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Report 454: Florence On My Own: Three Weeks of Studying Italian and Very Slow Travel

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2004

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Page 18 of 21: Mellowing out with Masaccio

Today is the first day since the very beginning of my stay that I have absolutely nothing on my agenda. So I enjoy a very late breakfast at “O!O” (pronounced “oh, oh” I assume), which is a “Bar con Cucina” on the little Piazza Piatellina, just up the street from Santa Maria del Carmine.

Actually, I start the day by taking a long walk to look for the Old Jewish Cemetery, which I suddenly notice on my trusty "Streetwise" map. It appears to be just a few streets from my apartment. When I get there, and finally find the entrance, I see that it is a very old cemetery, which had its last burial several centuries ago. The plaque also says that some authority (a bishop?) had given the Jews of the community permission to bury their dead within the walls of the city, a privilege that had been denied to the community before that time. Visits are possible only with a guide; twice a month, if I recall correctly.

Although I eat my breakfast at O!O, I purchase the pastry portion of it at a pasticcheria on the Via dell’Orto, the continuation of Via Santa Monica past the Carmine church. I see several people walking out with little white cake boxes, so I go in and buy two cornetti. I devour one immediately.

Then I pass O!O and decide to stop in for a coffee. It’s a very hip and modern-looking place, and the barista makes me a nice caffè latté, although it’s not terribly hot. I sit and read the front page of the newspaper (I can actually read “La Repubblica”!) then order another latté; this time it is only tepid. So while this place if very attractive, I’m not so sure about their level of competence. Or maybe they are breaking in a new barista.

I again walk by the Carmine church, which I have not yet visited this trip, despite the fact that I am constantly telling people about the beautiful the Masaccio frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel there. I see that they open at 1 pm today, and decide to come back later. Which I do. And I get into the chapel without waiting, as I have serendipitously timed it just right. The frescoes are indeed very beautiful, especially the famous, striking one of Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden. I think I prefer the Masaccio frescoes to the others in the chapel, done by Lippi. I try to see if I can tell who did which. (Sometimes I really am an insufferable art snob!)

I also have not yet visited Santa Maria Novella, which has a beautiful, recently restored Masaccio fresco depicting the Trinity, a fresco that art historians credit as being the first work to exhibit an understanding of perspective. Whether or not this is the case, I take a not-too-long walk over to the church to see it again. I also love the façade of this beautiful church: In an ideal world one could stand in the beautiful Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and gaze at this church; in the real world the piazza is full of hawkers of all sorts of junk, and various tourists and hanger-on. But the church is still lovely, as is the cloister and of course the frescoes.

I return home slowly, across the Ponte alla Carraia. Believe it or not, it has taken me until now to discover the Gelateria Ponte alla Carraia, right at the foot of the Via dei Serragli where it meets the Lungarno Soderini, and about two minutes from my apartment. I try a mixture, and it is wonderful. They also have benches at both entrances where you can usually sit and eat. Some people also sit on the walls overlooking the river.

For an early dinner, I stop at Trattoria Diladdarno, on the Via Serragli. I’ve noticed this several times and decide to try it. The small entryway leads to a larger dining room and then a garden, where I opt to sit. Although the food is good, somehow the meal is not a success. Maybe I am sitting in the sun. Maybe it is the fact that the waitress has very little patience with my imperfect Italian. Maybe it is the (Italian) family across the room, a mother, father and adult son, who are not all happy with their food. At least the mother is not. She keeps on complaining that she got hardly any food. Finally the waiter offers to bring her a second portion: As he walks away, she smiles a smile of victory at her tablemates.

But tomorrow I am looking forward to the big Florence ST GTG at Mario’s. Some of us will be meeting beforehand with Diva to go through the Mercato Centrale. But now to bed.

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