Moving on

Today was a travel day.  We moved our base of operations from Rome to Florence.  Which limited our time in both.  So in Rome, all we did was:

– Three churches, one of which had another three Caravaggios.  That brings me up to, gee, I’ve lost count.  Eight?  Nine?  Something like that many Caravaggios.  Rome is full of the most beautiful churches that are incredibly well decorated and contain art by the masters.  You can walk down the street, stop into a random church (no entrance fee!), and expect to see at least one masterpiece inside.

– One dead rat.  I’ll spare you the photo I took.

One other observation about Rome, before I move on:

The original Romans were some of the best looters in history.  One of the places they looted was Egypt, taking away many obelisks that they used to decorate their various public spaces.  At some point over the years, Rome’s later masters moved those obelisks all around the city.  So in addition to running into random beautiful churches on any corner, you’re likely to find a random obelisk pop up where you least expect it.

But there’s one weird thing about all those obelisks.  Here’s the base of one:

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Note the guy on the bottom left, the one with a hawk head.  That’s Horus, an Egyptian god.  In fact, the carvings on the obelisk are all Egyptian religious writing.

But at the top of the obelisk, you find this:

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Those crazy Christian Romans didn’t even bother removing the pagan religious symbols. They just slapped a cross on top and figured it was now a Christian monument.

You can see this on a lot of the old Roman and Egyptian monuments throughout the city, though the symbols on top are not always crosses.  Sometimes they are statues of saints.  It’s an interesting approach to recycling.

After an education in the Italian train system, an education that only cost us an hour’s delay and a bit of stress, we find ourselves in Florence.  We enjoyed a rooftop snack in view of the Duomo.

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Then after a quick meal, we took an evening tour that told stories of various bloody doings in Florence.

My impression so far: Florence is an amazing place, where you see designer shops set in medieval towers.

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The Duomo is so beautiful and unusual that sometimes while looking at it I find it hard to believe it’s not just a model.

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And there’s all sorts of lovely views at night.

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But I am discovering to my chagrin that I did not do enough homework for this trip.  While I read a survey on Italian history, I did not study the history of Florence in detail the way I did Rome.  I did not memorize the Medicis in the way I memorized the Roman emperors.  (Yeah, I actually did that.  I’m a geek, I admit it.)

The result is that I’m failing horribly at serving as Julie’s guide.  Further, the place doesn’t have the same buzz for me as Rome, given that I am not steeped in its history.  I shall have to find a way to spend time over the next few days poring through Wikipedia.  What’s worse is that we’re headed to Venice in a few days and I didn’t study up on it either.  Sigh – better get cracking, Joe!

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