My friends H1 and H2 were leaving separately on the Monday, H1 allegedly on an early morning flight. Being experienced travellers, I promised to sleep with my phone beside my bed in case she locked the front door to the apartment building a moment before remembering that her laptop was on the table, and she promised not to leave her laptop behind. She did not, but nor did her plane happen. At an early but slightly reasonable hour, my phone chirruped with a plea that I pop some clothes on as she was headed back form the airport and would need to be let in.
I did a quick mental calculation and managed to be washed, brushed and dressed in exactly the right amount of time to dash down the stairs and throw the door open just as she stepped out of the taxi with phone in hand, about to call. This is in fact one of my secret superpowers of late, as I did it to H1 the first time she arrived at the flat, too, and last year managed to find raitala among hundreds of thousands of art fiends seconds before we were about to call each other in the Louvre lobby. This new finding friends power is one I like and it can stay -- in fact, it ran rampant this trip, but more of that in subsequent posts.
H1's unexpected return could mean only one thing: Ghirlandaio at Santa Maria Novella! We trotted up the road to be among the first visitors into the basilica for the day. There is a strict no photography rule, which is a shame, because I would love to share the lunacy that is the decoration with you. Most of the interior is dignified and fairly Gothic in taste, and then you get to the Tornabuoni chapel. Domenico Ghirlandaio, one of the most famous artists of the period (end of the 15th century) was commissioned to paint the frescoes, and from what I can read in the paintings, the brief appears to have been: 'I want it to be staggeringly obvious that we are gobsmackingly rich. I want people to look at this in 520 years and think "Holy fuck, those bastards were loaded!" Use as many apprentices as you want, and no stinting on the gold leaf!' They are very beautiful, and a wonderful document of late 15th century life among the wealthy, but not what the standard interior decorator would call at one with the spirit of the building's fabric.
We had a wonderful time pottering about, and even found the book and postcard shop, which is no easy feat -- it's hidden off to one side disguised as another chapel. On leaving, we dithered over whether we should go and have a look at the museum attached to the basilica. 'We could go and put our feet up,' said H1, 'But we're here now, and it seems as though we ought to go in ...'
'Oh look,' I said 'It's 2 euros and a bit, if it's crap, we'll just leave, and feel virtuous for donating funds to the cause.'
Feeling like good cultural tourists, we paid our money and went in. Best Decision Of The Day.
( Pix! Tales! Rampling! Oops -- *rambling*, no topless Charlottes! )