October 7, 2017 (Saturday)

by Yule Heibel on October 6, 2018

We started the day yesterday with trying to visit Santa Maria Novella, but since it was 10:45 and it doesn’t open till 11 on Fridays, we walked instead to the San Lorenzo Basilica. Paid the admission after finding the front entrance (which involved circumnavigating around a rather forbidding terrace apron that surrounds two sides, which seemed almost moat-like). The church is austere, huge, impressive.

After that we continued on to Santa Croce, which was much “friendlier”-seeming from the exterior. (San Lorenzo’s isn’t exactly a chatty facade.) Santa Croce’s interior seemed almost on par with Monreale (outside of Palermo). Actually, on further consideration, the artwork (paintings, frescoes) inside Santa Croce are more impressive. We spent a long time there, including a close look at all the side sites and sights, and courtyard gardens.

Then we walked to lunch at Enoteca Lombardi, where we were treated most excellently by the staff.

From there: a stop at a leather market where I bought gloves.

Finally, the visit to Santa Maria Novella. Spectacular.

Back at the hotel we met up with B. and walked to Arts Inn, which was still closed. So we meandered down toward the river, visited Ognissanti, which B. hadn’t seen, to admire Giotto’s crucifix, then ogle the Art Nouveau (“Liberty”) building next door, before heading back to the Arts Inn for wine and lots of conversation.

“Liberty,” the Art Nouveau building next to Ognissanti, is across the street from the Hotel Excelsior. “This is where Clinton stayed,” B. told us – presumably Bill, not Hillary. I didn’t inquire further. But it’s interesting to think about how one would experience the city if one were more or less cocooned in one of these places, one of these deluxe hotels. Would you be able to walk anywhere, anytime you wanted? I had to think about how, in a tourist-swamped city like Florence, where you’re carried on a mass of people-wave to all the same must-see sights, you’re kind of living the Patricia Barber lyric from “Company” (on 1998’s Modern Cool), basically: “I like what everyone else likes.”

If you were Clinton, ensconced in The Excelsior, you might straddle that weird divide – as a politician – of (pretending) to like what everyone else likes, but your real life is isolation at The Excelsior. I don’t see you dodging traffic on narrow streets as you make your way on foot to the next mega-attraction, standing in line to climb up some ancient stairs, see some ancient thing. “What everyone else likes” (that is, what everyone else is obliged to do as the price of participation) is a universe away from yours, no?


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