Michelangelo and David

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1,300,000 tourists annually visit the Museum dell Accademia to gaze in awe at the statue of David by Michelangelo. It is arguably the most beautifully, indeed perfectly, proportioned marble representation of the male form. Some erudite artists and anatomists, argue that the hands are slightly out or proportion, being too large. Whilst others, I suspect with a twinge of jealousy, state categorically that they would be prepared to testify in a court of law that the testicles are a touch too voluminous.

Having a partially expressed engineering/mechanical genetic trait – thanks to my father- combined with a not too flamboyant artistic flair, I pondered a potential catastrophe. What would happen if the great sculptor himself or one of his beautiful attractive young artisans delicately chipping then polishing the testicles, should say sneeze and hence mar the marble of David’s manhood? Perhaps this is the derivation of that universal exclamation of frustration?

Michelangelo may well have uttered

well that was a balls up, Ascanio “!

Poor Ascanio being Michelangelo’s apprentice and possibly the young man he lusted after.

Another 16 tonne lump of marble was ordered to be delivered within the week by elephant express and poor Ascanio assigned to mass producing Plaster of Paris fig-leaves for a very large number of nude Roman and Greek adolescent male youths, a lucrative back order from the Vatican.

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The Florence Card – a tourist pass

These past two or three days have been spent hiking the sights of Florence in rather relentless summer heat. There are picture post card attractions familiar to all. I won’t bore you, honestly. My instinctive urge to move on, is bubbling up. A day in the countryside tomorrow!

A few comments. Buy a Florence Pass, especially if you intend to stay for 3 days or more. The concept is fabulous, although the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Its plastic and the same size as a credit card with a unique barcode. It claims you “bypass the queues” – worth the 72 euro alone! Sadly it’s not straightforward. At each “attraction” there is a, mostly fairly obvious, marked separate queue for the Florence card holders. How simple – short queue and scan bar coded card and “prego”! Sadly, no. One is required to find the separate Ticket Office for many attractions, no mean feat in itself, and there you will be required to queue (granted its a less lengthy one for the Florence cardholders) and purchase a separate paper ticket. Clutching this separate piece of paper, you return to the second, shorter queue at the aforementioned attraction.

It became obvious to me that the 2 step process is frustrating for both tourist and the ticket collector at the gate. Many tourists assume that the activated Florence Card is simply scanned at the entrance, and for the Italian gatekeeper they have to spend sometimes several minutes, trying to explain in limited English (forget about trying limited Japanese!) that it’s not the system. Tempers flare and the queue grinds to a halt. The reluctant tourist eventually is forced around and back outside passed the thousands, to find the Ticket Office. This is of itself a significant challenge! At the Duomo, we circumnavigated the Baptistery four times looking for the ticket office, twice clockwise then twice counterclockwise, based on the directions of the Italian lass at the turnstiles from which we were dejectedly ejected! Thankfully at other sites, the process was more transparent and simple!

There is an inviolate “theory of access” at Italian museums, cathedrals and monasteries, which I choose to call The Rule of Thirds: On any given day, a third of attractions are closed on that day, a third are closed for renovation, hidden behind scaffolding, with a sign which states the site is scheduled to be opened 15 months from whatever should be the date on which you turn up, the final third are open!

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Florence – tourists and an opera concert performance

It’s 7:30 am and I wander through a flock of pigeons then three flocks of Japanese tourists, there being more tourists than pigeons in Florence at any one time, irrespective of the season. I sit my music on a wrought iron lamp post on a cement balustrade along the River Arno and start to practice. Within a millisecond of my first note, there is a huge screech, much flapping and panic amongst the flocks, dust rises and there is a general sense of escaping from an approaching Tsunami – although the pigeons, are totally unruffled, remaining earth bound, pecking and courting each other skillfully avoiding the stampeding tourists.

We meander aimlessly at dusk and pass hundreds of what seems to be the stock commercial attraction of Florence: leather outlets alternating with “artisan” gelato caf├ęs. In a crowded piazza, adolescent boys ply their wares. One of which is a small parachute like affair with an LED light that the boys catapult into the air with an amazing degree of skill. They seem to attain the outer atmosphere. Rule number 1: avoid eye contact with them. Terry, foolish man, breaks that rule and we return to the apartment later that night with 12 of these contraptions. In the light of day Terry is still uncertain as to how this happened and more disconcertingly, how many Euros with which he parted company for the purchase.

Our apartment is within an old mansion and is quite convenient as it fronts the river and the main tourist route to the Duomo runs along one side. From about 8am a continuous stream of tourists hurry along in bunches of about 20 or more. In fact their relentless passing reminds me of aircraft banked up at a busy international airport all on final approach to the runway with a separation distance of 100 metres.

After a less than exciting evening meal – an ordinary seafood salad with limp iceberg lettuce and anaemic tomatoes, we went to a concert of famous operatic arias in an intimate performing space of what was a large church. The young soprano was big of voice and bosom. The baritone matched her in all aspects other than bust. The were accompanied by a slim, elegant female pianist in her early 50s. She was dressed in a cool black cotton dress and the highest high heels in all of Christendom. To my utter disbelieve she sat at the piano and I was mesmerized not so much by her hands, but by her black sequined high heels , the points of which appeared lethal. Consequently her pedal foot and shoe had the distinct appearance of a miniature cello with its tail spike firmly pinned into the wooden floor at a very acute angle. So shod, she pedaled with all the aplomb of a seasoned performer.

Below are a few predictable and familiar pictures of Florence.

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