Posts Tagged ‘Florence’

My dearest fellow art junkies, I feel it’s about time we finish up our European gallerying with a peek and a poke around some of Florence’s art-world hot spots. Over the following minutes (or hours, if you’re a terribly slow reader), I shall show you works from the Palazzo Strozzi (the “De Chirico, Magritte, Max Ernst and Balthus” exhibition, to be precise), the Uffizi Gallery, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Yes I just switched from English to Italian. What can I say? I’m a talented tour guide. 

Please take a moment to turn your mobiles to silent, pick a tour-buddy so that you don’t get lost amongst the paint and alabaster, and make sure you’ve got a chocolate bar on hand. We might need some sustenance along the way. 

Edipo Re, by Max Ernst. At the Palazzo Strozzi

Edipo Re, by Max Ernst. At the Palazzo Strozzi.

Now, my tour-ees, what do you think of when you see two birds’ heads (one of which has a string attached to its horns), a hot air balloon, a walnut, and fingers that are not only threaded through with metal spikes but are coming out of a building? 

The first thing I think of is the Oedipus myth. 

Well, what do you know? I’m right. This painting by Max Ernst is a depiction of the tale of Oedipus. It’s really all very clear, once you stop and think about it. What else would birds and balloons and walnuts signify but a man who sleeps with his mother and kills his father? 

(Don’t fret if you can’t make the connection as easily as I. This simply shows why I’m the tour guide and you’re not.) 

La Plage, by Pierre Roy. At the Palazzo Strozzi

La Plage, by Pierre Roy. At the Palazzo Strozzi.

Next up we have a painting called “The Beach”. In my wise and expert Art Whisperer opinion, I firmly believe that a more apt title would be “Enormous Clown Shoe Made of Woven Plastic That Will Never Biodegrade You Evil Anti-Environment Shoe Company You”. Feel free to write my alternate title down in your notes. It’s a keeper. 

Adoration of Camaldoli, by Filippo Lippi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

Adoration of Camaldoli, by Filippo Lippi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

I believe I’ve mentioned that, in my non tour-guide hours, I am a PhD student in the field of Sociology. What I haven’t mentioned is that I seriously considered switching to Art History so that I could investigate why the majority of depictions of Baby Jesus make him look like an incredibly ugly half-man-half-child creature. Surprisingly, the above is one of the better depictions, so long as you ignore the strangely bulbous and elongated head. 

Madonna and Child in the Glory of the Cherubs, by Alessandro Filipepi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

Madonna and Child in the Glory of the Cherubs, by Alessandro Filipepi. At the Uffizi Gallery.

Now do you see what I mean? 

 La Vierge et l’Enfant, by Giovanni da Modena. At the Louvre

La Vierge et l’Enfant, by Giovanni da Modena. At the Louvre (yes, I just space-time-continuum-jumped our tour to Paris and back).

And again. Poor Jesus. 

Annuncio ai pastori, by Arnolfo e collaboratore. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Annuncio ai pastori, by Arnolfo e collaboratore. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Beware! Alien cows! Don’t let them hit you with their radioactive udders of doom! (Hmm. How did I get from Jesus to dangerous udders?) 

Unknown, at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Unknown, at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

And here we have the original Side Show Alley Clown. Win a free Virgin Madonna painting if the ball you pop in his mouth rolls out and hits a Gates of Paradise gold panel! 

Maddalena by Donatello, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Maddalena, by Donatello. At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

And last but not least, the scariest Mary Magdalene you ever have seen. Moral of this statue-story: Become a prostitute, and you’ll start to look like a corpse. If there’s one thing I want you to remember from this tour, it’s that simple fact. 

The End. 

(The exit is to your left, people. But do come back someday soon. I might just have some Australian art to interpret for you in the future.)


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After spending 45 minutes frantically searching the Internet for the name of this building, I've given up. I thought it was the Santa Croce, but I believe that is false. Does anyone know?

Talk about putting your best [building] face forward. Also, sometimes when I look at this photo with my head tilted to one side, the building reminds me of a train. Is that crazy-talk?

Dog in Florence

At the Palazzo Vecchio

I originally took this photo (and several other paparazzi-esque shots like it) because I fell in love with that cuddly-looking pink-tongued fluffy dog of wonderment. However, I’ve since decided that my favourite part of the  image (or the moment) is the way the crossed legs are perfectly in sync with each other.

I’ve created an entire life story for the owners of the legs-and-feet, too. It involves their eyes meeting across a smoky trattoria one rainy night, it involves sharing cigarettes (lordy-pie Italians love to smoke) over breakfast every morning, and it involves the realisation that a soulmate is someone whose seated mannerisms mirror your own. (Does that make them solemates? Hideous dad-pun-joke ahoy!) 

Policemen in Florence

Just a warning - all my photos of Italian police were covert and therefore blurry, because I was scared they’d arrest me if they realised what I was doing.

In my opinion, Italian police uniforms are the best in the world. There are so many different styles, and I like to pretend that these differences have nothing to do with duty or rank and everything to do with individual fashion choices. All I know for sure is they looked so cute I almost stopped worrying that they’d find out about my [insert hilarious illegal activity here].

In a butcher’s shop.

In a butcher’s shop.

Okay. Folks. I’m calling on you for help right now. The blue-veined orbs in the white tub at the right-end side of the back row… what are they? I’d really like someone to tell me that they aren’t testicles. Being told that would make me happy.

Piazzale Michelangelo

View from the Piazzale Michelangelo

Phew. That’s a far nicer image to have in my mind when I think of Florence.

Cupid Performance artist outside the Uffizi Musuem

Performance artist outside the Uffizi Musuem

As is this. Even if it does look like Cupid is trying to shoot himself with his own arrow of love. Well, actually, that makes sense if you think about it from a Self-Help Literary Genre perspective. Aren’t we always being told we have to love ourselves before anyone else can truly love us?

This is not Florence. At all.

This is almost pretty, right? All the colours (well, gradations of brown) and textures and everything? Well, friends, I have some words of advice for you. If you decide to start experimenting with a raw vegan snack inspired by your gorgeous Little-House-On-The-Prairie soul-friend Amber, don’t think you can be clever and make multiple substitutions. Try to remember that agave is quite sweet and molasses is quite not, and that coconut oil is a quite sweetish-neutral oil whereas sesame oil is definitely not.

Flaxseed balls


Because of my not remembering these several pertinent facts, I ended up with not-sweet-but-strangely-vaguely-coffee-flavoured pucks rather than Amber’s flaxseed pancakes. They were edible when dipped into maple syrup, but I’d much rather look at this photo and pretend it’s a picture of felafel. Mmm, felafel.

 P.S. I did bake something worthy of its own name this morning, though. Look forward to that one!

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Wayfaring chocolate with gelato

Because black and white is synonymous with artistic, right?

When I was in Florence a few months ago, I ate a lot of gelato from fantastic gelatarias. Almost every day, I would revel in its freshly-made-and-scooped-before-my-eyes creaminess whilst wandering around the city’s cobbled streets.

Regular readers will know, though, that while I do love me some artisan, fresh, made-with-love, and/or fancypants foods, I also adore supermarkets* and their aisles of long-life, artisan-copycat, often-cheaper edibles. I could deny this part of myself. I could create a blog-Hannah with a nose in the air and an eyebrow raised at anything with a factory-stamped use-by date.

But then who would warn you about Cadbury Toffee Crunch? And who would let you know that, in Florence’s Despar supermarkets, you can get some lovely gelato for a fraction of the cost, a multiplication of the quantity, and a whole lot less queuing than is de rigueur at upscale gelatarias?

Exactly. You deserve real-Hannah, not fake-created-Hannah. And this is what real-Hannah has to say about Italian supermarket gelato.

Desidezi alla Panna Cotta e Caramello

Desidezi alla Panna Cotta e Carmello

Yes, the photo above is of supermarket gelato, but I defy you to look me in the eyes and tell me it looks unappealing. (Vegan and lactose-intolerant stances aside.) The texture of this gelato was lighter, airier, and fluffier (I just said three words that mean the same thing… West Wing reference, anyone?) than its denser gelataria cousins, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Regardless, the cream and vanilla notes of the gelato, combined with the almost-burnt sweetness of its nut-flecked caramel sauce, was fan-diddly-tastic.

Florence Desidezi alla Panna Cotta e Caramello

I may have started by eating the Despar gelato like this...

Florence gelato Desidezi alla Panna Cotta e Caramello

But ten minutes later I decided to stop being silly and, so, got rid of the bowl. Ten minutes after that? All gone!

Desidezi al Pistacchio e Gianduia

Florence Gelato Desidezi al Pistacchio e Guianduia

Hmm, this photo suffers a tad from the vertical angle, doesn’t it?

Despar’s two-in-one pistachio and gianduja gelati were my least favourite, although each was pleasant enough. As I’ve said countless times, I (obviously) love chocolate but only in its pure form – give me  a few squares of the stuff over vaguely-chocolatey frozen cream any day. The pistachio ice cream was pleasant but equally as vague in flavour, as all I thought upon tasting it was “kinda nutty”, not “clearly pistachio”.

Desidezi al Limone di Sicilia

Florence Gelato Desidezi al Limone al Sicilia

Remember how I once said that zingy, lemon-y desserts are my pick? Well, I’m no liar. This gelato was absolutely and utterly my favourite of Despar’s, and I actually bought it three times during my time in Florence. Each time, I ate it in under half an hour. (That said, this is a direct tasting note quote from near the end of one such effort: “Okay, wow, this really is a lot of gelato… lotsy lotsy tangy sweet… must. power. on.”)

Florence Gelato Desidezi al Limone al Sicilia

This gelato epitomized my favourite aspect of a well-executed lemon dessert: the interplay of almost-too-tangy lemon with just enough sweetness to counter, without downplaying, the zinginess. This had an incredible depth of lemon juice (not peel – definitely not bitter peel) flavour, and was so wonderfully refreshing in its refusal to bow to the Sprite crowd. (I do not understand how Sprite is meant to be lemon-flavoured. I really don’t.)

And that’s my final word on the matter.

* Not just foreign ones, either. Prior to today, I’d already walked over to my local Coles twice this week to stock up on bits and bobs. Today, I told my housemate I was quickly popping over the road to get my new prescription filled out#. I came back an hour later. Yes, the housemate asked what on earth had taken so long. Yes, she rolled her eyes at me when I pulled Date and Caramel Scone Toast out of my shopping bag. I cannae help it, ma’am! The combination of “New!” and “Sale!” labels renders me powerless, even when attached to foodstuffs I wouldn’t normally glance at. (I’m not a bread/toast person at all. Seriously. I ate one baguette during my entire 3ish-week stint in Paris.)

# Thank heavens my doctor agrees that something really, really needs to be done about my year-long toe saga. You’d’ve thought two surgeries and enough antibiotics to turn my insides radioactive would be enough, but no. The current course of action involves blood pressure medication and at least three visits to the nurse this week. So, folks, if I start writing posts that seem even waftier than normal, it’s probably just because I’m feeling light-headed.

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I’m a little bit loving the fact that I’ve been back in Australia for over two months, yet am still eking out travel posts. Let’s hear it for digital cameras and their capacity to take endless amounts of photos! (Even if said photos are making my computer teeter on the edge of collapse. I really should do something about that.) Anyhoo, today’s photos follow on from these glimpses of Florence. Enjoy!

Fresco of The Last Judgement, painted on the underside of the dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.

I took this looking up from inside the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, where I attended a Sunday Mass and had no idea what was going on. Unlike the masses I attended in Bruges and Paris, this one had no pretty music or gorgeous singing to break up the sermon. However, most everyone was carrying plants, which was interesting for about two minutes.

It would have been interesting for longer than two minutes had the plant-carrying been part of a quaint Italian tradition whereby blessing flora leads to pesto alla genovese that tastes like angels singing… But no. It was just Palm Sunday. (I snuck out during Communion.)

Palazzo Vecchio - Florence's Town Hall.

Palazzo Vecchio, the Town Hall of Florence.

The Palazzo Vecchio was Ronaldo’s favourite historical building in Florence, whereas I think the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is more striking. And that, my friends, is why I didn’t end up accepting his offer to take me to dinner. Yep. Architecture is a deal-breaker for me. Yep. (Apparently.)

Crema Novi and Italian chocolate spreads

Nom nom nom. So you know what to look for.

Told you the Italians like their chocolate hazelnut spreads. This photo doesn’t even show a speckle of the range available. Oh, and the Crema Novi in the photo, which I showed you an interior-photo of in the previous glimpses of Florence post? To help you understand its fancypants deliciousness, it’s made of 45% hazelnuts whrereas Nutella incorporates a puny 13% hazelnuts. (The top three ingredients of Crema Novi are hazelnuts, sugar, and cocoa powder. Nutella’s top three are sugar, vegetable oils, and hazelnuts.) A pox on Nutella’s globalised market share.



…also known as “Wedgie Cake”. (Yes, I’m 23 years old. Why do you ask?) (Ooh, that’s me in the reflection! Hello me.)

Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, Battistero di San Giovanni.

A panel of Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise at the Battistero di San Giovanni.

The bronze panels currently adorning the Battistero di San Giovanni are not, in fact, the original Gates of Paradise, but replicas. When I discovered this I duly paid my entry fee to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, where the originals are kept, only to find that all but one panels had been whisked away to Restoration Land. Sigh.

Cannabic chocolate

Why does this photo make me sad? See below.

Can you believe I didn’t buy this cannabis chocolate? What a failure on my behalf. I guess I thought my previous dalliance with hemp chocolate was delinquent enough.

I’ve never even eaten special brownies.

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Pear and Pistachio Gelato, Carabe

Dear Pistachio Gelato, I miss you.

Sometimes it feels wrong to be posting about Florence without simultaneously talking about gelato. Gelato was an integral part of my Italian experience, as most days involved  frozen delightfulness in one form or another.  My plan for the future is to remember posts such as this one recounting gelato highlights whenever I find myself journeying back to Florence and its sentient statues. If you also do this, then none of us will ever forget that Florence can, for all its varied cultural and historical hotspots and adventures, be evoked simply by the sensation of sweetness melting on the lips.

I feel better about posting ice-cream-less glimpses of Italy now, because I know that you’re all imagining liquorice gelato and meringue semifreddo at this precise moment. Right? Right?

View from Giotto's Campanile, Florence

Once upon a time, I climbed to the top of Giotto’s Campanile, the tower adjacent to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Wikipedia says there are 414 steps involved in such a feat, but I’m certain there were 782 steps. It just. kept. going.

In addition, the staircase was not only unending (hyperbole alert) but incredibly narrow, which meant that there was much pressing close to strangers in the manner of Sardines (the children’s game*, not the omega-3-rich fish).

View of Florence

Once atop the Campanile, there was a lot of Florence to look at. These are the types of photos that are usually interesting only to the person who took them, aren’t they? I do apologise. But you see, there really were a lot of stairs, so I had to take enough photos to justify the entry price and my new-found calves of steel.

Pig in guillotine, Florence

Oh no! Wilbur! Where’s the eight-legged friend who’ll save your bacon?! (Actually, perhaps the part of Charlotte’s Web most appropriate for a gelato-fuelled Florence trip is Templeton’s fairground song: “The faaaaair is a veeeeritable smorgasboard, orgasbord, orgasbord, aaaaafter the crowds have ceased... Melon rinds and bits of hot dogs, cookie crumbs and rotten cotton candy, melted ice cream, mustard drippings, mouldy goodies everywhere...” Except without the mould.

Riso Torty Limone

Rice *and* rice? Oh Florence, do stop! You’re spoiling me so. (I was almost going to proclaim these vegan, but alas! They contain eggs. Definitely dairy-free and gluten-free, though.)

There is something a bit odd about walking down a street and suddenly passing an entirely empty (read: unstaffed as well as un-customered) restaurant with nothing to spruik it except a huge slab of fresh meat on a wooden crate.

Crema Novi

But there is something utterly irresistible about an open jar of Crema Novi, the chocolate hazelnut spread that is to Nutella what sun-ripened cherry tomatoes fresh off the bush are to mealy supermarket tomatoes fresh out of cold storage. I wish this grew on trees.

* Dear me, I haven’t thought about that game in years and years. Super fun times indeed. For those of you who don’t know it, Sardines is a reverse hide-and-seek. One person is “it” and has to hide while everyone else looks for him/her. As people find the hiding person, they have to cram into the hiding space too, until it becomes pretty darn obvious where the hiding space is**.

** I don’t think this game would work very well in my new Tiny Unit Of Smurf Kitchen. Someone would hide in the shower, then someone would hide in my wardrobe, and then we’d be out of options.

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Once upon a time, I very generously shared with you the inner monologues of four female portraits. You’ve all heard of horse whisperers, and dog whisperers, and even baby whisperers, right? Well, I guess my secret is out. I’m an Art Whisperer.

And because you can’t keep a good Art Whisperer down, today I’m bringing you the inner thoughts of several statues abiding in Florence. Buckle up, folks, it just might be a bumpy (i.e. cranky) ride.

This is not what I signed up for. I was promised eternal glory and throngs of admiring tourists for centuries on end. Where was the small print about avian faeces on my head? I am not okay with this. There are Faeces. Congealing. On. My. Head.

Florence statue

Amen, brother. Amen.

Standing Man: Get a look at this, Twi-Hards. You think your Jacob has abs of glory? I CREATED abs of glory. / Crouching Man: Don't look up. Don't look up. I must not ever look up.

Gallerie dell'Academica Statue

Speaking of Twilight, does anyone else think I look like Robert Pattinson during the filming of New Moon, when the film-makers were preparing my body for the (ridiculous-looking) sparkly special effects?

For those who don’t know instinctively what I’m referring to (lucky you), see this photo of Robert Pattinson*.

Statues in front: Come join us! We’re playing Human Jenga, and it’s super fun! Sure, it looks like we’re in pain, but whoever falls off first has to tell everyone who their first kiss was. Oh, what fun! / Statues behind: Oh, we is just playin’ too. Uh-huh. Playin’ with the big hurty beating stick. Yes siree!

Florence Lion Statue

My ball. My ball my ball my ball! Myyyyyyyy ball. My ball. My ball! (Editor’s note: Also known as “Why Simba Should Have Said No To Hard Drugs”)

Candy Mountain, Charlie! Chaaaaarlie... We’re going to Candy Mountain! ...Shun the non-believer...

* Want to know how I feel after posting that link? Unclean. UNCLEAN. It’s like I’m feeding the Twilight monster. And yet… Robert Pattinson is currently filming Water for Elephants, which is the best book I’ve read this year. Dear everyone, I am conflicted inside.

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Florence*. Florence, Italy, also known as the last leg of my four months of travelling. Now, some of you might be scratching your head and thinking “We’re in Florence now? How did we get to Florence?” If you are so scratching, I offer you some calamine lotion and then the link to this post, which details my rather interesting middle-aged-men-slumber-party-then-quite-erm-friendly-gelato-shouting**-Ronaldo-encounter-arrival in Italy.

Now that everyone’s on board in regards to how the Paris Glimpses become Florence Glimpses…

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Having grown up in Canberra, a city where the architecture is, at most, a century old and (let’s be honest) quite unattractive, it boggled my mind that people walk in the shadows of fantastic, complicated, history-imprinted monoliths such as Florence's Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in their everyday lives. It was fun, for me, to do so for two weeks (and to write that horrifically long sentence).

Ponte Vecchio

On the Ponte Vecchio. Look at my hair go. Wheeeee!

Frozen octopus

I feel a little bit sorry for those octopi. There seems to be a lack of... dignity in the way they’ve been vacuum-packed.

Valsoia gelato

And at the other end of the spectrum, vegan gelato. (Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to try this, as I only ever saw it at supermarkets far away from my hostel. The climate was never freezing when I wanted it to be, only at all other times.)

Ben and Jerry's, Florence Italy

Sob/scream/strangled noise/hysterical laughter/Oh honey, no. What the bucket? NOOOO. Do not want. Cannot express the horror I felt upon seeing this right next to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Ben & Jerry's, you have a time and a place, and this is not it. Florence is synonymous with fabulous gelato, and I have the blog posts to prove it. This sight = globalisation fail.

Maltese Terrier

Maltese Terrier in a fancy clothing store. During my travels, I’ve been in stores where the owners' dogs have been allowed to hang out (I have the blog posts to prove that, too), but I think this was the first time I saw a customer’s pet chillin’ amidst the swirly fabric.

Oh, and I did try to get a better shot of this dog, but secretly paparazzi-stalking someone’s pet is harder than you may think, particularly in a very crowded shop.

Italian Gilmore Girls

This gave me the warm fuzzies, because my mum and I have watched every Gilmore Girls episode together. In fact, I believe this blog has already seen comments-area-chats regarding Jess’ superiority over Dean. And the ambiguity of Logan’s likeability. Oooh, I like that last sentence. It rhymes, sort of.

Florence deli food

Florence’s version of fast food. To be honest. I tended to stick with quality fresh sandwiches rather than reheated schnitzels, but each to their own.

 * Excuse me a minute while I scramble onto my opinionated high horse. Ah, that’s better. Okay. I’m going to keep calling Florence, well, Florence, because I assume most of my readers are English speakers. However, Florence’s actual name is Firenze, just as Rome is actually Roma. I cannot for the life of me understand why, as English speakers, we’ve corrupted the Italian names to suit our own purposes, and yet I realise that it’s not only English speakers that transmogrify place names (teehee, I just said “transmogrify”). In French, for example, Australia is l’Australie, and Japan is Japon. So I guess this kind of place-name-changing is universal, and yet it doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I can’t help thinking we should call places by the names given them by their inhabitants. What do y’all think?

** I recently discovered that “shouting” is an Australian term not necessarily understood beyond our shores. So Today’s Language Lesson is that “to shout [someone] [something]” means to pay for it. At the pub, for example, people often take it in turns to “shout” a round of drinks, or one might “shout” a friend coffee and cake at afternoon tea. And now I’ll take off my teacher’s hat and dismount my horse.

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