|9-13-05- Day 7 (continued)
There are frequent trains that go between Venice and Florence and I assumed it would be no problem getting a reservation before boarding the train. I was wrong. One thing I learned about our two train rides so far, the one from Venice and now this one to Florence, is that you want to get reservations as far in advance as possible. When I went to get our reservation for the train to Florence, first class was sold out but we were able to book second class. I went ahead and booked a reservation for first class for the train from Florence to Rome we would be taking a couple days later.
There really is not that much discernable difference on these trains though and it was only about a three hour ride. In second class there are four seats facing each other on each side of the aisle where in first class there are the seats are larger and there are four facing each other on one side of the aisle and then just two facing each other on the other side of the aisle.
We passed through quite a few towns. The countryside is flat in places with a lot of cornfields. Closer to Florence it gets hilly and woody in what we assumed was Tuscany.
The only problem for me was a hyperactive group of exuberant young Asian tourists that were laughing and playing cards and charades and other noisy games the entire trip to enertain themselves. I guess I am just old but I thought these kids were really obnoxious and was glad to see when we reached a stop and they gathered their things together to get off. I thought, “finally, now we will have some peace and quiet for the rest of the trip,” not realizing we had reached our destination of Florence, Italy and we would be getting off too. We almost didn’t realize it was our stop though
We got lost initially when we got of the train but quickly got directions and made our way to our pensione. It was about a block and a half from the Duomo. The picture on the right was taken just a few steps from the street doorway.
|Once you entered the street doorway, you walked up about two flights of stairs before you reached the Relais Campanille office where we were staying. Our room was then another flight up the stairs from that. Above us, on what would have been the fourth floor, was another pensione. It is not uncommon in Europe to have your pensione located inside a building with other businesses or other pensiones. If you are staying at a place like this, you want to be clear about how many flights of stairs you will be walking up. We consider ourselves in alright shape and we had booked this room before I had torn my meniscus. My knee held up pretty well even with all the steps.
One thing I have noticed is that overall, generally, Europeans seem to be in much better physical shape than Americans. They definitely do more walking and stair climbing.
The room was quite a welcome difference from the one in Venice. It has a tile floor, big amoir, desk, t.v. that works (although only one totally English speaking channel, SKYTV, which is like cnn- and also there was an mtv style music channel with a mix of contemporary Italian groups and English speaking groups). We were ecstatic to find air conditioning.
This bathroom was bigger, you could actually turn around in the shower, and there seemed to be plenty of hot water.
After we took a little nap, we wanted to get our bearings and so we took a walk to find Accademia which is where the original of Michealangelo’s “David” is located. We had a reservation there for 1:30pm the next day. It is critical that you have reservations for this museum!
|We also wanted to find the Uffizi. We had a 9:45 reservation for a tour there. We had almost lost out on the Uffizi. I had put off calling Italy to make the reservations until about a week before our trip. When I finally did call, they were sold out. The only way to get in was to book a tour which cost several times that of the admission price but we did it anyway to assure admission and were glad we did.
If you are going to Florence, call AT LEAST a month in advance for reservations for each of these museums to guarantee your admission!
From the Uffizi, we walked to the ponte vecchio bridge…
…It is one of the oldest bridges in Florence. It dates back to Roman times.
If you are interested in more information about this bridge, click here. It is very pretty. I really like all the pastel colors used in Italy.
The bridge has a lot of jewelry stores located on it that are run by descendents of the original owners.
|The streets of Florence are packed with people. Occasionally people on scooters or cars come through but most of the time you are walking in the streets. The sidewalks are often very narrow- not wide enough for two people to walk side by side.Also, many of the streets in Europe are cobblestone. After a few days of walking on cobblestones, your legs can start feeling achy.
For dinner we ate at Leonardo’s, a place listed in one of our travel books. We got bread and they charged us for each pat of butter! Even though it was listed in one of our books, I would definately not recommend this place. I didn’t think it was that cheap and the ambience was terrible.
On the way back to our room, we stopped and got sodas and dessert to take to the room with us.
|9-14-05- Day 8
We called down to Leonardo, the pensione manager, for breakfast. He brought us a tray of coffee, oj, croissants, jelly and butter. This service is included in the price of the room. We had to be at Uffizzi by 9:45 to meet our tour guide, Danielle.
The tour lasted about two and a half hours.. We saw works by Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Rubens and Caravaggio just to name a few. They did not allow us to take photographs though. If you are planning a trip there and would like to think about what you would like to see or if you are just interested in what is there, you can click this link for the “virtual Uffizi” online, then click “room index.” Each room will have a “detailed paintings list” link which you will click on. Then from the description of each work, there will be an “image” link.
The tour ended just in time for us to get to the Accademia for our afternoon reservation there. The main attraction at the Accademia is the original of Michealangelo’s “David,” considered by many (along with his Pieta at the Vatican) as one of the worlds greatest works of art. Again, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum but there is a “copy” of the statue near the Uffizi.
|After we finished at the Accademia, we walked back to the Duomo and got in line to see the inside of this immense church. I was unable to get the entire church in one picture. I guess you would have to take the picture from the sky to get it all in one picture. There is no place to do that from the street. It is huge. The outside has a lot of green marble.While waiting in line we saw a gypsy panhandling with an unkempt child of 3 or so. She feigned a sad look with her outstretched hand but then a moment later a cell phone suddenly appeared and she talked to someone for a minute or two and then the cell phone dissapeared and she went back to her sad look with outstretched hand. I guess her cell phone bill was so high that she had to beg to be able to pay it. I know how she feels.
Click here for a site with a Quicktime 360 degree view of the duomo.
It was kind of dark inside the Duomo. Again, there is no way for a picture to capture the immensity of it. I did take take pictures of the inside of the dome but am not bothering to even post them here because they are such an injustice to the scale and color and beauty.
The Duomo also had a campanille but unlike Venice, this one did not have an elevater. Even though Sylvan’s knee was bothering him a little, he still wanted to climb as many stairs as possible and we made it about three quarters of the way to the top.
|It was a great place to take some pictures of Florence.
Here is another view from the campanille.
This is a picture of the Duomo taken from the camponille.
We did not go all the way to the top of the campanille because of my knee. Click here for a site with a great 360 degree view from the top and then click your “back” button your browser to return here.
When we came back down we walked around the baptistry which is located directly in front of thd Duomo.
|The doors of the Baptistry contain Lorenzo Ghiberti’s masterpiece “Gates of Paradise” which took 27 years to complete.Then we went to Piazza Republilic to find the post office. Sylvan bought some souveniers to mail home.
Then we wandered around and took some pictures before going to dinner a “House of Sizzle.” We had the three meat platter which had chicken, beek and pork. The pork was nothing more than breakfast sausages. The platter came with no vegetables and so we ordered those separately. We overheard the waiter telling others that came in that the restaurant had a “special” but for some reason, our waiter overlooked telling us. The special looked like a much better deal of salad, steak and potato’s and probably the drink was included. We think that we probably should have watched for more “tourist menu’s” in Italy that would usually be inclusive of a couple courses and a drink. We usually put of eating until we were absolutely starving though and did not take time to find the best deals. We also had to order bread separately and then had to request butter for the bread. The bill came to about $43.00.
Along the way I took this picture of a car that was very typical in Italy. I am not sure if it is gas or electric but it sure is tiny!
On the way back to our room we stopped again for some dessert and sodas to take back with us.
One day we were in the mood for just a hamburger at McDonalds. They charged us for every little packet of ketchup!
|9-15-05- Day 9
We got up and dressed and finished packing. Leonard brough our breafast. We left our baggage with him while we walked to Santa Croce Basilica.
|This is the inside of Santa Croce. See how tiny the people are? T
|hey just don’t build churches like this in America. Do they anywhere? According to this website, it was “officially started on May 3rd 1294, when the architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, laid the first stone of what was to become a masterpiece of Gothic art.”
Santa Croce is also where Machiavelli, Ghiberti, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Rossini, among others are buried. Here is a picture of Michelangelo’s tomb.
|I also read, “Unfortunately the monument to Dante, whose remains repose at Ravenna, is only a cenotaph,” which apparently is a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere.
We headed back to the pensione to pick up our bags before heading to the train station.
On the way, we took a few more pics before saying goodbye to Florence.