Iconic Art and Clumsy Come-Ons: Our Second Day in Florence

Brunelleschi's Dome at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore

Waking up in Florence, seeing the Duomo the moment I opened my eyes, could simply never get old. I could’ve lived happily in our little Florentine apartment forever. While the girls were getting prettied up for the day, I enjoyed a cigarette on the balcony and took a moment to just appreciate where I was. The moment, however, was brief, cause we had a centuries old murder scene, and a very tall, quiet, naked man to see!

My last post mentioned the Pazzi Conspiracy, which I said I’d explain, so let’s go back to April 26th, 1478 for this week’s edition of Steph’s History-Nerd Porn. The Medici were the most powerful banking family in Italy. Their primary rival, the Pazzi family, were sick of their second place status, and hatched a plot to essentially execute a hostile takeover through corporate assassination and a coup d’etat all mixed into one. Everything had to happen simultaneously and flawlessly, they had to kill both Medici brothers and seize control of the government all at once or they’d be totally screwed. So, with the blessing of the Pope, while some of them were readying an attack against the Florentine government, the rest were attending mass in the cathedral alongside the Medici. When the priest raised the host, the assassins pulled daggers, concealed in their tunics, and attacked. Lorenzo received a gash to his neck but was able to escape to the sacristy without mortal wounds. His brother, Giuliano, wasn’t so lucky. He was stabbed multiple times, including once in the head, and bled to death on the cathedral floor. They had only gotten half. The Pazzi takeover of the government hadn’t been successful, either. They were totally screwed. The entire city rose up against the conspirators. All said and done, more than 80 people were executed for some level of participation in the plot (but not the Pope, which is total bullshit).

One of the things I most wanted to do on this trip was to walk into the Duomo sanctuary and actually be standing in the place where it all went down. However, this was one of those times my frugality trumped my dream and led to nothing but regret. Entrance to the Duomo is free, but tickets are sold to climb the dome stairs, view the museum, etc. Since our time and funds were limited, I decided not to buy tickets and just explore the sanctuary/murder scene. Such a rookie move I’m embarrassed to even type it. We got there early, thinking we’d be at the front of the line when they opened. 45 minutes before they opened their doors the line was already wrapped halfway around the building. We didn’t have enough time to wait in the line and make our scheduled entry at the museum, so I never got to fulfill that particular fantasy, and that alone all but guarantees I will go back to Florence.

The Galleria dell’Accademia, our second stop of the day, is a hugely popular museum and it’s solely due to one particular piece housed within: Michelangelo’s Statue of David (you didn’t think we were going to see an actual naked man, did you? Dirty girl!). We slowly made our way inside, and as soon as we entered the marble hallway, there he was. Bigger than I’d imagined, casually gazing off into the distance, David was towering over everyone and damn, he was beautiful!

The closer we got the more detailed he became. Everyone talks about his hands, and as I stood there staring up at them I knew why. It was almost hard to believe they weren’t real. I half expected to see a finger twitch as I studied him. The talent it took to create something so realistic, so detailed and flawless, so massive, out of a single slab of rock, is almost unfathomable. David took my breath away. Of course, beyond the artistic appreciation, we also had a fantastic time giggling at his package like children.

It became clear as we explored the rest of the building that David was the singular draw to the Galleria dell’Accademia (as well as several lesser known Michelangelos). The rest was small, almost exclusively religious in nature, and not particularly to our taste. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves anyway, the girls re-enacting some of the sculptures to hilarious effect, and me puzzling over a painting of a disturbingly aggressive baby Jesus.

When we left the museum it was already lunchtime and we were starving. We stopped at Pizza Napoli 1955, a charming and delicious little trattoria, and were escorted to a table by a very enthusiastic young waiter. He seemed really eager, and a little anxious, and it didn’t take long to figure out why. As he was giving us our place settings, he looked at Olivia and said he was very “excited” to serve her and told her, “You have beautiful eyes, beautiful eyes,” and then he dropped her silverware. Nervous and embarrassed, he quickly picked everything up, said something else about Liv’s beauty, and ran away. It was the clumsiest, most hilarious come-on I’ve ever seen. Liv was totally embarrassed, but also hella flattered, and when we left, the adorable little waiter gave her a, “Ciao, bella!” Between that and Carey getting hit on at the Eiffel Tower, the girls decided they were destined to score European husbands.

Our next stop was the Museo Galileo, an entire museum dedicated to the Father of Astronomy. While the museum has a great many things, the sole reason I wanted to go was rooted in my obsession with history and generally negative opinion of the Catholic Church.

In the early 17th Century, Europe was under the thumb of the Catholic Church which, at the time, was little more than a massive, well organized boys’ club teeming with greedy, corrupt, power-hungry men as eager to violate their vow of poverty as their vow of celibacy. So, when Galileo looked up at the sky through his new telescope (which he built by figuring out the principle behind telescopes from Holland, then building one 10 times more powerful) he discovered that Copernicus was right. The sun is stationary, with the planets in orbit around it, and the Bible was wrong! The Church completely lost its shit. It took another 20 years, but Galileo was ultimately tried and found guilty of heresy by the Inquisition and sentenced to house arrest in perpetuity. It wasn’t until an “investigation” in 1984 that the Catholic Church finally admitted Galileo was wrongfully convicted.

The Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II de Medici took him in, where he lived under their protection until his death in 1642. While the Galilei family was interred in the Basilica of Santa Croce sanctuary, Galileo was initially buried in a smaller chapel attached to the Basilica, his family fearing retribution from the Church if they honored their supposedly dishonorable relative. But a century later, followers with enough clout and money were able to have his body moved into the Basilica sanctuary and commission a beautiful monument to mark his place of rest. In the process of moving him, however, things got a little weird. The movers decided to also remove three of his fingers, a tooth and a vertebrae before placing him in his new, fancy resting place.

One of those fingers, notably the middle finger, was said to be on display at the Museo Galileo in Florence, and I was not about to pass up the opportunity to see the Father of Modern Science and Astronomy flipping the bird at the Catholic Church for all eternity.

We paid the admission fee and began roaming the floors of the museum in search of Galileo’s severed fingers. One by one we descended from the top back to the bottom floor with no sign of them. That’s when we did another Google search and discovered that the fingers had been moved. Again. I never thought I would be so upset about not seeing severed finger bones.

Luckily, our next stop lifted my spirits: The Medici Chapels at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, tomb of the Medici! There are two main chambers where the Medici family are interred. One, a more lavishly adorned room with colored marble and intricate decorations where later Medici were laid to rest. The other a more simple, older room, containing the remains of earlier Medici, including my two favorites: Lorenzo Il Magnifico, and Giuliano Il Sexy, with monuments carved by Michelangelo. If you’ve been reading this European series, I bet you can guess what I did as I stood before the graves of Lorenzo and Giuliano (if you guessed cry like a little bitch baby, you are correct!).

After we’d paid our respects we walked back to our apartment, stopping to pick up some desserts on our way. We had an early dinner that evening and ended up perusing the UberEats McDonald’s menu for late night snacks, yet again. The “Smarties McFlurry,” “My Selection Chicken Pepper,” and ” Le Ricche Fries Cheddar,” sounded too alluring for the girls to pass up.

Ordering European McDonald’s can be quite entertaining. The “Smarties McFlurry” did not, in fact, contain Smarties and was actually an M&M McFlurry. The My Selection Chicken Pepper was nothing to write home about, and the Le Ricche Fries were just fries with a squirt of cheddar and, inexplicably, a little wooden spoon at the bottom. We laughed harder than I ever expected a McDonald’s order to warrant. It was so memorable, in fact, that Carey still has a screenshot of the digital receipt.

With bellies full of pasta, wine, and whatever the hell McDonald’s puts in their food we finally went to bed. In the morning we’d wake up early to head to the Red Cross COVID testing site in preparation for our flight back across the pond to America, which was approaching faster than we’d have liked. I hope you’ll come back to read about our last couple days in Europe as our epic Ladycation comes to an end. In the meantime, stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!


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