Renaissance Comes Alive in Florence

So I’m sitting across from a nun on a high-speed train on the way from Florence to Venice. Although it sounds like a joke, it’s true. And she’s nun-spread to the seat Declan’s supposed to be in. But who’s going to tell a nun to move the hell over?

We spent nearly two days in Florence, following our first of two forays into Rome. Where Rome was somewhat chaotic, with centuries of history piled atop one another, Florence definitely remains a product of the Renaissance it helped create. The streets, though still narrow, are uniformly level and easy to walk on. The city centre is compact and chock-full of interesting things to do and great places to eat.

But with the Renaissance comes Renaissance pricing. Fortunately for us, low season means we snagged a primo room at the Torre Guelfa for about half price that included a sumptuous meat, cheese and croissant breakfast. It also means that every high-end retailer you’ve ever heard of has an outlet here. Tiffany. Mont Blanc. Prada. In other words, the Renaissance meets the Miracle Mile in Chicago or the Streets of Buckhead in Atlanta.

Another room with a view

But high-end retailing aside, the beautiful buildings, priceless artifacts and great dining (if you’re careful) are the main attractions. Luigi, our front desk clerk, raved about the view from the hotel’s tower, built in the 13th century. And he was right, as you can see from the photo.

We visited the Duomo, a 15th-century cathedral whose red dome dominates the Florence skyline (and the photo), and the Medici Chapels, which includes many funerary items that contain sacred body parts and several Michelangelo sculptures.

Later, we walked along Ponte Vecchio, the central bridge across the Arno along which the Medici family famously ousted more common merchants like butchers and bakers in 1593 and installed jewelers and goldsmiths, a tradition that continues to this day.

Today we visited the Palazzo Vecchio Museum. This second palace of the Medici family housed popes back in the 16th century and once was the center of government in Florence. Today, it remains a popular event venue, as evidenced by the fact it was closed yesterday for a Valentine’s Day event. The central hall rises more than 100 feet and is dominated by large paintings and sculpture. Most interior rooms feature intricately decorated ceilings and walls that remain striking centuries after their installation.

We capped our Florence visit at the Uffizi, which has housed the Medici family art and sculpture collection since the 16th century. Da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio and Michelangelo are just a few of the artists represented.

We had a memorable Valentine’s Day meal at La Casalinga, including maybe the best steak I’ve ever wrapped my lips around that didn’t come off hot from my Big Green Egg.

While I appreciate all types of art, I do admit being tired of Mary and Jesus portraits (forgive me, sister), and men sculpted in combat while not wearing pants (either the English or the American kinds).

Not sure what that portends for our trip to the Vatican on Saturday.

Every Day is V-Day in Italy

Italians love to snog in public. Not a chaste peck on the cheek while hand-holding. Oh, no …  we’re talking about full on, tongue on tongue action, lemme see if I can taste what you had for dinner last night snogging. Sit on my lap and look like you’re trying to eat my face snogging.

I’m reminded of lyrics from “The Bad Touch” by the Bloodhound Gang: “Love, the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket.” This is juicy love I’m talking about here, the kind you know Barry White was having before he went to the mirrored-ceiling love nest in the sky.

And these couples are everywhere. I noticed on our first day in Rome. Nothing like looking at the ancient ruins of the Coliseum to stir one’s desires, I guess. The Coliseum certainly was impressive, but not pop a stiffee impressive, if you get my drift. But that didn’t stop the several couples I saw going at it in public.

It’s like seeing a kid with snot dripping out of his nose. You don’t want to look, but you want to know the outcome. Will the snot bubble burst? Will he grab her ass with both hands?

Same snog, different verse

And once you notice what’s going on, you’re more attuned to seeing it again and again. So I started talking fake sexy to Marilynn when we saw a couple going at it. “Oh baby, I love you so much I want to stick my tongue down your throat right here in front of God and everybody to show it,” I’d say in my best Barry White impression. “Ewww,” she’d reply.

During the Rome visit, Declan started noticing SPQR everywhere—old monuments, relatively new buildings and manhole covers everywhere. The initials stand for Senatus Populus Que Romanusa—the Senate and the People of Rome—and are still in use today by the Rome government. When he pointed out the 20th one, I finally said it was like shooting fish in a barrel and suggested he concentrate on something a little more rare.

Public snogging in Rome (and Florence, too, it turns out) is as common as finding Irish in an Irish pub. The photo that goes with this post was taken today. I have enough different snogging couple photos to make a collage. Marilynn and Declan went out later while I did a little work, and they reported seeing several more couples in amorous, public embraces.

I decided a couple of days ago to write this column for Valentine’s Day. You’re welcome, by the way. Not 10 seconds after we started talking about this column over dinner last night, the woman at the table behind us was sitting in her beau’s lap. They weren’t going at it (fortunately for me, because I’d just tried the chicken pate and was having trouble keeping it down), but they were getting friendly. Very friendly. And there’s no way they overheard us.

We all think that when our parents created us, angels were singing softly while God shone his gentle light upon us. It’s inconceivable that your mom was wearing a leather bustier and holding a riding crop while your dad screamed about being a bad boy and needing punishment. But I’m sure it happens that way for some couples.

Please don’t misunderstand … I love people who are in love. That’s great. I just don’t need to see it. Aside from a little hand-holding, save your juicy love for the bedroom—or the dungeon, because who am I to judge.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all!