Friday, July 9, 2010


Well it is Friday, July 9th. I just got dropped off at my hotel after a evening get together with the students up at the institute. It was a fun relaxing time after a tough week of study. I worked all day in the hot, hot, heat at the library with NO air conditioning. I am done my research on my chapel, so I decided to hang out with the under 25 gang. However, one of the students is older and he is from Italy and all week he has demonstrated excellent gentleman manners. He would have never seen me unescorted back to my hotel so he gave me a lift as he has his car here. The other night he walked Corinna back and would hear nothing of her walking by herself. He pulls out our chairs, offers to take our load from our arms, stands when we leave the table - it seems odd to us Canadian gals. I truly appreciated the lift as I had my computer with me and it is quite heavy. It is also 12:30 a.m. but surprisingly quiet downtown. He could not get all the way down my street as there is a 'camera' and you need a permit. It is a 250 Euro fine. In two years time they are also going to levy an emissions tax on all goods to help the environment and to raise public funds. Giuseppe (Joseph, the Italian gentleman) said even the 'camera' fines have helped to keep taxation down in the cities. It also reduces the use of vehicles in the city. They call downtown - the city - as it is the old walled in city. So I hope my boys and others now have learned a lesson or two about treating an old lady like me!

Yesterday we had a fantastic tour. It was with our other instructor, Stefano Corazzini who was very knowledgeable about the Medici family. He toured us through the Palazzo Vecchio. This is the old palace built by my friend Cosimo Medici. I am so interested in their story. Remember Eleanor did not like her castle and went out and bought the Pitti Palace on her own. So in we went to the palace she rejected. One thinks she had a lavish life, but really she was a prisoner in her own palace. She had 11 children. The first born thankfully was a boy but not a warrior like his father. In fact he loved alchemistry and was obsessed with collections of coral and pearls and plants and seeds for his potions. This was blasphemy against the teachings of the church. When you go into the palace you enter the court yard. Vasari did all the decorations, paintings and design schemes. Inside it is extensively decorated. The next room is the great hall. On one side is the scenes from the victory over Pisa by the Republic and the other side is the victory over Sienna when Cosimo was in charge. It took four years to conquer Pisa and only 14 months I believe for the Medici to take Sienna. The ceiling is covered with paintings. We were able to go above the ceiling to see the truss system, original beams and the way they have supported the paintings and frames in place. Then we were taken to the 'secret' tunnels and rooms. The oldest son has a room built that resembles a treasure box. Vasari's paintings are on all the secret cabinets and they make a map with clues in the painting as to what is stole away in the cupboards. Of course the door is camouflaged and part of the 'secret'. Francesco I de' Medici was different than his father and had this private secret studiolo made for him. However the tunnels lead us on - his father too had a secret room for his treasures, and of course Eleanora had her special room as well. Her room though had a spy screen, so she could amuse herself and peer down at the great hall to the many goings on that women were not allowed to partake. Then we entered Eleanora's private chapel. It is something to consider her living in this manner at such a young age. But, she never left the palace, it was unsafe out there, that is why everyone lived in towers. If I recall correctly she never did live over in the new palace. It was not ready until after her death.

After class I went back to my chapel to study and then into the Spanish Chapel which was made for Eleanor's relatives when they came a callin' from Spain. It is amazing as well. Many of them are buried there. Then I went up to the institute till late and wondered down to the golden bridge for supper. I ate a modest meal at a fancy restaurant that looked over the Arno.

Today our tours were canceled due to the 'strike' with transportation. They respected the workers and ran the buses in the a.m. I went to the institute for a lecture with Michele and then stayed there to work all day on my research. I am done my research. Now to formulate all that I learned into an essay and power point. That is why I stayed out late to celebrate with the other students. In many ways the hotel is nice, but in others we miss out on the interactions with the other students, which is part of the experience.

It is very late here and I am too tired. I do promise photos. I may have to insert them when I get home. I am so pleased that all my technology is working well.

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