while in line.

The Uffizi is huge and it is overkill. There is no time to see every jewel in the Medici's museum but we did our very best.

What is amazing is that there are these long lines for three artists, Botticelli, Leonardo and Michelangelo but humans, being such an ignorant lot, walk right by works that are equal or maybe even better.

But we bipeds have to be told what is good and we lionize and celebretize our favorites and so you get a twenty minute wait for the Birth of Venus while a remarkable Durer in the next room barely gets a look. Ba-a-a-a.

It is not just paintings and sculpture that are remarkable. The ceilings ain't bad, either.

Alessandro Botticelli - Adorazione dei Magi
Perhaps the painting that stuck the strongest chord for me this visit was the Rubens, which stands with the best work of his that I saw at the Prado.

Gorgeous light and movement. My friend Gary told me that Rubens liked to put a round element in the dead center of his paintings and you clearly see it here with the man's head.

Giovanni Canaletto - View of the Ducal Palace in Venice

My advice would be to not focus on the rock stars because there is so much more to see and love. Every human being is capable of great work and inspiration. These paintings represent a time of artistic skill and flourishing that I would guess will never be equalled again.

Michelangelo Buonarroti - Doni Tonti
And of course that Michelangelo fellow is pretty damn good too.

Giovanni Larciani - Allegory of Fortune

We had a personal mishap at the Uffizi. I wanted to get a quick look at the Caravaggio and said I would be back in front of room 45 in 10 minutes.

Leslie never heard me and we spent the next two hours looking for each other, both sneaking in the building a second time to look for each other.

It freaked us both out but I eventually found her on the stairs to the exit. Neither of us enjoyed the Uffizi experience as much as we could of and now we have a good reason to come back and try again. A remarkable place.

Caravaggio - Testa di Medusa
We needed to catch a train to Bologna and headed back to the plaza where we would take a shuttle back to get our things from our hotel.

Hard to leave Florence. Now I know why some people stay weeks or months at a time and never leave.

The train to Bologna was quick and uneventful. We got into a conversation about food with a man whose girlfriend was a native and he suggested we eat at a place called Buca Manzoni.

We took a cab to the trattoria but it would not open for over an hour so we went to a wine bar, had a drink and relaxed. Played cards.

A very interesting town, but a city we had no time to penetrate since our flight was leaving the next mid day.

The restaurant was fantastic but I must admit to losing face. I ordered five or six things and said just feed us like a Bolognese and keep it coming.

Plates and heaps of food did just that, just kept coming. Stracchino, a creamy cheese with square pillows of dough like sopapilla. Two kinds of tortellini, Bologna's specialty, cured meats, cheese, antipasti, salad.

So much! Honestly I have not felt this full since the twenty courser at the French Laundry. Make it stop Mommy... Leslie wanted to put an end to it and cancel the veal cutlet but I would rather keel over than lose face and I refused. 

They sensed our plight and cancelled it themselves. The waitress looked at me with a touch of scorn and said, "You can't eat like a Bolognese."

Ouch. The shame.

The Aemelia Hotel was modern and great. We lucked out on every hotel of the trip, all wonderful. Another great breakfast the next morning, talked to a lovely Spanish couple from Madrid, feasted on three types of cornetti, chocolate, cream filled and straight, eggs with red yolks, the great Italian bacon that I will yearn for in the years ahead until we can make our return.

Flew over Milan and Lugano. Switzerland. The alps look pretty good too.

Thank you Italy. You were better than I ever could have imagined. Thank you Francesca and Jacobo, Antonella and all the good people of the Mercanteinfiera. Graci.


1 comment:

Sanoguy said...

Makes me wanna go back!