Monday, June 30, 2008

Florence/Firenze: Not My Favorite

On June 21, we departed lovely Positano with a collective wistful sigh. We spent six hours on the mini-bus with two stops at foul Autogrill locations along the way to arrive in Florence.

Our first stop was to check into the Jolly Hotel Carlton. Our awesome tour guide told us that the hotel was a four-star establishment, and that due to a fashion week event in Florence, it was the only semi-nice hotel with available rooms. Unfortunately, we caught the hotel in the midst of a major renovation. Chad and I were the only people out of the six-room-booking for the group that had both a functional air conditioner and hot water. However, our room was not yet renovated and still retained the old stained carpet, peeling wallpaper and leaking shower door. We opted to keep the room despite the flaws since there weren't any better options. Our awesome tour guide apologized profusely and swore that she'll never book rooms there again. The staff at the hotel did their best to hide from guests. When we could find them, they were reluctant to help us with anything from buying museum tickets, to giving directions, to taking our order in the restaurant for lunch. I'd be demoralized too if I worked there.

Anyway, after an hour to drop bags, grab a bite and take care of business, we met a local tour guide to see Florence. I'm sad to opine that Florence is overrun with mouth-breathing tourists. I don't think of Chad and myself as mouth-breathers, unless we're having bad allergies, but we were adding ourselves to the hot, sweaty, shuffling, teeming mass of tourists.

Florence feels like the wannabe, tacky cousin to Rome. Frankly I was disappointed when I saw all the "great art of Florence" in person. The scale on the various parts of the David statue are all wrong. I know that the figure of David is meant to be viewed from below with the statue up on a high pedestal, and that Michelangelo was reportedly trying to trick the eye with the weird proportions of David, but it just doesn't work. Yo, David, what's up with your giant hands and little body? Botticelli's Venus looked faded and crackly in person. I thought that the colors would be breathtakingly vibrant in this Venus painting, and maybe they once were, but have faded with time. The Duomo, with three different colors of marble on the overly wrought exterior looks a tad tacky and filthy from Florence's polluted air.

If Florence was a movie based on a book, I'd warn you to read the book, but to save your time and money, and skip the movie. By all means, study the art history and look at the lovely renditions in the history books, but skip the trip to Florence. The city is dirty, crowded and sad.

BUT, the Tuscan countryside outside of Florence was enchanting. More on that in the next post.