9/19/10 (Day 18)
This morning started way too early when my alarm went off at 5:30am. We had to leave the hotel by 6 in order to make our 6:50a train to Firenze (Florence). The train was uneventful and about 3 hours in length. I sure do like train travel rather than air travel. I was able to sleep almost the whole time, but Mark never did get comfortable in the seats.
In Florence, our hotel, the Luna Rossa, was just a few blocks from the train station. We arrived and found a note telling us to go across the street to another hotel to check in. It was only 10am now, so I figured there was no way our room was ready anyway. Across the street, we found out that somehow these 2 hotels are linked, and our room was actually on this side of the street anyway in the Hotel Ester? Whatever. We were pretty tired, so we just sat on their couch waiting for our room to open up. At 11am, our room opened up and we took a nap.
The room is fairly large and even comes with a computer hooked up to the internet! The wifi is only available in the lobby, but we can figure out about plugging our laptop into the ethernet in the room instead. The room has one double bed and two twin beds. It’s a rather odd arrangement, but as I said, we were tired and just came in and napped.
When we woke up for lunch, we headed down the street to a place recommended by the hotel and had some wonderful pizzas. We could see them making our pizzas while we waited and I could tell the ingredients were fresh. I would say this was the best pizza so far in Italy. The cheese especially was delicious.
There were no real plans for today, so we just headed towards the large Duomo, or dome. I read in our guidebook that this Duomo is one of Italy’s big three must-sees. The others are the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In any case, we shall see all 3 on this trip. The Duomo was indeed a marvelous sight. This one only took 150 years to build as opposed to the San Marco Basilica in Venice which took 900 years. The outside was very ornate with colorful stone, small pillars carved into swirls, and lots of statues. We were impressed. Tomorrow we’ll go inside. The adjacent Campanile was similarly decorated and the two together were quite a sight.
We continued to wander and saw the Parazzo Vecchio that looks like a medieval castle on the outside and houses Renaissance art on the inside. Next to it was the Loggia dei Lanzi that had several Greek statues on display under large archways.
Continuing on our way, we walked past the famous Uffizi Gallery housing more Renaissance art and on to the Ponte Vecchio bridge. This bridge is more like a street with shops on either side of the walking path. The shops almost seem to hang off the side of the bridge as cantilevers. The shops used to sell meat, but when they just threw the unsold meat into the river below, the meat stores were banned, and now the shops are all jewelry shops.
The river beneath was surprisingly milk chocolate in color and very muddy. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t very scenic. We stopped to eat some gelato and I even found some peanut butter gelato! This is pretty rare I hear.
Our walking tour continued on the other side of the river where we found the Piazza de Pitti. I think this was another art museum, but mostly it was too big for the lens on my camera, so we joined everyone else and sat in the sun on the large area in front of the building. I guess people come here to lounge. The breeze was chilly and the sun was warm making the perfect combination of temperature.
Next up was a climb up many steps to the Piazzale Michelangelo. I had no idea that from here we would have an unobstructed view of the sun setting over Florence with all the important buildings like the Duomo in perfect view. Wow, what a wonderful surprise. We found the steps covered in people sitting to stare out at the panoramic view in front of us and we joined in.
While sitting, we listened to a few audio guides I had downloaded to my iPhone. The sun set and turned the distant mountains purple. The moon shown bright over the bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David in the center of the square, and eventually we wandered away.
We wanted to get back to the Palazzo Vecchio by 8p as we had seen something about a night tour there. Luckily there was a restaurant selling food right there in the square and we ate our pasta within view of the giant castle. The city is still teeming with life and this museum is actually open until midnight! As it turned out, the night tour wasn’t quite what we were expecting as we had to buy tickets to the museum as well and the tour wasn’t until 9:30, so instead we headed out to take some night photos of the great buildings on the way back to our hotel.
Florence is turning out to be a beautiful town. There are plenty of people and tourists, but it doesn’t seem quite as crowded as Rome or even Venice. So, now, tonight, I actually have some time to catch up on my travel journal. Eventually I’ll get around to posting everything online as well.