I had a fairly leisurely start, rolling out the door mid-morning. The only thing on my agenda was the extensive Pitti Pallace and Boboli Gardens. Housed within various wings of the palace were several museums, including the Palatine Gallery, Costume Gallery, Silver Museum, among others, as well as the Royal Apartments. Luckily my apartment was only a brief walk away, so it wasn’t long before I had two tickets in hand (bizarrely, you bought one ticket for the Gardens and the a couple of the museums, and a different ticket for the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments). It was still relatively early on the tourist route, so the gardens were relatively empty. They were draped over Boboli Hill, so I made the rather steep climb to the first level to see Neptune’s Fountain, which also afforded a splendid view of the palace and city. I trekked up the remaining steps for an even better view, just in time for a series of garden trucks to roll in. I toured the gardens, which largely consisted of tall hedges and cyprus trees, dotted by the odd elaborate fountain or Renaissance statue. I doubt I covered the entire park, but I wanted to ensure I had enough energy for the palace (it was a lot of uphill walking–sometimes it really did seem like uphill both ways!).
I eventually headed inside and up several flights of stairs to the Costume Gallery, where I learned that I wouldn’t be able to take any photos throughout the palace (sigh). It was a lovely collection of Italian designers, artfully arranged in suitably opulent rooms. I liked how instead of organizing by period, they seemed to organize by the style of the garment, placing together similar shapes from a variety of time periods, to really get a sense of the similarities and subtle differences over the years. A few dimly-lit rooms even displayed the doublet and other clothing items of Cosimo I de’Medici from the 16th century.
From there, I made way over to the Palatine Gallery, first going through a temporary exhibit entitled “The Renaissance Dream” devoted to themes of dreams and nightmares, which made for some very trippy paintings. It was then into the main gallery itself, housing the Medici’s extensive collection of largely Renaissance art, with more than a few famous names gracing the roster, including Raphael, Titian and Peter Paul Rubens. While their paintings were lovely, I was most enchanted by the rooms themselves decorated in high Baroque style–just gorgeously over-the-top from floor to ceiling, with ornate plasterwork and gilded everything. I loved the Planetary rooms with frescoes and sculptures devoted to the deities on which the planets were based (e.g. Venus, Jupiter, Mars, etc.). I would just sit and stare up in wonderment, musing on what it must have been like to live and work in such opulent settings. The Royal Apartments were also impressive, rooms of green, red, yellow and blue, that were exquisitely furnished. I searched the gift shop for some kind of book but none really had photos that did the rooms themselves justice (mostly focusing on the art that hung in them).
In my perusing of gift shop books, I’d noticed that the rooms housing the Silver Museum were also beautiful, so I popped in to take a look. They happened to be having an exhibit entitled “Diaphonous Passions” on Baroque ivories from the courts of Europe. I found that exhibit to be more interesting than the rest of the museum, with absolutely exquisite and ornate carvings, everything from giant cups to statues. I’ve always been drawn to sculpture generally and so the detailed work on these was fascinating. I popped upstairs to peruse the actual museum exhibits, which didn’t capture my interest as much, and decided to call it a day. I walked out through the courtyard, stopping to snap a photo of the giant Hercules sculpture (who apparently the Medici family took to be their figurehead), before heading out of the palace.
There were a couple shops on the street that I was interested in looking at. I browsed a stationery store that a whole slew of charming cards and beautiful marbled paper. I noticed a neat tote bag that I mentally earmarked and thought I might come back for, as David was at one point a collector of tote bags. Further up the street, I went into Madova, glovemakers who’d been in the business for nearly a century. This was not a store that you could just go around trying stuff for yourself, they had rows of gloves neatly stored in shelves behind the counter. The lady took a look at my hand and guessed a 7-1/2 glove size, which fit perfectly. I opted for the cashmere-lined gloves for a bit more warmth during those Chicago winters. I was going to do the practical thing and get a pair of black ones. But I noticed some more embellished ones in the window, ones with different colour stitching and a cute little button, so I opted for something a bit more interesting (dark purple with a burgundy accent colour). I already have a pair of black gloves anyway.
Pleased with my purchase, I headed back to the apartment to take a break before dinner, relaxing on the little balcony and trying to soak in the last bit of summer sunshine. Apparently it’s already turned to fall weather in Chicago, so I’m trying to relish any remaining vestiges of summer that I can. I decided to check out the Piazza Santo Spirito area for dinner. Borgo Antico was recommended by both my host and Lonely Planet, so I figured I’d give it a try. It was 8 pm, so there was already a line for an outdoor table. Though the wait was nicely assuaged by their giving us a glass of white wine to sip on. The place was super busy, but I eventually got a table. The two risotto dishes immediately jumped out, and I went for the slightly more adventurous one of risotto with black squid ink and a 1/4 L of white wine, which arrived in a lovely little pitcher. I had the foresight to bring something to do (just pen and paper to write), so I was able to amuse myself until my food arrived. The risotto itself, which was striking in all its blackness, was fine enough, though not terribly interesting in the end. I made my way back to the apartment and tucked in for the evening.