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Italy travelogue, part XIII

We taxi over to the Pitti Palace as it’s quite a ways from our  hotel, and we know there’ll be a lot of walking involved there. Oh boy, was  there.
We opt for the garden tour, which includes the silver and porcelain  and costume museums. The ticket clerk says it takes about two hours. Sounds  perfect.
Let me say unless we’d power walked through the whole deal we  couldn’t have managed it in two hours. But it was worth it.
There’s no silver for quite a while in the silver museum, but what  there is, is amazing, unbelievable ivory carvings. I’ve never seen such work. We  didn’t do this half of the tour when we were here before–opting that time for  the Medici apartments. These works of art are impossibly delicate and intricate.  One has a kind of spiral staircase winding around, hardly big enough for fleas.  So tiny and beautiful. We marvel it could still be in one piece after all these  years.
Some are statues–again intricate and beautiful, but many are just  objects d’art, displayed in glass cases under a fantastic trompe d’oeil ceiling.  The ceiling is so beautiful and wonderfully done you can’t tell if there are  real banisters, or if the ceiling’s domed in part. It’s not–just the skill of  the artists. One of the ivory pieces is carved out with a tiny portrait painted  inside, another has a little chandelier suspended in it. It’s impossible to know  how the artists created these little masterpieces.
Then a room with cups and bowls and tables made of jasper and agate  and onyx, amethyst, lapis. Some cups are translucent they’re so thin. And the  gold work on them in stunning. The inlaid tables are marvelous, but there’s a  big chest, with the stonework fronting the drawers–and there’s little scenes  painted on the agate if you look close enough. Topping it is a gold clock. 
There’s almost too much to take in, every display is more beautiful  than the last. And the ceilings in each room are marvels of their  own.
If I do a heist book, we might have to steal something from  here.
There’s jewelry, cameos, and some so thin, again intricate. They  have a display with light under it so you see the stones glow. Rings, bracelets,  earrings–such brilliant craftsmanship.
It goes on and on–rooms with bowls and pitchers and objects d’art  made out of shells. Kat’s favorite is the gold snail with its delicate white  shell. Some long ago artist had a sense of humor.
We spend over two hours in this area alone before heading out to  the gardens.
Now we tackle the hills. Long and steep, the wide stone terraced  steps, to tall hedges, a little maze, statuary along a high wall, and up and up  to Neptune’s fountain, a garden area that’s just baking in the sun, and  views of the hills and cypress on one side, and the wonderful red-tile roofs and  domes of Florence on the other.
Stunning views wherever you look. I sit on a bench in the shade for  a bit just to look and look. A group of three woman come sit as well. They’re  not speaking Italian, not Spanish, not French. We finally consider Portuguese.  One is wearing a short leather skirt–she has absolutely gorgeous legs, but a  leather skirt in the hot August sun–I’d have fried.
We walk up and up and up, more stunning views, then around to a  kind of look-out. BW and Kat end up on the low road, Jason and I on the high.  Jason and I just stand and look and wait as Kat and BW go into the pretty  building. They report the Medici dwarf–one who was famously painted front and  back on a single canvas, is inside in marble. Riding a turtle.
We walk and walk, and the two roads finally meet up so Jason and I  can go down a set of rough steps. We circle around to Cyprus Alley, and the  pretty green park, the big, beautiful trees. People and stretched out on the  grass here, some having picnics in the shade.  Some of the trees are  gnarled and twisted like pieces of art themselves.
There’s a vending machine, and as I haven’t eaten anything–two  hours has already stretched into over three–I buy, for a Euro, Freaky  Fries. Pretty freaking freaky. They’re shaped like French fries but with a  square hole in each end, and taste a bit like really stale Pringles. But they  did the trick.
Oh, we also see a HUGE stone tub. Like if you were going to have a  big orgy and invite half the neighborhood. It’s empty, but I think it must’ve  been part of a fountain.
By the time we go down, down, down and down again to the rear  courtyard, we’ve taken about four hours here. Wouldn’t have missed  it.
There’s an enormous pot filled with intensely pink lantana. I’ve  never seen it in quite this color, and it’s just beautiful.
We’re going to skip the other areas, and walk following the exit  signs. We come to the Medici Grottos. Amazing, fantastic. The exterior of what  must have been a large cave is painted and tiled and all of the art is worked  around what looks like underwater stone. Gobs of it, used as part of the art.  The walls inside, partially smoothed and fresco’d use this same treatment for  portraying people, animals, trees. Sheep, goats, a goatherd. It’s eerie and  wonderful.
Two low stone walls front narrow tiled trenches I imagine were  filled with water. In the corners are deliberately unfinished sculptures. It  looks as if those the figures are forcing their way out of the stone. An  archway leads back to a lovely statue of–I think–Venus.
We walk back, navigating the busy streets in search of food and  wine. We stop at the place we had lunch our first day. I’m too beat to think, so  go for a pizza. Easy and always good. This is the wine Kat liked best of all  we’ve had, so she asks for the house red again (I do, too), and asks the server  what is it.
The best he can do is Chianti.
We eat, drink, recharge, rest tired feet. A couple sits at the  table next to me. Has their meal in absolute silence. I can FEEL the tension  between them. I don’t think their day’s gone very well.
Kat signals the proprietor, asks about the wine and if they have  bottles. Happily they do, so now she has a bottle, and knows exactly what it  is.
We head back, and as Jason and Kat have more shopping to do, break  off from them. I just want two more scarves for gifts, and that’s easy. We find  the exchange Kat and I couldn’t find a couple days ago–and when I change twice  as much as BW–the woman smiles and says: Your wife does more  shopping.
Yes, I do!
Along the narrow streets, winding through, and back to Piazza Santa  Croce. I find two pretty scarves, and my day is done.
Must pull it together shortly and pack for tomorrow, and the drive  into Tuscany. We’ll probably eat late, in the piazza, and tomorrow say ciao to  one of the most beautiful cities in the world.