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05 December 2010 @ 03:08 am
2010 Travel Advent-ures of Brammers, part 6  
Shorter catch-up tonight, as I am happily knackered after dinner, blather and delicious but enormous ice-cream with the gorgeous, brilliant and hugely personable pushdragon . The only  thing that could have improved it was absent friends -- you all know who you are! raitala  art has being delivered, she has a teeny gift for meredyth_13 , and we can both heartily recommend both Encasa Spanish restaurant on Pitt St in Sydney and Passionflower ice-cream in the food thingy near the Capitol Theatre. That rose-lychee was amazing. I may not be quite as useful in the writing and spelling departments as I usually am ...

But back to Italy! Friends of mine were coming to town for the textiles conference we were attending, and we had decided to take an apartment for most of the next week. This is always a good idea if you are going to be anywhere for any length of time, especially if you are travelling in a group and know the area already (tip: check the cleaning costs are included in the rates to avoid a late shock). Ours was on via delle Belle Donne, which is right near via della Spada -- home of the wonderful art book shop and most delicious bread shop I know. I believe this is where my plan to lose a few pounds through increased fitness fell down, as no matter how much walking and lugging of heavy books I managed in a day, there was always the magnificent olive-oil drenched tomato bread or tomato pizza to stuff my face with partake of genteelly at the end of the day (and maybe for brunch and just a quick bit before they close up for the afternoon, too ...)

Back to the flat, it was a very good idea, and a very beautiful set of rooms. The library  my room was a little eclectic -- seven books by Herman Hesse, three in German, two in Italian, two in English, and a Jodi Picoult. It was clean, comfortable, architect-modern in a traditional but lovely building (and if you would like the details, feel free to email me). The one downside was that the 'two short flights of stairs' mentioned by the agents equated to 53 winding stairs that left you a bit puffed if you were also lugging large bags or loads of shopping. They were fine if you weren't, though! 

My friends appeared, hugs were exchanged, and we all trekked down to sign in at the conference. Around about here we realised that the conference was not going to be quite as smooth as the wonderful one we had attended two years ago, however, we ran into loads of other friends, so decided we would cope with the fact that the organisation was being run by gibbons this year.

Over dinner that night, we made our plans. Although the conference theoretically ran all day every day, we decided that we could miss a few of the early sessions, and skip the ones that didn't interest us, and spend the time on doing interesting things instead. For this reason, we found ourselves at Santa Trinita on via Tornobuoni early the next day, marvelling at the Ghirlandaio frescoes. I took some bad photos, of which this is one: 
See this person's flickr stream for a far better set -- I am congenitally unable to use a flash in a museum or church, it's one of the few things I do see as sacrilege! 

My friends, H1 and H2, then went off to the Profuma-Farmeceutica di Santa Maria Novella to stock up on beautiful scents and soaps and so on, but as I knew I would need all my luggage space for books, I went to the conference, and was mildly interested in what I learned there. That afternoon, we swapped. They went along and were good attendees, while I went to the Pitti Palace, home of the Fashion Gallery and some truly divine frocks. After pining after several astonishingly lovely gowns spanning three centuries (and rumbling two other conference evacuees, who I sent off to the good art book shop -- they thanked me later, it's that good!), I decided it was walking time again.

The day was fine again, but rains were forecast to return, so I wanted to make it through the Boboli Gardens and to Giardino Bardini, one of the places I had always wanted to go, but never had. It was a Very Good Choice. First, for those who haven't been there, some Boboli:

I met this lovely little dog and it's girl and her mother. I have about 15 shots of this dog as a complete blur, and nice girl was trying very hard to hold it still for me. She decided I was an excellent person as everyone else grumbled when small dog leapt at them, whereas I and one nice elderly gent were thrilled and gave a suitable number of pats. She may also have decided she liked me as we were both wearing our hair in two plaits -- on her it looked far saner, but it was a windy day, so I wore mine for practical reasons!

And, of course, there are also cats at the Boboli -- unlike puppy, this one gave me only a brief look before deciding that the absence of food on my part constituted more than adequate reason for an absence of care on its.

One of my favourite things is in this garden, the Medici Grotto by Buontaletti. Many people have deep and meaningful appreciations for its artistic merits and its significance in the history of landscape gardening. For me, it's all about the concrete sheep, underneath the sitting shepherd on the left: 

I met a lovely British couple wandering around the gardens and ended up guiding them down here, because they shared my passion for sheep. I tried to remember details about Buontaletti's career, and failed. Laughing, I said that memory fades in old age. The woman snorted and said, 'You're what? Twent--'

'Forty-three,' I interrupted.


'Truly. You were fooled by the plaits. Sunblock and moisturiser are the keys!'

Feeling more than a little certain that the woman normally wore glasses, but chuffed nonetheless, I trotted off to the piece of sculpture that will convince even the perviest fangirl that not all men should be seen naked --

From here it was a walk back up the central spine of the garden, then a fang left at the top and round to the very very lovely Giardino Bardini. Although the ticket to the Boboli includes the Bardini, not many people make the effort, which is a terrible shame as it is a wonderful garden, and far more suited to the tastes of many garden visitors. Everyone else who was on the road there was an Italian, and since the path is a bit winding and tricky, there was a lovely sequence of the people in front shouting back useful information to the people behind to make sure no one was lost.

It was worth the journey! When you walk in through the doors there is a map, and then a twist, and then you come out to see this sculpture ...

and then this view ...

The garden itself is a mix of periods. The structures and most of the underlying scheme are classically Renaissance, while the plantings are more inspired by eighteenth and nineteenth century styles, including very English influences (only fair given how much we nicked from Rome) and proper botanical specimens. What catches your eye first is how green it all is ...

And then you realise how sculpture-filled it is ...

In spring, this arbour is laden with gorgeous wisteria. But even in late autumn it is still beautiful and the hydrangeas underneath are still showing the last of their flowers.

Have a few more details ...

It was around about this point that it began to rain again, and so even though it was tempting to do a second lap, I decided that I could always come back. Alas, that was the last nice day, but it will be there the next time I am in Firenze. To leave the garden, you wind down the hill back towards via del Bardi, past this dog and his friends ...

At which point, if you are like me, you will immediately regret the fact that you decided against a second lap.
being_herebeing_here on December 4th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
I love reading your travel posts. They make me miss Italy so much! The last time I was in Florence was for my 21st, and my mum came out to be with me. It was a couple of years before she died, and I just cannot face going back again. But I loved it so much and feel almost constantly torn between wanting to go back and just not feeling able to.

um. Yeah. Sorry. this was meant to be a compliment about your post, not self absorbed waffling!

Edited at 2010-12-04 04:17 pm (UTC)
Kieranfilmatleven on December 4th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
ooooomg *wants to go!*
rickey_arickey_a on December 4th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
hooray for travels and meetups with friends
beautiful photos
Jaeenchanted_jae on December 4th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
You need your own special on...THE TRAVELCHANNEL!

auntpurl: H is for holy crapauntpurl on December 4th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
I cried when I saw those Ghirlandaio frescoes. Literally cried. The vibrancy of the colours took my breath away. That chapel is just overwhelming.
ecosopher: strawberriesecosopher on December 4th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, beautiful gardens.

Meredythmeredyth_13 on December 5th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)

Aw, I didn't know Push was popping up to see you! But pressie for Moi? *claps hands with glee*

You spoil me, dearest. I'm not worthy.

In other news, I am kind of stuck at the concrete sheep, which make me think of sad New Zealanders. My brain, it is a bad, bad place.

I love your travel stories, and the pics are beautiful. You are such an educated and enlightened traveller - you constantly awe me.

george pushdragonpushdragon on December 5th, 2010 07:15 am (UTC)
My trip here is the only reason I'm not currently sitting on your sofa watching s.3 Merlin! (Instead I'm watching a dodgy doco called What if Zombies Really Attacked or some such on national geographic - this sort of trash is why I'm never allowed to get pay TV.)

How about next weekend? On Saturday 10th I have a BBQ in the north, and in the evening a gig in the north east, so in the afternoon I'm kind of in your neck of the woods, or at least somewhere around the upper torso.
Meredythmeredyth_13 on December 6th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
Zombies FTW (except that new show Walking Dead, which is CRAP).

Yeah, I'll probably be around. There's a new expansion in WoW coming out tonight, so I'm basically without a husband for the foreseeable future. :D

I'll let you know if anything changes, but my couch is your couch. It might help to re-watch the end of Merlin S3 with someone, as I had a very ambivalent reaction to the finale. :(


Let me know what time, yeah? Just so I don't pop out somewhere.
george pushdragon: bittenpushdragon on December 5th, 2010 07:11 am (UTC)
Oh my god ... I am spoiled forever - nothing I eat in future will ever match the devil's own patatas bravas! Such a lovely night, and I do feel like I got a free tour of Italy just from looking through your photos. Thank you so much for organising our itinerary.