Monday, April 2, 2007
We woke up a bit later than we have been, around 8am and did not get down to breakfast until 9am. The breakfast was again a great treat, as I had read this is pretty much a European thing that you can expect to have in most hotels, we have become quite accustomed to the large morning meals and even the hard core meats we have been eating. Not sure if this will carry over to our normal lives back in the states, but it sure seems like a good idea.
We made it down to the bus stop in front of the hotel around 10am, just missing the bus, had to wait about 20 minutes for the next one to come.We were able to purchase tickets in the hotel lobby, but much like Munich, once on the bus there was no one checking for tickets, it was all pretty much on the honor system and you insert your ticket stub to be timed stamped and you are good to go. We rode the bus down the hill, marveling at how the bus did not hit the crazy traffic around us. The bus stops right in front of the Duomo, or the big ass church in the middle of Firenze. So we get out, look up and it is just an amazing site, does not even seem possible that we are just plopped down where we were. Of course you have about a second to check out the site without getting bumped from behind because of the mass of people crossing the intersection, so we quickly made our way across the street and moved out of the way to take in our surroundings. The area is quite dark, primarily due to the massive duomo looming above not allowing any light in to the below streets, but also the buildings around are very tight and the roads very small. We immediately go into the first line we saw, which was to enter the stairway that would take us up to the dome. To tell you the truth, we did not really think about what this meant, we really did not think this meant all the way to the top, but of course it did. We ascended a spiraling passageway that was like going into a dungeon. The stairway was worn down thru years of use and there were quite a few people in front of us that would be good and bad, as it allowed for some breaks, but it took quite a bit of time to go all the way up. I was really happy that none us are closterphobic, as this would have been torturous for someone who had issues with small places. About half way up you come out to a large walk way the goes all the way around the base of the dome, you walk half way around and you can take pictures and view the church below, it was pretty neat, but the large glass safety wall kind of takes away from the experience. Once back in the stairwell we all figured we would be going down, but no, more stairs and straight up, all the way to the top of the dome, where you have to ascend this ridiculous stairwell that is almost vertical, but we made it and had a view of the entire city, this being, I believe the highest structure in the city. It was great, but my oldest daughter started getting a bit afraid of how high we were and we went back down, which was another adventure as the first part you are dodging people coming up, this is very similar to the driving experience in Florence, that being a stairwell large enough for 1 person yet needing to accommodate 2, but again we made it and we were happy that was the first journey of the day rather than the last.
After all of that, we rewarded the girls with gelato, this would be a reoccurring theme as we continued to do more walking and touring during the trip, in fact a goal of 20 gelato visits was set, by the end of the day in Florence we were up to 7. We walked around the square in front of the Duomo and took in the North and South doors of the baptistry, really a cool site and it isn't every day that you are feet away from a pope, albeit a dead one. Our next "must see" was the David, so we found the Galleria de Academia, where the David resides and again got in line. This line was brutal, it moved at a snails pace, I think it took about an hour to move the 100 yards or so to the entrance. Once in you have to go thru metal detectors and such, then there is a warm up room, I think this is a kin to the warm up band for a big act, there were several large paintings and then you went into a room that has "the slaves" (the half finished statues that were originally in the Medici's garden) and then at the end of the room there he is. It is truly pretty amazing to see it in person and probably worth the long wait. We went thru the rest of the small museum and then exited out the doors, wondering why the heck the dang line took so long as the area in the museum was quite large and such. We continued back to the Duomo square and wondered around a bit more, once we had our fill of the local tourist stores we decided to start wondering away from the duomo and find the river Arno and the many museums and sites around it.
Traveling thru the streets is really cool, as long as you stay on the main areas there are gelateria's and stores all around and we never really felt fearful for our safety or anything like that. Just wondering around you see buildings that are amazing by normal standards that line nearly every street, it is fun just getting somewhat lost on the way to your destination and luckily we were pretty good at that. We found the Uffizi museum as well as the museo di storia della scienza, unfortuanetly it was too late to partake in either, but we were able to walk around the scienza square that has all the statues of the famous contributors to science, most notably Gailelo. I was pretty bummed to not be able to see the early science instruments in the museum, but were somewhat relieved not to have to drag the kids thru it.
Following the square, we continued down the river to find the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, the one that has the pathway above it that was used by the Medici family so they could cross the river away from the minions. This bridge has stores lined on both sides, much like the bridge in Venice, and an amazing view in the middle. Once across the river you come across the gigantic Palazzo Pitti, this looks like a monstrous 16th century administration building, but of course they did not really have those, so instead it was someone's house, Luca Pitti's. Pitti was trying to one up the Medici and built this amazing mansion, but his finances took a turn for the worse and the Medici's eventually bought the house and turned it into their family residence. They continued to add to it for several hundred years and today it is basically a very large museum that could easily take a day or two to fully tour. Again, we did not have the time, but we did sit out on the large embankment soaking up the sights and sounds of the area while eating some pastries from a local bakery. The kids ran up and down, down and up and met a little friend, so they had a good time as well. By now it was starting to get a bit late and we wanted to get on the bus before it was dark, so we headed back, getting another Gelato of course, several sandwiches and a bottle of vino, to catch the number 7 back to Fiesole and our palace of a hotel room.
Caught the bus with no issues, but by this time it was completely dark, so we really had no idea where our bus stop was. Due to complete dumb luck, there happened to be someone else on the bus that was from our hotel who did know where the stop was and we were back home safely. Ate the good grub and had a pretty decent bottle of Chianti, again I highly recommend the wine over the overpriced water in Italy :).