Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Over The River And Up The Hill

10:00AM January 18

Yesterday Adam, John, and I got up for the noon walk around the city with our peer advisor who would show us some of the places we might like to know about in our area. We met at the Piazza Liberta, which is on the route to campus each day and has two arches that resemble the one in Washington Square, but bigger, grander, and older. Overall we found our own wanderings just as informative, but we did stop at the end for gelato on NYU’s treat. I had pistachio and coffee crunch. Each was fabulous.

Along the route we were joined by other people from nearby off-campus residences, and we decided to head off wandering with a group of girls towards the Palazzo Vecchio (where the ruling family of Florence used to live). This was the first time I really felt like a tourist and I snapped a ton of pictures, taking in a lot of the high-profile attractions in Florence. Next door is the Uffizi Gallery, which used to be a grand administrative building for the ruling Medici family of Florence. Uffizi is right along the river, and the bridge there, the Ponte Vecchi, is built up with buildings on either side and a hidden passage above which the Medici family used to escape the city in private.

We crossed the bridge, famous for its jewelry stores, and began to wander on the other side of the river when I noticed an entrancing alleyway with stairs that led up the hill on the other side. We were all captivated by this sight, and decided to journey up the hill through a quiet neighborhood along the opposite side of the river. As I noticed, without any front-yard, these city-dwelling Italians put a special emphasis on their doors, which are all huge and generally have nice carvings and great door-knockers on them. It is a way of expressing some pride in the curb appeal of their homes. We walked up this hill until we reached an old fortress at the top, all the while looking for the great view from above the city. At the fortress was an entrance to the Medici Family’s botanical gardens where they could escape the city. We decided not to pay the entrance fee in this off-garden season, opting to take in those sights another day.

We then crossed back over the river further east and went to see the Santa Croce by daylight. It is amazing how many buildings there are here of that high quality that have been preserved into these times. We had been walking all day, and so decided to head back to the girls’ apartment for a large dinner. We cooked some fettucine in marinara sauce with a tomato-bread salad on the side. It was a great meal that we all lingered over for some time, opening several bottles of wine and talking for hours.

We then went back to the Jazz Club to see a group called I.F.S. (Italian Funky Sound.) This was much better than the group we saw the other night. They were quite funky for some Italians, with two saxes, three trumpets, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, and accordion going through wah pedal. That was something new to me, but it really worked; the accordion somewhat resembled Stevie Wonder’s clavinet, and the guy who played it would have fit right in with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. They didn’t play anything particularly difficult, (the hardest tune was probably Herbie’s “Cantaloupe Island”) but their sound as a group was solid and groovin’. A good time was had by all, as many of the girls were interested in going back to the jazz club again soon. I know I’ll be back on either Tuesday or Wednesday night for the jazz and blues jam sessions.

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