Florence: The Bargello (and Islamic Art)

Office (ministry, if you’d like) turned police station turned prison and so on…here you have the Bargello, now a museum featuring sculpture and art from the ducal collection.


I’ll say, I was initially disappointed that it’s open-air…t’was a cold day! But knowing how Italian museums lack air-conditioning in the summer…at least this offers ventilation (but little shade).


I didn’t take photographs in/of the loggia where the most famous artwork reside…I expect a simple Google image search would be able to churn out better pictures.

The exception being Alpheus and Aregula, for looking at it filled me with an intense longing for my ex.


There was a side-room on Islamic art that most people simply ignored, or walked through quickly (including the guided tours!)

I understand that this being Florence, they’ve got more than enough Florentine masters than they have time for, and besides, this is a minor collection. (Plus, nobody can deny that the religion has been getting a bad rep for the past decade or two).


A pity to miss these, though. First, Islamic mosaic art offers some visual refreshment from the oil paintings and sculptures of Florence. European art places much attention on the human/god figure, and on its portrayal of the spiritual experience. If craning your head to study the divine beings on the ceiling of the Duomo hurt your neck, here’s an alternative.

In Islam, they take the 2nd commandment seriously: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

As such, the glory of God and creation is portrayed through the mosaic form, through orderly but complex patterns in tapestry, through the simple beauty of calligraphy. You can catch a glimpse of all this at the little room in the Bargello.

Secondly, given how IS is being a menace and destroying so many things that Islam stands for, knowing real Islam is perhaps one of the only ways we steel ourselves against the falsity that is the IS.


Shopping in Florence: Bartolucci

Here’s a little clock and wood shop that’s lovely to browse.


Featuring Pinocchio at the door. Its author and creator, Carlo Collodi, is buried in Florence at a cemetery off Piazza Michelangelo.

Check out the clocks on the wall, and the plain but beautiful decorations on the tree.


I bought a fridge magnet for my niece (flat things are pretty much the only things that might survive a backpack…) but she has lost it. MEH.

Souvenirs for sale include Pinocchio marionettes of varying sizes and wooden toys such as made-to-order rocking horses, but if you’re a tourist with little space in the luggage, you’ll probably pick up little knick-knacks like wooden clips, bottle stoppers and the like.

Find this at Via Condotta in Firenze.

Today’s dinner: Camembert on Crackers!

Something I’ve been looking forward to! Just that every time I wanted this, we’d had too heavy a dinner to have this as dessert. Today, it was the meal proper.


Australian camembert, pate de jamon, Meiji crackers and seedless grapes.

Accompanied by Mazzei wine (that which I lovingly brought back from Fonterutoli in Tuscany, Italy) and uh, orange juice for my teetotaller friend.

Certaldo (centro storico)

No student worth her salt would do her honours year thesis on Chaucer without at least a cursory glance at Boccaccio’s Decameron. This was what drew me to the small town of Certaldo…

Your first sight of town from the train station will probably come across as slightly disappointing, as it looks like any other built-up post-war Italian town. The centro storico (historic centre) is located up on a hill, which makes perfect sense since this is a fortified medieval city we are talking about.


Pay a small fee for the ascensore, and you’ll find yourself in a rather quaint medieval town.


Wow, Christmas feels like ages ago even though it is only May.


I like that I pretty much had this place to myself, and could admire and examine the wall murals in a fairly up-close and personal fashion.


Apparently the family crests of then rich and powerful families.

The house of Boccaccio was disappointingly closed (just my luck…), but I did manage to pay my respects to the man himself in his church; he lies in the middle of the aisle.

That’s all for now…I think greater respect can be paid not by visiting his resting place, but by reading and enjoying his work.

Monteriggioni (to Castellina Scalo train station)

Examination marking takes a mental and physical toll on a teacher…Teachers are used to standing and walking, but the past week found me sitting at my table grading away with power naps in between, and only later did i realize that i haven’t moved from my seat for three hours or more, and it actually hurt to get up. I feel my fitness level going down so quickly it’s scary. Miss the walking I did on vacation!

Here’s Monteriggioni, apparently popularized by Assassins Creed.



It’s the towers that people come to see, but you’ll be walking on metallic gangplanks rather than the ramparts themselves.


A view over the (tiny) village..


I actually wonder what jobs exist here apart from the tourism industry.

The village, as you can see, doesn’t take long to explore, but you can take a leisurely walk to the nearest train station (Castellina Scalo) that is about a mile away.


Yes, supposedly part of the ancient Via Francigena pilgrim route.
exited Monteriggioni and went downhill to a flat path popular with joggers and friendly retired old men.



Castellina Scalo lay ahead…didn’t take any photos of that though!

My Favourite Place to Eat in Florence

I am in great need of comfort food, but after my holiday in Italy, I’ve steered clear of ordering pasta here for they tend to be rather disappointing. (unless cooked by me, for then I only have myself to blame)

When I think of the best meals I had in Italy, I think of the home-cooked ones I had at an Airbnb, and I think of Ristorante Self-Service Leonardo.

Located on the first floor (k, this bit confuses me as we don’t do the ground floor, 1st floor thing as they do in Europe. Here, I refer to the storey one up from the ground floor) of a building just viewable off The Duomo. The name doesn’t sound like much, and in fact the place doesn’t look like much either.

But man, the food!!!


You can see the food counter essentially looking like Ikea, or some school cafeteria, where you take a tray, pick a salad from the fridge if you want, point at the main you want, and it’s scooped onto a plate for you. Then you shuffle along to the dessert fridge, ending with the wines (bottled for the individual), thereafter the cashier.


Here’s the seating area – nothing posh, but who cares when the food is awesome and affordable?

I was a repeat customer, and you can see the variety of options that allowed me an entirely different meal whenever I was there – pastas, meats, wines, desserts.

Just thinking about the comfort food makes me sad that I can’t find something as simple, homely and satisfying here. Pasta tends to be run-of-the-mill, Italian trattorias are pretentious and you feel like you’re paying for the decor instead of the food. oh well.

Meet Zio (Uncle) Luciano, proprietor of the ristorante!


He calls me ‘bambina’ – apparently baby girl? The Asian feminist in me wants to bristle at the nickname but I also appreciate a boss who knows his returning customers and ‘bosses them around’ in a nice, uncle-y fashion. Perks of being a regular – he always instructs the kitchen to serve me a piping hot version of whatever dish I pick. Yay.


Ristorante Self-Service Leonardo
Via de Pecori 11, Firenze
Open for lunch and dinner daily (as of Dec 2014)

postcard from the Vatican: it arrived!

Bit of a belated post…but hello postcard!

Mailed: 29th Dicembre 2014
Stamped: 30th Dicembre 2014
Received: 23rd Febbraio 2015

Stamped: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace to people of good will.”

Random question: is there a different stamp for Lent, given that the Gloria is taken out of mass during the period of Lent?


Ciao dal Vaticano!

Wow…where has my postcard been all this while; languishing amidst the Christmas backlog? I’d given up hope on it, forgetting even that I sent it, and here it appears.

I sent one to my ex too, the very one who introduced this protestant here to catholicism. Every catholic church I stepped into reminded me of his all too conspicuous absence. Even so, if it hadn’t been for him, I would not have appreciated Italy the way I did. Previously, I was an iconoclast (and still am, a little), and I might’ve easily dismissed much of the sacred art and architecture as being the worship of idols but I have since gained a deeper understanding of the faith.

And if you were wondering whether a reply came from the ex, no, there wasn’t. To have given up expecting a reply and yet still harboring hope for communication is sometimes the hardest of all to bear. and quite sad and pathetic.

Have a good weekend, y’all.