A Wonderful Surprise 

Last week I was graciously invited to meet up with some friends of my aunt to visit the Stibbert Museum in the northern part of Florence. They knew the curator, who arranged a private tour for us. The museum was started by a man by the name of Stibbert in the 1800s who inherited a large fortune at age 21. He collected the pieces himself, and left a large sum to make the museum a foundation after his death.  I walked about 40 minutes to get there this morning for our appointment at 10:30. I could have taken a bus or taxi, but I wanted to take the opportunity to explore a part of the city that I’m unfamiliar with. Also, walking is free and easier than trying to figure out public transportation. I got there about 10 minutes early, so I looked out at the vast gardens of the museum. Once they arrived, we met with their friend (who is really a brother of a friend they met in the U.S.), and he introduced us to our guide for the morning. He has been working there for over 35 years, and he is very passionate about his job. He knew the specific history of every piece in the museum. The museum, which was actually Stibbert’s house, was absolutely incredible, and packed with antiques. 


The ballroom


Above the ballroom is where the orchestra would play


The entire museum was packed like this


There were a number of chandeliers like this. They are made of blown glass in Murano, near Venice, at a shop that still exists today.


In this room, the ceiling was hung with silks. Here, and in several other rooms, the walls were made of leather instead of wallpaper or tile, etc.


This is one of many sets of Japanese Samurai armor in a room that is not normally shown on tours. The wearer of this armor was a poet in addition to a warrior.


The sheath in the middle is not ivory, but was made from a single blue whale rib bone.


The museum is home not only to many sets of armor, but also several outfits from around the world. This one was acquired around the same time that Stibbert’s father was stationed in Bengal.


I loved this beautiful sculpture. It is sitting on a chest where the top spins around so the sculpture can be viewed in the best light, no matter what time of day it is. It is so intricate that you can even see the threads in the fabric and the texture of the embroidery in the cushions.


Another of the blown glass sculptures.


This is what Napoleon wore when he was the (self declared) king of Italy.


One of the rooms filled with armor. The procession is actually in chronological order.


We left the museum, and we got lunch at a small restaurant in the middle of the central market. I ordered what they recommended, which was red wine, pappa al pomodoro (traditional Tuscan bread tomato soup) and what I think was veal in a whitish sauce. The soup was excellent, and the veal was good too, especially considering I’d never had veal before. We got espressos after our meal.

Their friend, the curator, invited us to his apartment for coffee after lunch. He was an incredibly nice man, and his apartment was beautiful! It was full of really good quality artwork and antiques (makes sense because he works at a museum). It was so cute, and he had a chandelier that reminded me of the glass ones at the museum, although not colorful or as big. He made this sweet fruit stuff that looked exactly like raw meat, but it tasted like jam. It was soft, but solid enough to cut in pieces. We sat there and talked for a while, and he gave me some peach jam that he made with peaches grown near Pisa. He kindly gave me directions back to my apartment, which was only about a five or ten minute walk. I thanked everyone and headed to class. Today was the perfect day for this little excursion, because I don’t have class on Tuesdays until 4:45. Also, I tried some of the peach jam after my dinner, and it was delicious. Today was a wonderful surprise, and I highly recommend to anyone that you take the opportunities offered to you, even if they are last minute. These are the things that are often the most rewarding. And a huge thank you to Jack and Jill for inviting me along and for being such good friends with my aunt! I know she was as excited about today as I was.


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