August 8 Touring Europes Capital of Art

Breakfast this morning was outside on the hotel terrace overlooking Florence across the river. A nice buffet was prepared and included a wide choice of cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, and croissants. The Hotel Silla is very nice and a real bargain at 95 euro. Our only criticism is the towels in the bathroom remind me of oversized dish towels or even a cloth for a picnic table.

Florence was already full of tourists by 10 this morning. Long lines of people were dutifully following their guides who were proudly leading their tours with colorful umbrellas or flags held high. People who lagged behind for a photo were seen dashing down the streets to catch up with their group.

At The Museo di San Marco, built in 1439 we learned that it had been a Dominican monastery. The breezy cloisters had beautifully manicured gardens with a towering evergreen as a centerpiece. Walking through the monastery, we admired the beautiful frescoes by Fra Angelico in the 1400s. Some of the paintings have beautiful shades of royal blue, light pink, and peach. Upstairs we visited the rooms where the monks once lived. On each rooms wall is a beautiful fresco to inspire the residents. At the top of the steps is a stunning fresco of the Annunciation. The colorful angel wings are designed to look like they are moving and contain sparkling glitter. We learned that when the Pope saw the painting, he brought Fra Angelico to the Vatican. Even today, a British tourist I saw was so moved that he recited the Hail Mary right then and there.

Lunch in Florence can be expensive so we decided to join others having a picnic on the ancient steps of an orphanage from the 1400s in Piazza SS Annuziata.

In the early afternoon we visited the Museo del Bargello. Built in 1255, it was once a police station and later a prison. Today it houses an impressive collection of sculptures, some by Donatello and Michelangelo. Giambolognas Apollo was also on display. One room had a display showing the ongoing restoration of Donatellos bronze statue of David. Another room had a gleaming crystal clear glass case full of carved ivory, jewelry, and China bowls, cups, and plates. Another held a large display of keys and door hinges from the 1600s.

Later in the afternoon we took a challenging hike up a hill to La Basilique De San Minato Al Monte. In the heat it feels like you are climbing Giotto's Tower, but thankfully most of the steps are shaded. The views from the top are spectacular. The Duomo, Giottos Tower, Palazzo Vecchio, and Ponte Vecchio are all wonderfully displayed before you.

Inside the church are colorful frescoes. We were just in time to hear a Vesper's service sung by four monks. A real sense of peacefulness permeated the church.

Across the street in the Palazzo, tourists were busy snapping photos of the view in the sun while those lucky enough to afford it sat in private garden cafes sipping ice cold lemon drinks next to bubbling fountains.

Tonight we will stroll the streets and listen to classical music in the Piazza.

San Miniato
Peaceful refuge from the crowds
Vespers invoke peace


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