mardi 20 mai 2008

Firenze: Day 12

Woke up late and got a croissant and cappuccino next door to the hostel. It cost less than 3 euros for both! Heaven. Keisha was having some money trouble. She couldn't withdraw money from an ATM, and when she called to check her balance it had been really low. So we spent the morning hashing that all out.

Went to the Uffizi and stood in line for almost 3 HOURS. Unbelievable. It was worth it though. Unfortunately, we couldn't take photos. I really like religious and medieval art. Saw Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. Sat on a bench and just stared at it for a while. It looked...faded to me, like it was almost disappearing. Maybe when they print it in books, it looks better, they enhance the colors more. But at that moment, I felt so lucky to see it right then and there, right before it got worse. And I thought about an excerpt from Fight Club, how even the Mona Lisa is falling apart.

Afterwards, we went...leather shopping. I took the girls to the Scuola del Cuoio or the Leather School at the monastery of Santa Croce. Started after World War II by Franciscan friars, the leather school is located right behind the church. It felt kind of hidden, which was really nice. You walk through this garden behind the church, and go up a set of stairs and down this hallway in the building at the back, and then you'll see these rows of work benches and old men putting leather wallets together. Between each workstation was a door into a room where women were sewing.

Glass cases held purses, bags, briefcases made in leather, ostrich, elk. I'm a huge bag girl, so this was heaven. For all of us. I was glad to have Keisha there too who knows quality when she sees it since she's worked at Louis Vuitton, and she was impressed. We looked at bags and wallets. The sales guys were really nice, letting us touch everything, not harassing us or bothering us. I found a gorgeous red Epi leather wallet. Epi is textured leather. It has ridges and the texture of tree bark almost, but with the ridges really close together. It was bright and it looked fun and mature at the same time. Unique as well. Handmade right there, no middleman. Inside the leather was smooth and black. I bought it. 99 euros. At Louis Vuitton, it would retail for over $600.

The workers there said I can come back tomorrow and get my initials on it (YAY!!), but not today since they were closing. We decided to come back tomorrow before we leave for Venezia. Keisha and Lucia were also thinking about what to get for themselves.

Went to other leather stores around the area, but nothing measured up to the Leather School. The girls were looking for nice leather carry-on bags. I love the idea of a leather carry-on bag or weekend bag, something that would age well, that would go wherever you traveled. Something you could pass on to your children that would have a lot of history to it.
We found a deli and ate some really, really great food. I got chicken and roast vegetables (aubergines, zucchini, bell peppers), and we shared a bottle of the house wine. It was really good and cheap and finally another meal without pasta. We just sat and savored the meal and talked for more than two hours. I love that. Back in the States, I can't remember a restaurant where we could stay for more than two hours. That rarely happens. And where the servers don't bother you every waking moment with, "How's everything doing? How's the food?" Here, they leave you alone, especially when you're having an intense conversation.

Afterwards, it was dark out and we wanted to end the day with the Piazza Michaelangelo. Our Vatican tour guide said that it's the best place to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, we missed it, but we still wanted a view of the city. We crossed the river Arno and walked up a hill until we found it. A large parking lot for buses but with an incredible view of the city. And a replica of the famous "David". We watched the view without saying anything, just taking it all in for a while.