I returned to Santo Spirito today - and got in this time! What a beautiful church, I believe designed by Brunelleschi. The sun was streaming in the windows, so the church felt so incredibly spacious, light and airy. There are so many paintings with glowing colours, although apparently not so much worthy of mention in the guidebooks. However, with my less critical eye, I really loved several of them. I sat in the pews, feeling connected and enjoying the lovely organ music piping in softly. Sandra, you will definitely want to try again to see this place, it is so worth a visit! I will return another day too, I think. I found it very peaceful and loved the arches, columns and colours. I took many photos of the paintings. And of the interior, and of the dome, it was wonderful to see the inside of this gorgeous dome that I have been gazing at every evening from my apartment.
After I was kicked out (they close at 12:30 for lunch), I grabbed a panini (beef slices, asparagus, fresh cheese filling - yum!) and sat on the steps to eat and watch the scene.
A work truck pulls up from one direction...a little red car pulls up from the other. The truck stops at the corner...the little red car pulls into the corner and parks...at the corner...blocking the truck. The woman car driver gets out and walks away. The truck driver honks his horn, and yells "Signora"..."Signora!!!" She does not hear and keeps walking. The truck driver hops out of his truck, talking and gesturing. Men start straying over from all directions. Each is told the story, each gestures and shakes his head. A woman from the trattoria comes out and is filled in...she too shakes her head. These people fill in each newcomer...everyone shakes their head. Everyone is talking, gesturing, occasionally laughing. The truck dirver gets on his cell phone and makes a call or two. Time passes...all the while the crowd talks, gestures...much head shaking. I am wondering why does not the truck just back up and go the other way. I guess this would be an unacceptable acceptance of defeat. After a while, the army arrives...ok not the whole army, but 3 or 4 men in khaki uniforms plus a couple men in solid green, with badges and looking very Generalissimo. They walk around the vehicles, they are apprised of the situation...they shake their heads, talk, gesture...and then leave. Clearly not a job for the army. The truck driver is back on his cell phone. Another truck comes in a different direction and is also unable to pass (although cars and motorcycles have been passing from that other direction.) One of the crowd jumps into the red car to steer, while a couple others push it away from the corner to let this truck pass...although blocking in the first truck even more. Truck 2 waves, says something sympathetic sounding and goes on his way. Ah, here are the polizia to the rescue! Four of them...they appear to take statements from the truck driver and a motorcycle driver. Two of them, and the motorcylist head off in the direction the woman driver went. The other two circle the red car, writing officiously, presumably a ticket is being issued. They speak on their radios. Shortly thereafter a tow truck arrives. IN order for the tow truck to hook onto the red car, the blocked in truck must back up...which he does...and then drives off in the other direction before the way is even cleared. Again, I think why did he not do that in the first place? Too funny...this diversion totally made my day. How to top this, I wonder?!
I decide to walk up to San Miniato.
What a gorgeous walk up I had along Coste di San Giorgio...or I should say UP Coste di San Giorgio...up and up and up...and up...phew! I reach a turning point and head gratefully down hill for a while. Except that it is absolutely baking hot walking along via di Belvedere. Trapped in the full sun between olive trees and the old city wall, all the way down. Stunning views though, and oh so peaceful because very few others pass in the other direction (and none in sight going my way), but so so hot. And did I mention downhill...this means I must go back up to get to San Miniato. Ahhhh!!! Up...up...up...again I go, this time up via Croce di Monte di San Miniato (or something like that) At least there is shade most of the way here. I get to the church at the top. Beautiful. I look across the valley and think WHOA, did I just go up, down, up THAT??! I am feeling pretty good about my energy and stamina right about now!
Inside the church is blessedly, blissfully cool. I flop in a pew for a few minutes to relax, although oddly am not out of breath from my climb, just overheated. Then I wander about this lovely space. It is quite dim, few lights are on, but I am able to take quite a few photos anyway. The apse mosaic of Christ is indeed glorious!! It was photographable a couple times for a few minutes as someone made a "contribution" in order to light it up. I was not one of these someones...although took advantage of their contribution to snap a few photos myself. There was a chapel with some brilliant frescoes in the presbytery, but...I was feeling stubborn and declined to pay to go in. I could see some of the work from the doorway though and it was definitely worth a euro. I don't know why I decided not to pay to see these particular frescoes, heaven knows I have paid to go in other churches. Whatever, when "the stubbornness" comes over me, there is usually no good reason and certainly no arguing with it. Perhaps I will walk back up...strike that...perhaps I will take the bus up and see it again another day! I go down to the crypt, I light a candle and think of loved ones. I cannot resist taking a photo of the tomb of S. Minias...the story being that he was beheaded, then carried his own head across the river to come to rest here. These remains were officially sanctified by a pope in the eleventh century...which pope apparently disregarded some rather conclusive evidence that in fact this saint's remains were taken away to Germany.
I notice that it is almost five o'clock...I remember that there is Gregorian chanting here around this time every day. I take a seat in a pew before the high altar and wait. Hmm, why is that monk carrying candles down into the crypt, I wonder? Ahh, we are going to worship with the dead...I see. Ok, worshipping in a crypt is a new experience for me, but I'm game so I follow along. I take a seat in these lower pews. Soon the monks start to chant...the entire Mass was chanted. Partway through, a tour group buzzes down, shoes clacking and voices murmuring. "SSSHHHHH!!!!!" hisses the main monk, frowning. The tour group leaves. I stayed for the full service, which was only about an hour. I did not take communion, mostly because I think the Catholic Church does not extend their communion to non-Catholics, and although I don't agree with this policy, I will certainly respect the rituals while attending one of their services. I gave up my seat to an old woman with a cane, who came in late after the pews had filled...she looked surprised when I stood and waved her to my spot, then smiled a dazzling smile and thanked me very much. Oh beautiful old church ladies...I love them!
After the service, I ascend back into the sunlight outside...from the "Light" to the light, I think to myself. The sun is setting over the Florentine hills...I sigh over the wondrous colours of nature, pinks and oranges spread across the sky, the dark line of the horizon broken by spikes of cypress and pine trees and villas. Then head down the hill. I stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo, for the views, for the atmosphere, for a photo of the fake David. Then down the winding path to the Lungarno, where I stroll back to the apartment.
Which is why I have for once, written my blog entry AFTER supper - I did not come down from the mount until close to 8pm and was way too hungry to do anything but eat. I got an insalata mista (green salad) and a pomodoro e mozzarella panini and took it back to the apt, added some left over chicken to the plate and voila! Supper. Which brings me to now...it is almost 10pm and I am going to wander around a bit, call home because MVH (the daughter formerly known as Miss Ninja) has told me I am not contacting her enough! She is less interested in reading my blog, than she is in telling me all about what she has been up to - which suits me fine because I am missing not knowing what she is getting up to! Seems she is having loads of fun without me though, going to movies with friends, and having rootbeer floats at her Aunt Lynn's house. At this rate, she will want me to stay away for another three weeks!
Oh, I watched a few minutes of the news last night, although not speaking Italian, I did not have much of a clue what was going on, except that it seemed to be about some major economic crisis - they were flipping around to reporters in various world cities and seemed to be talking about banks, plus interviewing economists, etc...do I need to worry about the world going bankrupt before I have a chance to get home?! (Maybe someone can let me know if the sky is falling, otherwise I'll ignore it all until I do get home.)