Donna & Sandy in Florence
"Rome To Florence By Train"
PREVIOUS STOP: ROME...
The train from Rome to Florence took a very fast 1 ½ hours. We arrived at the train station and walked around and around it trying to find the bus to our hotel before settling into a taxi for the short ride. We arrived at Casa Rovai at 6 p.m. and carrying/pulling/dragging our luggage made the climb up 2 long flights of stairs. The hotel was similar to many places in Italy – an apartment that has been split into several separate rooms for guests. This one was very nice. We were assigned room number one which was named La Passione. Well, we were off to a good start! The room itself had 16th century frescoes on the walls and ceilings and on one wall of the room hung four kama sutra prints (in honor of the room’s name). The furniture was antique, the bed was big and comfy, the bathroom modern, and we had a very large window that overlooked several balconies from other apartments.
Our first stop in Florence was to a Laundromat. Being in a Laundromat took me back more years then I care to admit; unfortunately the experience was the same. This was Sandy’s first Laundromat experience, and in the end he turned out to be a great helper. I was pretty shocked to find out that a load of wash was 3.50 Euros (about $4.55). It was the same for 20 minutes of drying.
After dropping our clean clothes back at the hotel we set out looking for something for dinner. We were really craving something different. Sandy had it in his mind to find Chinese food. We walked and walked until we finally ended up with some spinach-stuffed pizza, which was awful.
"Palazzo Vecchio And The Loggia Dei Lanzi"
The next day was a Monday and most of the museums were closed on Mondays. On top of that Tuesday was a holiday and everything would be closed then as well. So we set out to see as much as we could, getting up and out as early as possible. We walked the few blocks to the Cathedral of Florence (Santa Maria del Fiore). Many people refer to it as the Duomo, which is actually the dome of the church. It’s located in a large pedestrian area – so much of Florence is – it’s a great walking city. We were shocked to see a huge line to enter the church. We decided to come back later in the day, thinking (incorrectly!) that there wouldn’t be lines at museums and other churches.
We made our way to Piazza Della Signoria (piazza is a square). Looming over the square is the Palazzo Vecchio and several sculptures including a very large Neptune statue and fountain. At a 90 degree angle to the Palazzo Vecchio is the Loggia Dei Lanzi, a structure of large round arches on pillars that houses several sculptures including the Rape of the Sabine Women and Perseus. Sandy noted later that many of the sculptures and paintings we saw in Italy were violent. These sculptures certainly fit that description.
We waited on line for 45 minutes to enter the Palazzao Vecchio. It turned out that there was one security person that was checking the bags, handbags, etc. of every single person going in. It was insane!! Anyway, the Palazzo Vecchio is a palace-fortress, whose characteristic feature is a tower that rises high above the palace. Inside the palace are more sculptures including one of Hercules and Diomedes in a very interesting position (sorry, the pic didn’t come out!), tapestries, more frescoes, and some beautiful paintings (mostly religious) done on various shaped wood. What we noted at this point was that in paintings of women they were all depicted as having very muscular arms and legs, not the soft round bodies that are associated with this period.
"Beautiful Sante Croce And Il Porcellino"
We walked back to the Cathedral of Florence to check on the line which was still very long so we headed to the Basilica di Santa Croce. It is ones of Florence’s largest churches with many separate altars and chapels. Michelangelo’s tomb is here, as well as a statue that looks like it was the “original” Statue of Liberty. One of my favorite pieces in the church was a simple and beautiful statue of Mary with a gold halo.
We had a great lunch – delicious pasta – at a restaurant in the Piazza Della Signoria, Ristorante Cavallino . Shortly after lunch it started raining very hard. This was the first bad weather we had during our trip. We slipped into the Logge del Mercato Nuovo where they sold mostly leather goods. Just outside the stalls is a statue of a boar that is known as il Porcellino. Legend is that if you rub his nose and put a coin in his mouth, you’ll return to Florence. Yes, of course we did it. We waited and waited in the market for the rain to stop. When it looked as though it wouldn’t stop we bought an umbrella. The umbrella guys seem to come from the sky as soon as it rains!
"Baptistery of St. Giovanni & The "Duomo""
As we walked towards the Cathedral we saw that the lines for it and the Baptistery of St. Giovanni (just across from the Cathedral) were very short. We headed to the Baptistery first. Although the mosaics of the cupola (ceiling) were beautiful, the rest of the Baptistery was very small and plain – and empty. The most beautiful part of the Baptistery are the three bronze doors on the outside, with the nicest being the Gate of Paradise on the east side of the Baptistery. Stories from the Old Testament including the Creation of Adam and Eve, and the Sacrifice of Noah are each enclosed with a frame on the door.
We were disappointed with the Cathedral itself. The Cathedral and Dome are (normally) so beautiful from the outside but the inside didn’t seem to match. I said normally because they were so dirty – in desperate need of a good cleaning.
"Museo Dell'Opera DelDuomo"
Outside and behind the Cathedral we entered the Museo Dell’Opera DelDuomo (Cathedral Museum). It is filled with great sculptures, but the masterpiece is Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is a statue of Nicodemus (in Michelangelo’s own likeness) with Christ, Madonna, and Mary Magdalen. Michelangelo worked on it when he was in his 70s-80s and it was intended to adorn his funerary chapel. He was unhappy with it and it was never completed. When looking at it you get an idea of how difficult it must be to sculpt from a single solid piece of marble.
"Piazza San Lorenzo & Climbing Giotto's Campanile"
After a cappuccino we went to the market at Piazza San Lorenzo. I bought a small leather backpack to hold our passports, tickets, etc. and we bought hats and gloves for our upcoming time in the snow. We went to a sporting goods store and bought snow jackets and boots. We picked up some kebabs (although they were more like wraps, they were delicious!) and headed back to the hotel.
The next day was a holiday and we didn’t have much planned. We walked past the cathedral and since the sky was pretty clear we decided to climb Giotto’s Campanile (the cathedral bell tower). It was 414 steps to the top (and 414 back down!). It was broken into 4 levels and the climb really wasn’t so bad. We had fairly nice views from the top. I really love to see any city from above.
"Ponte Vecchio & A Hailstorm"
We walked across the Ponte Vecchio the city’s oldest bridge at 600+ years old. Unfortunately the shops on either side of the bridge which are the workshops of goldsmiths (jewelers) were closed. We walked back across another bridge and ended up in a section of the city full of designer shops – Versace, etc. We laughed at most of the clothes – things that resembled bedsheets or tissue paper – that sold for thousands of dollars. It made me wonder who buys that stuff?? By the way we have really been enjoying the fashions on the street in all the cities we’ve visited. You just can’t believe what people are wearing (and the hair!!). We constantly nudge each other or give each other the eye when something strange walks by. I keep wondering whether these people have mirrors!
While we were walking around it started to hail! I couldn’t believe it. Pea size hail pelted the pavement and us! We waited it out and stopped for a cappuccino and some delicious pastries at a café in the Piazza Della Repubblica. Then we headed to a movie theater where we were told there was an English movie playing. We were really excited since it had been so long since we’ve seen anything other then CNN or BBC in English. As it turned out the movie was in Italian. So we picked up some kebabs again and went back to the hotel to pack.
"David, Simply The Best"
On our last morning in Florence there was one last thing to do. We were up at 6:30 a.m. and at the Galleria Dell’Accademia (Academy Gallery) 15 minutes before their doors opened at 8:15. No visit to Florence is complete until you go to see Michelangelo’s David. There are some interesting pieces in the Gallery but David is amazing! For all of the paintings, frescoes, sculptures, etc., etc. that you may see in any museum in the world, you will always remember David. He is larger than life, just perfection. The detail is amazing – the veins in his arms, his muscles and bones – particularly his ribs, calves, his hands, his finger and toenails, and well…. the rest of him too. ;-)
We went back to the hotel, checked out, and were on our way to the train station. In spite of the rain, we enjoyed Florence. It’s an easy, compact city and the people are really nice. I like the Italian language and I love how Italians speak. They are very animated and do a lot of talking with their hands.
NEXT STOP: VENICE/MILAN