Together With Friends In Florence

I had gelato for dinner today. I’m an adult and I’m on vacation and I can make that decision. It had been a long day, with a big transition, and I wasn’t especially hungry, so I didn’t want a big meal, but rather just a quick bite, so I had gelato for dinner.

This morning when I got up I had to make a decision about what time to leave Perugia for Florence, which is where my conference begins tomorrow. I could either leave immediately, or would have to wait until after noon and somehow sneak in lunch. With rain again threatening and priority given to meal planning I decided on the earlier train.

So I packed up, checked out, and headed back down the escalators to the Minimetro station. The little car arrived promptly (they stop about every 90 seconds or so) and took me the rest way down the hill to the train station.

Two hours later I descended from the train in the chaos of lunchtime. The language of the surrounding conversations, caught in syllables and rhythms, had changed from Italian (with a little English and others thrown in) to English (with a little Italian and others thrown in). I had suddenly stepped out of Italy and into Florence.

I exited the train station, advancing through the throng, moving deeply into the familiar streets that hold so many memories for me. I have left countless invisible footprints here. In this ancient city I have traveled with Mom and Dad, Premila, Stacey, and Dan, and the impressions of those footfalls appear all over this town, in the monumental landmarks, around unexpected corners, and down shadowy alleyways. I may be traveling by myself in this trip, but I am not alone.

I checked into my hotel, which has now become my regular place, and departed to find lunch, a meal of pappardelle with boar sauce, very typical for the region. I hadn’t eaten much but was still full from last night’s meal, so quickly moved on.

Considering my afternoon, I immediately ruled out most of the prominent tourist sites. I have seen most of the major ones, and frankly the lines are ridiculous. The line stretching around the corner of the Duomo immediately reinforced my prior habit of traveling in the low season.

One thing I haven’t previously seen here is La Specola, the museum of zoology. In addition to many preserved animals (that make me sad), there is a museum of medical wax models there, with a room of obstetric complications. I have been to the obstetric museum many times in Bologna, but have never been to its counterpart here, so this appealed to me.

Crossing the River Po on the Ponte Vecchio, the rain was just beginning as I reached the museum. I arrived just before the last tour of the wax museum started, and was relieved. The guide described the process involved, noting that the wax models are quite fragile and we should try not to create vibrations which might damage them. This last point reinforced a decision Giovanni Antonio Galli in Bologna made 250 years ago. Galli was concerned about the fragility of wax, so the models there are made of clay.

We walked into the room of fabulous wax models of joints, hearts, skulls, brains and other organs. The skeletal system, circulatory system, and lymphatic systems were all displayed in furious detail. And then the news broke. The obstetric room was closed.

I tried to enjoy the rest of the tour, but I just can’t get that excited about a wax model of an eyeball.

By the time I left the museum the rain had stopped, so wandered for a bit until the dinner hour was finally approaching. That’s when I made my decisions. Of course, the line at Vivoli was the longest I’ve seen. Still, I had made a decision and wouldn’t be denied. So I got online and found an alternate site for a great meal.

I had gelato for dinner tonight, and it was great. A few minutes later when I wanted dessert, the answer was easy. I had more gelato.

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