Florence, Italy And speaking of feet, a pithy American expression comes to mind — “My dogs are barkin’!” That is to say, we have reached the point in the trip where our shoe leather may not be worn out, but the soles of our feet surely are.
We started at the Hospital of the Innocents, the Ospedale degli Innocenti, opened in 1445 as a foundling hospital, which was then unique in Europe. The exterior portico was designed by Brunelleschi and is quite classical in its form. The terracotta medallions are by della Robbia and are considered some of his best work.
At one end of the portico was a window with bars, through which mothers relinquished their babies. The tradition was that the mother would leave mementos with the child which might be used to one day reunite them. There are archives remaining of medals cut in half, notes, rosary beads, etc., all having meaning for the mother. Sadly many were still left there and not taken away by the foundling on leaving the hospital.
We toured the interior with a bit of difficulty, as part of the building is current dedicated to a display of the works of Escher, which was jarring to encounter in that space. Oh well. We saw their art exhibit, admired the courtyards, and enjoyed the view from the top level.
Just across the plaza is the church of the Santissima Annunziata founded in 1250. It was one of the most important sanctuaries dedicated to the Madonna in Europe, and is said to currently receive the most worshippers daily in the city.
It contains the shrine of the Madonna, with a painting of the Annunciation, considered to have been painted by a friar who was assisted by an angel. To the side is the former private oratory of the Medici, who had a piece of every important church in Florence, it seems.
Then it was up the mountain to the Romanesque basilica of San Miniato, the most important church in 11th century Florence. The church facade was begun in 1090 and the interior, built in 1018 to 1063, survives virtually intact. We couldn’t tour all of the church as a baptism was in progress. But we were able to go down to the 11th century crypt, which contains the relics of St. Minias. The church is beautiful in its simplicity and amazing in its preservation.
The views from the church are fabulous, and we followed the path further down to the Piazzale Michelangelo, offering more panoramic views of Florence along with yet another reproduction of David.
We have loved our time in this gorgeous city, with its time capsule of the Renaissance artfully blending with modern life. Arrivederci to the Medici, arrivederci to all the arts that flourished under their rule, and arrivederci to all the natural beauty that surrounds this city. We hope we will return!
Tomorrow is a travel day as we take the train back to Rome for the last few days of this Italian holiday.
Don’s Food Corner
We returned to a restaurant we had been to a few days ago and liked a lot. A mistake? Not entirely, though there is an astounding difference in the crowds between the weekdays and the weekends. The restaurant was packed today, with waiters racing all around us, trying to keep up.
Jo wanted to try the great roast chicken she had there. First, she also ordered the cantaloupe and prosciutto that we enjoyed before. The melon was just as nicely ripe today as it was a few days ago. And the prosciutto was of a very high quality. The chicken was bigger, a breast and wing instead of a thigh and leg. The skin was not quite as crisp as before, and the roast potatoes were a slightly more overdone than her previous experience. But these were minor issues. She proclaimed it all delicious.
I started with a salami and cheese platter. I can’t identify the specific type of salamis were served. (I really liked one of them, but have no idea of its origin.) There was a little container of honey served with the platter. I drizzled it over the cheese. Yum.
Then, I had ricotta-and-spinach filled ravioli with a pomodoro sauce. Pomodoro is a strictly pure tomato concoction that takes copious amount of tomatoes — usually three pounds to product about a cup of completed sauce — and hours of gentle simmering in a bit of olive oil. I know, I’ve made it a few times. The version I had today did not seem to have had that amount of care put into it. The ravioli, however, seemed homemade. They were uneven in form and thickness. Always a sign of something homemade, at least in our home.
On a side note, an interesting wine delivery feature in Florence: During the Renaissance and later, little holes were put in the walls of many homes near the entryways. These little doorways served during the plague years for delivery of wine and other products without having to make contact with delivery people. Money was left on the sill of the little openings for the coins, which were cleaned with vinegar. Called buchette del vino (wine windows), you see these portals all over the city in the older buildings. Interestingly, many were reactivated during the recent pandemic lockdown.