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Day Eight on My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Florence, David and the Selfie Stick

David, 500 year old hunk
         Initially, I’d signed up for a tour that took its participants into the countryside where we’d tour a winery and make ‘afternoon snacks’ called ‘marende’.  Now I lived in Italy and have gone there several times afterwards and I have never had nor heard of marende.  Could  this be some Italian cultural shift?  Were the Italians now following America’s lead, and its enormous weight gain, by snacking away between meals?  Should I take this tour if only to discover this lamentable development?  Hell no, I thought. Not when the alternative was an all-day trip to the Renaissance Capital of Culture, Art, Sculpture, Architecture and beauty, the jewel of Tuscany, Firenze. So I cancelled my afternoon snack tour and signed up for Viking’s Art and Architecture itinerary.
Irene, yet another
spectacularly knowledgeable
Viking Tour Guide

One of the key differences between Viking River and Viking Ocean cruises is that the Longships on the rivers dock in the center of the towns they visit.  On Viking Ocean, there’s sometimes a rather lengthy distance to travel to the main attractions.  In the case of Livorno, the port closest to Florence, it’s a good hour away from the city.  And this was on a Saturday when commercial traffic is at a minimum.  So off we went with our guide Irena, whose knowledge of Florence was as astonishing as the turquoise tips of her otherwise blond hair.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”
         This tour was comprehensive, taking in the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio and the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, final resting place of one of the city’s best known residents, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. In the interests of time, I’ll zero in on one specific destination; Our first stop.  This was at the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David. This 17 foot high statue, created by the then 26-year-old-artist, took three years to carve. Michelangelo is quoted as saying “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free”  David was completed in 1504.  Now, some 511 years later, David remains one the most recognized sculptures in the world, and certainly the hottest 500-year-old man on earth. It’s hard to ignore the extraordinary impact David has on the viewer.  It’s not merely his size, it is the detail which Michelangelo gave to the sculpture.  Veins are clearly visible on his arms. His hands seem almost out of scale and his head larger than actual size.  He is simply overwhelming.          You are drawn to him, and if you take pictures at all, you take hundreds of them from every angle.
The Offenders

Which brings me to the Selfie Stick.   It’s hard to underestimate how many Selfie Sticks are in use in Florence but they present a clear and present danger. You will be assaulted by Selfie Stick salesman at every stop. And watch out or you’ll be whacked my one of them at every turn.  There’s no escaping them.  While annoyed by this, I was particularly drawn to a Viking passenger, a woman, shall we say, past her prime. Her entire collection of pictures of David will feature herself in front of him, behind him, in close-ups that I cannot help think will put David out of focus in the background while she grins in the foreground.  And Lord knows where his private parts will appear…likely sometimes perilously close to her head.  Selfie Sticks are prohibited at the Galleria dell’Accademia, which was brought to her attention at least three times in my presence.  But American exceptionalism is a thing to behold at home and, especially, abroad.

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