August 2010 - Italy

With the Accademia completed there was one Museo still left to see; the Uffizi. So after Elisa's insistence that my parents head out for dinner tonight to try the Florentien Steak (I think that is how they spell it) we were in a cab heading down to the River Arno and the Gallerie.

For the most part we avoided the queue and headed inside. Thanks to my trusty Uffizi iPhone app locating all the important paintings was easy (in truth it was easy regardless, just stop wherever the tourists groups gathered—and believe me there were many of them). There was no viewing from afar when it came to the Birth of Venus, or the two and a bit Leonardo Da Vinci paintings and don’t even think you are getting close to the Raphael pictures because that was never going to happen.

Dad was cultured out very quickly and you could tell he was uninterested by the 17th and 18th century paintings (thankfully the museum didn’t go any further into the future than that). We reached just under two hours and left Uffizi. There were still a few things on our list to check of, we had our Wednesday map in hand ready to go. First stop, make Dad happy, Mercedes shop where he bought a watch, next stop Mum happy by going to the Santa Maria Novella Comestic Shop (which is more like a fascinating museum). It is one of the oldest cosmetic stores in the world. We then went to the Santa Maria Novella church around the corner which is VERY pretty on the inside (more so than the Il Duomo). Around the corner and down the street was the local markets where people shop for their meat, fish, deli. Shame it was 2pm and things were closing up but we still had a look at the very large steak that Mum and Dad were going to be eating in the evening.

Stop for Gelato (which I admit in this instance was the Cookie Dough from the Ben and Jerrys shop across the piazza from Il Duomo) then down to this antique bookshop (make Nat happy). In their window were some old copies of Dante’s La Divina Comedia and I wanted to see the price. It’s a shame that the one I wanted weighed about five kilos and I’d never be able to bring it back. It was illustrated, in Italian and dated back to 1920’s I think. The guy in the store was so nice and even showed us the first edition of the illustrated book (3 volumes, 2000 Euro), it wasn’t in its original cover but still amazing. There was also a book from the 1870’s with the original cover AND actual photographs of places Dante describe. Just such a shame they were all too big to bring back ☹ Still, it made my day to see them.

3pm and back to the Hotel for a much needed swim. It was HOT HOT HOT again. Next thing I know I was on the back of Elisa’s scooter again making my way to her apartment for dinner, but first she needed to stop for groceries.

Their supermarkets are awesome, huge for starters, and they have handheld scanners. So you pick one up at the door and as you pick your items from the shelf you scan and put straight into your bag. It keeps a running total and a list that you can see on your screen. You can add items and minus items and then when you are finished go to the computerised register, scan the barcode on the register, pay the $, scan the receipt to exit, done and dusted you are on your way home.

A Spritz (Elisa style) later Elisa’s boyfriend and his best friend from the Hotel come home (he happens to be the Director of IT), one bottle of wine disappears, first course quiche, second bottle of wine disappears, second course pasta with homemade pesto and then a break on the balcony outside before the final course of roast veal and an almost finished third bottle of wine. There were funny stories in Italian being translated into English, Italian sayings being explained (I’m not even going to try and explain the one where you hit your head… something about horns). The boys disappeared for a while and Elisa and I sat on the balcony enjoying homemade limonchello whilst watching the show below.

Now Elisa’s in a residential area, there is a main road just to the side of her building and a vacant lot next door. All these cars were slowing up and it wasn’t long after I noticed that Elisa enlightened me, prostitutes, blocked from our view by a six foot fence. Sure enough a few minutes later this no butt, white hipster, stripper heel wearing, surprisingly pretty walks across the road to a car that pulled up. Now apparently there are a few things to note… brothels are illegal, the neighbours complained to the police and the police just shuffled them down the road a bit. HA! So there is this crazy law where you can only be charged with the same crime once, so nothing really happens to them according to Elisa.

We watched the show and my jaw dropped. Somewhere during the conversation the girl in white had been picked up. I saw her being dropped back on the street and not ten seconds (seriously it was the next car) later she was getting into another car.

When it was time to leave the Director of IT gave me a lift back to the Hotel, crazy guy but likes to be in control of everything IT in his Hotel, down to the toner that each departments use (yeah, if I was to do that I would live in the Hotel). His car was a pastel yellow old fiat, cables coming out from the console where his television used to be (I tried to get that story, didn’t really understand), huge sound system in the back though, turn it up and you feel the wind above your head.

Anyhow he offers to drive me around Florence to which I declined (last night and it was 1am… I needed sleep). But when he asked if I wanted to see his office the IT geek in me just couldn’t say no. So here we are 1am in the morning walking around the corridors of the Hotel up to Level 4.. The highest level of the Hotel.

An IT office on level 4? What’s it doing up there? Well that answer is found in the lobby. As you enter on the column to your right is a sign that reads the water reached this level in 1966.

Floods… The Hotel is nowhere near the river Arno. It was above my head! So fair enough that the IT office is on the highest possible level.

I got to see all the servers, the office, one of the floors patch panels. It is ten times neater than our cabling and he is running IPTV, WiFi Phones, Internet for Guests and Admin. I was a little jealous :P Oh and he controls the paper rolls for the Micros printers as well (shakes head).

After the IT was worn out he took me to see the Royal Suite again (he said it was the Pres, so I thought I hadn’t seen it until he opened the door.. Not that I was fussed to see it again) and then he took me to the most romantic place in the Hotel… the roof. It is a small terrace where they setup dinner for two with a view overlooking the city. So my last night in Florence, on the roof of the Four Seasons, Full Moon, Il Duomo, the Hills. 1am. Perfecto.