No, that's not Rome...
When we last left our intrepid travelers, they had exhausted themselves after walking around Rome for 3 days straight. But what's a better cure for tourist fatigue than more tourism? Ok, maybe not, but nevertheless, we decided to visit Florence for a day since the opportunity was too good- and too close- to pass up. Florence is often visited by cruise ship passengers during a port call to Livorno, but seeing Pisa and Florence in one 10 hour port call would be too much, especially considering how "directionally" challenged I had been a week earlier. As soon as we left the hotel in Rome, the skies open up. We had a small umbrella, but it didn't give us both coverage. And as I confessed in an earlier post, Rick Steves had convinced me to pack light. Too light however, without any type of coat that offered any rain protection. I kicked myself because after years of camping with my Son's Scout Troop, I own anything and everything for bad weather, all stored neatly in my garage back in San Diego. The Boy Scout Motto? "Be Prepared." Me? No so much.
As we were waiting in the rain at the bus station however, an opportunist street vendor came up to us selling a variety of rain ponchos and different sized umbrellas. My wife had ducked into a shop to avoid the deluge and I remained outside holding the little umbrella. The vendor thought he had the upper hand, but the harder he tried to make a sale at a high price, the more questions I asked of him about the various products he had. In order to show me his selection, he had to drop his own umbrella, so the longer he tried to get a high price, the wetter he got. He eventually accepted my paltry offer for the largest umbrella he had.
|TrenItalia. In Italy, even their trains are stylish.|
This was our mode of transport from Roma Termini to Stazione Santa Maria Novella and it was awesome. It was like traveling in Business or First Class on an airline- very luxurious and almost as fast. Top speed was 280km/hr, which for us metrically challenged Americans, that's about 175mph. With only a couple stops, we were in Firenze in about 75 minutes.
Departing the station, it was a short, but very wet walk to the Galleria dell'Accademia, or Academy Gallery. As Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, the art here abounds. The Gallery tickets were good for a two hour window which was just enough time to weave through the various gallery rooms and spend a while in the main gallery housing possibly the most famous statue by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, aka Michelangelo.
If you clicked the link to the gallery, you've already seen the statue I'm referring to. Borrowing a picture like that from the internet is the only way one is allowed to capture an image of Michelangelo's "David" if one were to follow the rules of the gallery- the primary one being "NO PHOTO!"
|"YES PHOTO" of Michaelangelo's David|
There were museum docents all over the place and anytime someone raised a camera, they were sternly warned with "NO PHOTO!" I usually follow the rules, but was dared to take one by a friend who had been there a month or so earlier. The only reason I got away with it is that I was listening to a Rick Steves Audio Tour on my smartphone and just aimed it upwards to snap the photo. Not a good one though I admit. There were fewer docents in the back of the hall or in the storeroom.
With my momentary brush with crime over, we left the gallery, walked through the deluge, and made our way to the Uffizi Gallery, the second of probably the two most famous galleries in Florence. But first we passed through the Plaza della Signoria. This is a wide open plaza featuring numerous statues, including a replica of David, which many people don't even realize that it's not the original. Here are a few others:
|Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabines|
|Benvenuto Cellini's statuePerseus With the Head of Medusa|
|Fountain of Neptune|
|Scylla and Charybdis guarding the fountain|
|Loggia dei Lanzi|
|Us inside Loggia dei Lanzi|
|The Uffizi Gallery|
I took very few pictures inside the gallery- few being zero, as they also had the "NO PHOTO" rule and I didn't feel like pushing my luck. The only one I dared to take was the one below- a lousy picture of the Ponte Vecchio. The weather and angle just weren't conducive to a nice shot so you can try to enjoy the one below, or browse here.
After the Uffizi, we roamed around Florence for a bit and visited the Duomo- Florence's Cathedral, also known as Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.
|This is the largest brick dome ever constructed.|
|Giotto's Bell Tower (aka Cross-fit hell)|
|Not sure which photo of the dome is better|
|So I decided to post them both|
|View from one of the mid-levels of the tower|
|Made it to the top!|
The most tiring part of the day wasn't the walking, unless you count climbing as walking. My wife likes climbing things. When living in Japan, we climbed Mt. Fuji and she beat our entire party to the top. I think her compact size provides her with some sort of superhuman metabolism that oxygenates her blood at higher altitudes. She was like a little energizer bunny who kept telling me and my squadron-mates to hurry up while we were taking breaks to vainly catch our breath. On our 15th Anniversary were were in Sydney and she wanted to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge which we did. Due to long lines at the Tower of Pisa, she missed her chance to climb there. That would have been only 294 steps. The bell tower in Florence has a grueling 414 steps, ones that seem to get taller the higher one climbs. I tried to opt out before we started, but she insisted. I was a soggy mess again and completely spent by the time we got to the top. My wife? She seemed sad there weren't more steps. The climb was difficult; paying the 10 euro for the privilege of climbing was even more so. Luckily, she didn't notice the people at the top of the dome which you can see in the picture of us above. Otherwise I'd have had to climb up there also, with her dragging me to the top.
|The downpour seemed to do nothing|
to discourage the visitors to the Duomo
|The Baptistery of the Duomo|
The remainder of the day was uneventful, but I enjoyed the views of the Tuscan countryside on the train ride home. The next day was our final day in Rome, and possibly the nicest day of the entire trip. But you will have to wait for the next episode to read about it.