When I went to bed on Monday (Florence – Day 1), I was exhausted in the best way possible. It had been a perfect day. There are not too many days in your life you count as ‘yep, that was perfecto’, but Day 1 was one of them. At this point, anything more was gravy. Oh boy, there was a LOT of gravy coming my way. Bianca, the genius behind Italian Fix told us a taxi would be waiting for us in the morning, we were going to a place with beautiful vistas of Florence. Can I take a brief minute and tell you how FREEing it is to let go control and have someone else do all the planning for you? If we had taken this vacation on our own, without her, it would have been nowhere near as fun or relaxing. I did not worry the previous night about taxis, maps, places or anything else.
We all woke up, showered, had breakfast in the breakfast room (pics of that later), checked we had our camera equipment and we were off. Where did we go? A ten minute drive up the hills, outside the gates to San Miniato al Monte. This was the view that greeted us. I think I stood there for about 15 minutes just taking in the incredible view. Honestly, this photograph cannot do it justice. It is kind of surreal, especially when you imagine what life must have been over 600 years ago when it was built. We wandered around the grounds.. there is a cemetery that wraps around the Basilica and it was moving to see all the different tombstones, some very recent.
The photography lesson for Day 2 was People. All of us enjoyed this lesson immensely and even though I photograph people for my day job, I learned a lot from Leela’s experience. She has such a way to engage complete strangers and ask them if she can make a photograph with them in it. This is hard for me to do, even today. It is hard to step out of your comfort zone and ask a complete stranger about them, tell them a little bit about you and ask them politely if you can make a photograph of them. Leela is uber skilled at this. She was teaching us about her methods and suddenly jumped to her feet and talked to this italian gentleman with a beard, he was soon laughing and in a minute she was able to direct him into position to get an incredible photograph. You can see the bearded man on her blog here. On cue, an elderly monk walked slowly around the building and as hard as it was to make a photograph of a complete stranger, I did.
Then our own resident Twiggy, Bianca happily modeled for us. This was a lesson in directing her to make interesting portraits.
We were not let off the hook that easily, after Bianca, we all had to take turns photographing each other. I was amazed to see how everyone let down their guard and just did what we asked of them. So much fun!
Once again, three hours just flew by and we walked down the steps, through the huge city gates into the city of Florence. I can see why Florentines in the old days had homes outside the gated walls for leisure and hot summer days. The old city does not really have any trees or open spaces and can get stifling in the summer months. For lunch, we chanced upon this little restaurant where we had the buffet lunch. The name is Il Rifrullo . Now buffet lunch was like 20 different things, salads, pastas, and all kinds of deliciousness for an incredibly low price of 10 Euro. It is not like any buffet I have ever seen. Fresh food. Muito delicioso. And a wonderful back garden to enjoy company and the food.
With our bellies filled with delicious food, we headed to the shop of Maestro Alessandro Dari. I don’t even know how to explain the passion of this man. He makes unique jewelry by hand, like a mad scientist of sorts. So brilliant and so dedicated to his craft. It really made me stop and think about how, these days, we are looking for immediate success and often imitating the work we see from others. We work for 5 years or 10 years and want to be the best and most successful at our jobs.. this man has worked for years and years, just pursuing his love of being a goldsmith with all his original designs. You can read more about him here on his website.
After Dari, three of us headed to the Galleria dell Accademia to see David. Yes, that David. No photography is allowed inside the museum which is perhaps for the best, because really there is no way to capture the genius of Michelangelo’s sculpture. All three of us noticed, but none of us said anything till we were leaving.. and then we asked each other, “Did you think his hands and head looked out of proportion to his body?”. What kind of blasphemy is this… critiquing Michaelangelo’s artistry?? A quick google told us the reason why.. it was because the statue of David was meant to go atop a building and the proportions would have worked from that height. Mind blown.
The views, the lunch, Dari and David. It was time for a siesta and we headed back to the hotel. After our evening aperitif of Prosecco on the loggia at the hotel (we were already pretty Italian by then.. ha), Bianca took us to to dinner at a pizza place called Il Vico del Carmine. It is also on the Oltrarno. We were in Italy. We were eating Pizza. And some of us swore never ever to eat pizza back home again. It would just never hold a candle to the deliciousness we encountered in Florence.
We walked back to the hotel around midnight. Midnight on a Tuesday. You would not have known it in our piazza (santo spirito). Everyone was out and about in the bars, drinking and smoking and singing and dancing. We joined them of course and grabbed a table at a bar and chatted for an hour or more. These two could not resist joining in the festivities.
My head hit the pillow and all I could think was.. Day 1 was incredible but Day 2 (which was supposed to be gravy) just became the main course. So good. So fun. Day 3 tomorrow!