Thursday, March 15, 2012

Michelangelo's David, A bike Shop and a Racially Charged Incident

We are headed to the Galleria, the building constructed specifically to house Michelangelo's David. Originally David was to stand in a plaza outdoors. Saner heads prevailed and he was moved inside. A replica rests in the spot initially intended for him.

My partner stops at stalls in the street and starts to shop. I am patient but finally remind him that I have been anticipating visiting the masterpiece for several months and we need to press on. The line is long but moves at a steady pace and soon we are inside. There are several small galleries you have to go through before you get to the main attraction.

You turn a corner and enter a hall. Along it's walls sit unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo originally intended for a Pope's tomb. At the far end, in a rotunda, standing on a high pedestal, resides one of the world's artistic wonders. His beauty would leave even the most coldhearted person speechless. He is so amazingly well rendered that you almost feel as if you can see him breathe. You can imagine the blood pulsing through the veins of his powerful, sinewy arms. We spend close to an hour circling him time an again, viewing him from all possible angles. He is as remarkable as I remember him being when I first saw him at the age of 15.

We reluctantly take our leave of him and head back to the streets. My partner has somehow discovered and gotten directions to a bike shop in a residential area of the city. Following the directions scrawled on a map we wander tiny, narrow streets lined with apartment buildings centuries old., Two young boys peer down at us from one window. We locate the shop. He purchases socks and a bell for his beloved bicycle. I pull a marked down tee shirt with "Italia" emblazoned across the front from a barrel.

We are returning, walking down the middle of the narrow, stone lane, as this seems to be the custom in Florence, which is completely devoid of traffic. From behind us we hear the siren of a police car. We move against the wall as it speeds past us heading up the street. A short distance further we see it stopped in the street steps from the central outdoor market. An African man is standing with his palms pressed against the wall and his legs spread as a policeman is pulling the contents from his pockets and throwing them on the pavement. Another policeman is holding back an Italian man yelling and lunging at the spread eagled African. A racially mixed group of spectators have gathered at the edge of the market. As we move through them the tension between the native Italians and African immigrants is unmistakable. Each group eyes the other with an ugly air of contempt. It is the second time we witness the racial divide in the city.

We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to view the magnificent David. We have found Florence beautiful, but not magical and awake early to catch a cab to the station for our train to Rome. We have one final day and night left in Italy.

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