Goodbye Florence, Hello Cremona
Beth was willing to go with us to the Mercato Centrale so we walked out onto the Duomo square, beside a carriage awaiting a customer by the renovated Bigallo Museum (which now boasts the oldest depiction of Florence – a fresco), and after making our way through the market stalls in the San Lorenzo market, we stepped into the first floor of one of the most exciting markets we know. First stop is always to visit with the Conti’s at their gourmet shop to the left. Stefano, Grazia, and their son Manuel are so engaging, always giving tastings of olive oil. Beth got to do a whole course of 15, 25, and 35 year-old balsamic vinegar tastings from a tiny plastic spoon. The texture gets thicker and smoother and the taste more intense, the longer the vinegar stays in those magic little barrels. They also had a real peppery olive oil fresh from last month’s harvest. We hope it doesn’t break in our luggage and get all over our clothes. It’s much better on salads and soups. After Beth filled a huge cloth Conti shopping bag full of pantry treasures, we showed her the fresh pasta producers. The walls are all glass so you can salivate while watching the different pastas get stretched, rolled, and filled. They go straight from the bowl to the display case for purchasing, bringing home, and plopping into a big pan of boiling water. A quick trip for ga-ga’s upstairs at the brilliantly colorful stacks of winter fruits and vegetables and we were finished.
We said goodbye to Beth after a week of lots of jazz, photos, food, and fun. Since we had just enough time to see the paintings at this year’s I Mai Visti (see yesterday’s blog) we headed down to the Piazza Signoria, where there is a beautiful Fleur de Lis (the symbol of Florence) in cyclamen, and beyond to the Uffizi. The title of this year’s exhibition “Bread of Angels” sounds like some obscure biblical reference but we found out when we went in that the theme of the exhibit is actually the central theme of the Old and New Testament scriptures: how we got alienated from God and how He got us back together with Him again. This theme unfolded chronologically and made sense as we walked around the room, freshly absorbing the story in pictures.
First, as the exhibit theme announced is an Old Testament scene showing manna falling from heaven into baskets and into out-held aprons; a foreshadowing of One who would come from heaven to give life to the world as mentioned in John 6 in the New Testament. Then there’s a painting of another classic fore-
shadowing of Christ’s sacrifice - Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac; and painted very faintly nearby is a ram showing that God would provide Himself a sacrifice. Next is a rather severe looking God creating Adam followed by a painting of Eve giving Adam an apple from a tree with a nasty looking horned reptile in its branches. More predictions of the Father sending His Son down from heaven follow with an annunciation/conception showing an angel speaking with Mary and a light from an overhead dove beaming down toward Mary's womb. Then there are several nativities including Joseph and lots of shepherds.
Next a painting shows Jesus’ young family resting along the way as they’re escaping to
I imagined a Florentine curator with a checklist going through the Uffizi warehouse selecting paintings - not just to tell the story of the Nativity or the Passion Week, but to tell the larger story. And with the bigger picture we could see how God wanted Eve and Adam and Herod and Judas and Thomas back and what He did to bring them back to Him.
On to the train station where the big clicking screen informs us that the train departing
Anne had a bowl of melt in your mouth spinach gnocchi. Other selections on the menu included the other famous Cremonese dish, marubini (meat filled pasta pillows) in brodo (broth) and of course gnocchi di zucca (pumpkin). We always look for the most local wines but because this is not a wine producing region, we went for something dark from Montepulciano until we get a better handle on what’s good with boiled meat and spicy fruit.
After dinner, we passed about 7 luthiers who will open on Monday morning so I can watch them create violins and cellos. The windows are interesting with sample necks and bridges and ancient templates; but I want to see the tool bench and see the masters at work. Can’t wait.
A walk to the main piazza convinced us that this is a town of enough substance that we won’t be eager to leave anytime soon. There are thousand year old arched loggias with frescoed ceilings. The cruciform Duomo has multiple layers of colonnaded walkways in the façade and a loggia along the roof line all the way around. A massive five story octagon baptistery on the right of it balances a 111 meter belltower (
There are museums and palaces everywhere with columns and pediments and many have terra cotta friezes above the first floor line. There’s even a legend that Hercules, the city’s mythical founder is buried underneath the town somewhere.
All we knew about