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Florence day 1-2

ITALY | Wednesday, 10 April 2013 | Views [1544]

Siena to Florence


On this morning we took the train back to Florence, leaving Siena and the best hotel we stayed in in Italy. Siena is not far from Florence, so we arrived with plenty of time to explore the city. Our hotel was right near the Duomo, which we could walk to in less than two minutes. The hotel itself was not fancy, and occupied a floor in an apartment building. This is something we’ve seen before in Italy, and I have decided that it’s because of the lack of space; too many tourists and nowhere to put them. The staff here were very friendly though, and the room was a decent size.

We dropped our bags off and took a walk to the Duomo. The outside of this building was amazing; black and white decoration with round windows, and a red dome on the basilica. It stands out in a country full of amazing churches. Inside the floor is decorated with black and white marble, in circular patterns that defy depth perception. In some ways this church is the opposite of Siena’s cathedral, with its opulent inside, and comparatively simple outside. It’s possible this was done on purpose, though I can’t be sure.

We had lunch near the Duomo, and then wandered to the square outside Ufizzi Gallery where you can see replicas of famous statues such as The David. I mentioned that I didn’t realize that The David was so big, which made us both chuckle. But my statement was true, of the whole statue at least. He towers above the square, his nonchalant stance and casual grace attracting throngs of onlookers (some who think this is the real statue). Though this replica was indeed very well done, it really didn’t compare to the real thing. I’ll get to that. From there we visited another piazza nearby that had a merry-go-round, which we photographed spinning filled with happy children.

By this time it was dark, so we meandered back through the streets filled with brightly lit shops, crowds of people and the smell of crepes. Italians, as I’ve mentioned, eat starting at 8pm, so they do their shopping in the afternoon between 4 and 8. This was the time window when you could be sure that shops would be open. We got a bit lost getting back to the hotel, but eventually we made it there, and went to bed.


Florence day 2


Breakfast at our Florence hotel was the usual croissants, cereal, yogurt, jams, fruit and cappuccino. Not as nice as some hotels, but not bad. Our plan for this day was to buy tickets for the Ufizzi Gallery for the following day, then walk to Ponte Veccio and up to the lookout at Piazzale Michelangelo. Florence is beautiful. Not like Siena, which was beautiful in a medieval, dark and mysterious way, Florence has a distinguished and old beauty. Despite its age, Florence exudes easy elegance, and a fresh air that mixes well with, and nestles in beside its oldness and tradition. I could live in Florence.

We walked across Ponte Veccio, the bridge covered in jewellery shops, art dealers and souvenir sellers. This bridge once was home to butcher shops, but a wealthy duke living on one side complained about the smell, and jewellers took over. The bridge itself looks like a pile of brightly coloured children’s blocks, stacked in such a way that they don’t tumble into the river. We crossed the bridge, stopping in the middle to take pictures of the Arno river, lined with bridges and stacked on one side with more colourful, narrow houses. We wandered slowly along the edge of the water, watching the scooters, pigeons, and people wandering with us. This side of the bridge was quieter, less hectic than the other side. Mom said she thought it felt more real, like more Italians live on this side. Perhaps she was right. We followed the road that led up to the Piazzale, veering off onto a steep path that took us up the rest of the way. The view from the top was a perfect panorama of the whole city. The Arno river in the foreground, striped with bridges, the red-brown roofs of the buildings, and the churches, especially the Duomo, dominating the horizon. It was extremely windy, and so the clouds moved fast and cast shadows on the Duomo, while the rest of the city was in sunlight. It was only a matter of time however, before the Duomo’s bright red roof was a beacon in the sunlight as well. That scene could have been from any time in history, if it weren’t for the cranes…

We walked back through town, on a street lined with leather dealers. I had said from the beginning that I wanted to buy a leather jacket from Italy, so we decided to have a look. We went into a shop called Gabi, where the owner was a middle-aged Italian man who was the friendliest man we met in Italy. He was extremely helpful, brutally honest, and hysterically funny. At one point he went on a rant about his teenage daughter, and how she was making him wish he never had children because she was spending all his money and rolling her eyes. It was really funny. I tried on about 10 jackets, narrowed it down to two, and bought one. I love it, and when I wear it I will always think of the guy who sold it to me. We called him Gabi afterwards, because we never did catch his name.

In our wanderings we came across a big line-up, which we soon realized was to see the actual David. We decided to try and get in as well, and went across the street to a little bookstore where you could buy advance entry tickets for three Euros more than the standard entry. I’m not sure why more people don’t do this, but it was beneficial to us that they don’t. We were only in line for about five minutes before we were shuffled inside. The real David is breathtaking. How anything so amazing could come from a chunk of marble I’ll never know. It really does look like perhaps David was trapped inside the marble and Michelangelo simply freed him from it. You can see muscle under skin, veins in his arms and hands, nails, if you look closely you can swear he’s breathing. He has perfect proportions, aside from being gigantic compared to a regular human. Seeing him was definitely a highlight.

By this time mom was beginning to catch a cold, and so we decided to have an early night, as we were spending the day in the gallery the next day. We had dinner in a restaurant near our hotel, which was absolutely delicious, but what made it great was our waiter. He was fantastic. He gave us free drinks at the end of our meal, a cocktail that he created himself which was refreshing and delicious. After our drinks, he asked us how everything was and this is what happened:

Waiter: how was your meal? Can I bring you something else?

Mom: I have a complaint.

(waiter’s face goes very pale and serious)

Waiter: what is it ma’am?

Mom: Well I can now never go home and eat regular food ever again…

(waiter gets down on one knee)

Waiter: Oh I’m so sorry, is there anythi….

Me: She’s joking, everything was wonderful.

Waiter: Ohhhhhh you’re killing me (clutches chest)

Mom used this joke a lot, and it usually got a similar response. I’m thinking the humour of it doesn’t translate well to people whose first language isn’t English. We always got a laugh out of their reactions to it though. After dinner we went back to the hotel and to bed.

Tags: duomo, florence, michelangelo, pizzale michelangelo, the david, waiters

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