The Church Triumphant

Florence, Italy There’s no getting away from the Catholic Church, its imagery and its impact on the art of the Renaissance. Whether or not you are in an actual church, you are surrounded by related motifs.

Today was full of them. We started at the Duomo, that incredible edifice and engineering marvel. The outside is a confection and the inside is magnificent. An association of Italian chefs was gathered in the piazza in front of the church, which added a nice note of cheer to this welcoming place. In the crypt is the tomb of Brunelleschi, the genius who figured out how to build the dome — and his solution is still a mystery to this day.

Next we went to the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, a treasure trove of art and architecture. The main Dominican church in Florence, it is graced with astonishing frescoes and art, including a Giotto crucifix and a wonderful cloister.

Our last visit was to the Medici Palace. We had planned to see their burial chapels in the Church of San Lorenzo, but the schedule just recently changed and they were closed today. (See yesterday’s post to understand the frustration!) However we did tour the Medici home and mostly focused on their private chapel, whose frescoes of the procession of the Magi to Bethlehem are truly luminous — and also feature every Medici who was around at the time it was painted. After all, they were the Magi of their day, I suppose. Otherwise, the building was a bit chilly.

One more treat was the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, a chemist’s shop established by the 16th century, making it the world’s oldest pharmacy. Its history goes back even further to 1212, when Dominican herbalists made and sold concoctions to mask the odors of the plague years. Now it’s a luxury scent shop of a quite refined nature.

Don’s Food Corner

Lunch today was near the train station. There weren’t many guide-book recommended choices, but we found our way to a tiny family-owned place that had some rough edges about it. It looked like Mama was in the kitchen and she sent out her lout of a son to wait on tables.

We started with a shared plate of tortellini with a tomato/cream sauce. The tortellini looked like it came out of a bag of frozen pasta, but the light sauce made up for it. We mopped it up with some bread. (Note: This is a region of Italy that has unsalted bread. It seems that a Pope tried to tax the people for salt, so they rebelled by leaving out salt in their bread and it’s been a tradition ever since. We think it’s time to get over it.)

We went for some meat second courses. Jo had a wonderful beef stew — falling apart chunks of beef that had clearly been simmered in a wine/tomato sauce for hours. I had a plate of meatballs in a hearty tomato sauce. The meat balls were a light as pillows. Jo thought the sauce had too much garlic. I thought it was just right

In fact, I thought the whole meal was flavorful and I particularly liked the price tag — 25 euros.

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