Sep 262010

9/20/10 (Day 19)

Ah, Florence. I will always remember Florence as the city that Sandra Bullock dreamed of going to one day in the movie While You Were Sleeping. We slept in this morning and then had breakfast at a cafe next door. Nutella croissants are delicious, by the way. =)

By now it was about 10am and we headed for the Duomo for a tour. The line outside at opening time wasn’t too long yet and soon we were inside. I would say the most impressive part for me, was learning that the Duomo was actually built on top of another, much smaller church. When they started digging underneath the Duomo, they found the remains of the old Santa Repartante church. We were able to tour around the old church seeing parts of the flooring that still had mosaic tiling and see several artifacts that had been buried with the church. We could see where the supports were for the much bigger Duomo above us and were quite impressed to be walking around underneath.

The Duomo is listed in our guidebook as one of the big three of Italy. The other 2 are the Colosseum and Leaning Tower of Pisa. The exterior is incredibly impressive with all the colored stone and marble and artwork. I was surprised to learn that this place of worship was built in only 150 years compared to the 900 years it took for the Basilica San Marco in Venice. The dome was built during the height of the Renaissance when the idea of an architect being a designer of a building first started. Before now, buildings were just built by experienced builders over sometimes hundreds of years. It’s crazy that all these buildings are still around today! The architect studied the Pantheon in Rome and eventually designed this dome. Many people didn’t think it could be done, but here it stands as one of the largest brick domes in the world.

Outside the Duomo, the line to climb the adjacent Campanile bell tower was non-existent, so we decided to head their first. There were about 3 or 4 different levels where we could take a break from climbing the 414 stairs and view the surrounding panorama. We experienced the booming sensation that comes from the ringing of the bells while standing on top of the platform that holds them. =) The most memorable part of the climb, however, was near the top where the staircase became impossibly narrow and started to spiral up. Here, people were coming down the same direction we were going up. It was rather tricky for everyone to remain upright while crossing through here.

At the top of the Campanile we were completely fence in, but happy to see the fencing had holes large enough for my camera lens. We had quite the panoramic view and could see all the people that climbed the Duomo next door. We decided we didn’t have to climb that one as well.

The next stop on our walking tour of the city was a spot for lunch where we grabbed some takeaway pizza at a cafe. Then we headed towards the main reason for coming to Florence….the Museo Galileo or the History of Science Museum.

No photos were allowed inside, of course. There were 2 floors housing a large collection of historical scientific instruments from early time and astrological keepers to globes, to microscopes, to large decides to create and measure electricty and electromagnetic pulls. We were most impressed with the video displays that showed both in English and Italian how several of the instruments were used or built. We were disappointed to see that a large amount of instruments had almost no explanation what-so-ever. Still, it was very interesting to see and learn about the science from about the 14th century to the 19th century.

There was a neat video of an exploding house to show the positive effects of lightning rods on buildings. The model house was built with wooden sides on hinges. Inside was a pedestal with gunpowder. Outside was a lightning rod with a removable piece. Without the piece making the metal connection from roof to ground, electricity tapped on the rod caused the gunpowder to explode knocking the walls of the house down. When the metal connection was inserted correctly, the same electric tap caused the house to stay intact and the electricity to travel to the ground, where it was safely dissipated.

The gift shop was disappointing with mostly just science books. There were no postcards or hat pins, our typical souvenirs. We made do with some photos of the museum signage.

By now it was late afternoon and we had really toured everywhere of interest in Florence. We wandered around the shops to find some tacky souvenirs. No, we didn’t buy miniature statues of David. =) We each found a shirt we liked and skipped the rest of the items. Then, we went back to the hotel to use the internet, do some blogging, and relax before our dinner reservation.

Our dinner reservations were for 8p, about the start of the Italian dinner time, at a recommended restaurant for steak Florentine. The service was probably the best we’ve had in Italy. We started out with some addictive fried pasta. Mark ordered the 800 grams of steak Florentine and I ordered a smaller sirloin with mushrooms. Both steaks were superb as were the potato sides. Mark had a frozen limoncello for dessert and the waiter also brought us some biscotti to munch on. Eventually, we finally left and I grabbed some gelato to eat as we walked back to the hotel.

We are happy with our visit to Italy. Tomorrow we will hit up Pisa and then slowly travel the coast of Italy and France to Cannes for the night.

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