Italia: Endeavour Language Teacher Fellowship


Friday, January 20, 2006

Florence, the wonder of the giraffe and bling bling land.

January 19th: It was an 9:30 start and Antonella stayed on her side of the bed all night, well the part hat she was there at any rate. She was out making friends with the local police I believe. We met up with Gastone our guide once again. Little did we know what was in store for us or that a giraffe featured quite significantly in a religious fresco. I thought for a split second it was a joke until I spotted it in a yet to be restored fresco. Amazing. No chance of a Tassie devil I suppose.

First stop after walking for twenty minutes(Adriana just said it was hours) we arrived at the Acadamia where we met Goliath's match David. We heard a great deal about Michaelangelo's sculpture of David, the perfect man. But I suppose everything is debatable. But Gastone, on the other hand, had a real rival in a young, male infant teacher who was giving his young students a lesson on the statue. He had an immediate fan club and in fact we nearly left a few fellowship members behind as they were so entranced in his theatrics. be honest the language he was using was probably more at my level. We were astounded at the number of gypsies in the historic centres looking for donations from the tourists. Goretti gave one gypsy woman a very unusual donation.

Next stop was the Basilica di Santa Maria Novela. From the photos you can see just how much Gummy Koala enjoyed the guided tours. To be honest the church tours have kind of become a blur to my poor exhausted mind but I will endeavour to write a few lines. The next church toured was Il Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore which houses the biggest fresco in the world, it was magnificent and I could not possibly do justice to it with a single photograph. The Baptistry was full of colourful mosaics illustrating the Last Judgement. The East Doors of the Baptistry were also pretty impressive and mark the city's deliverence from the plague. They were also been dubbed the Gate of Paradise by Michelangelo. The ten relief panels depict well known episodes from the bible such as Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden and Joseph being sold into slavery. We then moved on to Santa Croce which was built in 1294 I think. We were one ticket short but I managed to join the group after some discussion with the guards on the door. All entry charges were covered by the Fellowship grant. Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world and it also is the resting place of many famous Florentines such as Nicolo Macchiavelli, Galileo Galilei, Michaelangelo Buonarroti and a few other famous dudes who I can't recall at the moment. I do know for a fact though, that I have now been in more churches during this trip than I have in my whole life previous to this Endeavour opportunity.

Anyway, finally we moved on to the Ufizzi, Italy's greatest art gallery. Here we received further enlightenment about many famous pieces of artwork. We entered the top floor of the building to be greeted by stern Greek and Roman sculptures which are displayed in the broad corridors. We spent a very long period of time here as Gastone is a wealth of information and does like to give all the details. We visited many rooms all filled with paintings some done with gold features to show the prosperity of their time. I was very tired and began to doze off in front of The Duke and Duchess of Urbina. Nose jobs obviously weren't available in those days. In the second photo you can see Goretti gagging Adriana as she thought she just had one too many questions which always resulted in very verbose explanations. Do you know most students only actively listen for a whole three minutes. My limit is about ten and that is with a full eight hours of sleep! Deb managed to incur the wrath of one of the security staff in desperate but short-lived dash for the toilets.

Finally the tour was over and Goretti, Cecilia, Adriana, Deb and I made our way over to Ponte Vecchio where we looked at the amazing expensive but good quality jewellery. This is apparently the oldest surviving bridge in the city and originally was the domain of blacksmiths, tanners and butchers and as you can imagine the river was the most convenient area to dispose of waste. However, some time in the late fifteenth cenury dear old Duke Ferdinand the first decided the stink was offensive to his right royal nose and converted the whole strip into one gigantic bling bling land. (Bling bling is Adriana's turn of phrase for jewellery, a catch phrase which has taken off remarkably well amongst the Endeavour Fellowship members, most of whom bought substantial amounts throughout the trip.) There is also a construction which looks a bit like an open cage where lovers hang their locks whilst professing their undying love for each other. The bridge is extremely popular with tourists and was in fact the only bridge to escape destruction during World War II.

Adriana and I then separated from the others and went in search of the markets looking for ties, t-shirts and other treasures. We eventually met up with Liz, Rosemary and Rosanna who were deciding whether to partake in the delights of a gelato. Rosemary and Liz dripped gelato merrily along the way as we headed back to the hotel. Strangely enough Adrian and I found ourselves separated from this group as well and went into a CD store Adriana had suddenly spotted and we both invested in some of Italy's popular music. We had tea at Ristorante Tosacano which was excellent and more than adequate as usual. We certainly can't complain about the quantity or quality of the food.


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