Saturday, February 6, 2010

Nostalgia del cupolone

I climbed to the top of the Duomo. I know, you cant believe it either. It was magnificent. People in this town consider the Duomo their central masterpiece. Brunelleschi's arcitectural genius is the pride of all the Fiorentines, and having the opportnity to go and see it was something my friends and I were all looking forward to. I got up early in the morning and set out with my girl and two of our boys with this in mind. Best 8 Euro I've ever spent. We met up outside of the Gates of Paradise, created to adorn the Romanesque exterior arches of the Battistero after an intense aristic competition between Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti (and yes dad, when I saw them for the first time after I got here I thought of you). My roomie and I sat waiting for the boys and people watched for about twenty minutes, hated on some pigeons, and when the guys finally came we were excited to get our adventure through history started.

The Duomo's construction began in the year 1296 and wasn't completed until 1887 so we knew we were in for a day of awesomeness. The second we walked into the cathedral I'm pretty sure all our jaws dropped right onto the mosaic floor. The statues are huge; they look like they are so old they should be crumbling into dust and the fact that they are just as beautiful now as they were hundreds and hundreds of years ago amplifies that beauty by maybe 45 thousand. We saw incredible frescos and stained glass. We were able to look up at the gigantic fresco of The Last Judgment inside the dome, painted by Vasari after the Duomo's completetion. It was 25 different sorts of flabbergasting. It was gigantic and that made the place feel eerily empty. It was a cool sort of eerie, though. You could almost feel the energy that a place like the cathedral would produce packed full with worshipers on a good Sunday. We hung around for a little while and then decided we'd seen enough and were ready to get our workout on. I'm extremely excited to get back into the cathedral for mass.

We walked around to a side door and mentally prepared ourselved for the intensity of what we were about to do. When Brunelleschi designed the Duomo, he designed it to include an exceptionally rigorous route to the top. The final construction consists of 463 steep steps that wind around and around; the idea of climbing this was almost torturous but the four of us knew that it would be worth it and approached the challenge with gusto. We paid our 8 Euro and were swiped inside, not knowing what to expect. Its a small coridoor and then steps. And steps and steps and steps. The sign outside of the door says in a variety of languages that this climb is not for pregnant women, people with heart disease, etc. etc., and they aren't kidding. What they don't mention that is important to know is that this climb is also not for anyone whose claustrophobic. Its super narrow. Only one person can climb up at a time and its very difficult to get by when there are people moving downwards. After the first 30 or so steps you're huffing and puffing and dreading the rest of your ascent. It definitely helped to have friends there to encourage each other, because when one of us started cursing the others would help with jokes and motivating words. Its kind of a shame to see, though, because the walls are COVERED in graffiti of things like "Gianna was here 2005" or "Ti Amo Moreno sempre!". I hate those people for ruining something so much more important then they are. My legs were yelling at me after about 20 minutes and I was extremely relieved when the stairway opened up because it was finally over.

Yeah, it wasn't over. I wasn't even halfway done. I was happy, though, because stepping onto that little walkway and being so close to Vasari's painting was absolutely incredible. Seriously. It was amazing, magnificent, beautiful, extraordinary, astonishing, gorgeous, inspring, awesome, fabulous, wonderful, prodigious, marvelous, unimagineable, terrific, remarkable, outstanding, phenomenal, and wicked sweet. There are more adjectives, but honestly there just aren't enough to adequately describe the excellence of this fucking place. I couldn't believe my eyes. For a solid ten minutes we all just stood around and pointed at the different things in this fresco. Its a really fun scene to look at, there are images of heaven and hell, monsters and angels and people ripping themselves in half. Theres a really sweet scene of Jesus in a halo of golden light and another sweet scene of a demon stuffing his ripped open stomach with humans. We were reluctant to leave but knew we'd be even more amazed by the sight of Firenze from so high up. We hit the stairs again and guess what? It was even narrower and even steeper and literally wound around at an impossible angle. The staircase was as spiral as they come. More than you're thinking, reader. We got dizzy after 10 steps and as we approached the top our brains were still spinning. We saw a little coridoor on the way up and the room at the end was occupied by a little security guard. I asked him if he had to climb those steps everyday and the look he gave me made me feel so bad that I'm sure those steps weren't included in the job description. Poor guy. Beware when doing this that as you get to the top it only gets harder. The stairs get to be ladderlike and feel like they are three steps deep. Its hard, but worth it, because once you make it through the little trap door the sight will leave you speechless.

After we hung out up there for a while, more contented than we'd been since we arrived, we started to make our way down. The vertigo, guys, is enough to send any person reeling. I wonder about the unfortunate people who couldn't handle it and fell down. Imagine falling down 463 steps? Its not pleasant even walking down them. Again the graffiti will make you sick, but there was one thing written that said "Brunellechi is Magic" and it made all four of us smile. We got stuck behind an Asian guy who after every 5 steps or so woud look back and gesture "1 second" at us, take 30 seconds to get some pictures, and then move on and do it again. My roomie kept looking back at us and pulling on her eyelids to make herself look Asian, making the same silly gesture at us. We were ready to push him down but thankfully there was a brief stop in a small room. It held big statues of what I think were the people who helped in the design and contruction of the Duomo. The Asian guy stayed there to take pictures, hes probably still there taking them, and we got go around him. We made it all the way down a couple minutes later, all of us significantly happier and feeling like we'd been touched, for a short little while, by God himself. You should all definitely make the trip up if you're in Florence. Arrivederci, for now! Love, Gabby

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