Friday, June 7, 2013

Firenze Frenzy

A short 15 minute wait at the Pisa train station and we were on our way into Florence as the sun set.  I didn't feel too bad missing the leaning tower - I figured we were about to get a major dose of tourist throngs and I'm fine not to see the tower in person.  We saw a tower that was leaning quite a bit in Burano (Venice), so that's good enough.

Since we got into town so late, we checked in and crashed.  We ate some more focaccia that I had packed away and broke out a bottle of wine (screw-top) that I picked up at a convenience store.  This was the first time we've stayed in a hotel that did not have private toilets (bathrooms for Americans).  You know what, it was no big deal!  Never had to wait, there was still a sink in the room, and the toilet (again, room) was huge.  The shower had no containment - just a drain in the floor, so I got everything wet, but it was oddly liberating.  Also I always try to use the bidet when I have the opportunity - I find it refreshing once you figure out the process.

Anyway, the next morning the breakfast was standard Italian fare - that is, bread.  I did steal our neighboring table's butter, since I thought we were shortchanged for the amount of bread we were given.  And I knew the fat would help keep me going longer, as we were expecting another long day of walking.

Haha, unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate - so it's back to our raingear

Our first stop was to see Michelangelo's David at the Accademia di Belli Arti Firenze.  You have to queue up if you don't buy the advance ticket, but you do end up spending less than the reservation ticket.  In other words, the system is completely the opposite of any other reservation system I've ever used, when the door price is usually more expensive than the advance ticket.  *shrugs*  That's Italy for you.

We were more impressed with David than I thought we would be.  We enjoyed the Rick Steves audio tour while we admired and appreciated Michelangelo's genius.  I'll go out on a limb and say the location is as important as the statue.   The huge dome with light coming through just enhanced the experience.  We saw two copies - one in a main square and one up on a hill (in bronze) and it just didn't have the same effect.  How can I know for sure that I was looking at the original?  I can't.  That's why I give so much credit to the presentation in addition to the statue.  For the artist to see a block of stone and extract the symmetry, body language, and humanity out by freehand is truly impressive.  I can't even read my own writing half the time.  

After a very enjoyable and worthwhile stop, we set off on a wet walk.  The weather was manageable - only drizzling.

Here's a map of our walk with a few points of interest.  The main destination was Piazzale Michaelangelo a lookout point south of the river.

View our Florence walk in a larger map

First peek at the massive Duomo as we left the Accademia - Michelangelo studied this dome for his own design of St. Peter's.

Facade of the Duomo - we opted not to go inside for reasons I can't remember. Maybe the line was long.  So it goes.

The very busy piazza della Signoria with umbrellas everywhere.  There are numerous statues that we're walking toward.

This one is called the Rape of the Sabine Woman. Here rape means abduction, not sexual violation.  The Roman is taking this guy's wife while he tramples over him.  I really want this Sabine guy to stand up for himself and his wife little more.  This Roman is dangling his nuts in your face and you're not doing anything about it, c'mon man!  
Yikes.  Maybe a psychoanalyst would touch on some deep-seated esteem issue there; but don't pyschoanalyze me, it's late.  I'm just rooting for the underdog.

Me with one of my heros, Galileo (on the left) in the Portico delgi Uffizi. On the right Micheli is trying to get attention.  Could you imagine if these statues came alive when no one was around?  "No one cares about your stupid fungi spore studies, Micheli, I'm working on a studying the universe, maybe you've heard of it, unlike 95% of the 1900 different plants you describe in your boring book."

Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Firenze spared by the Germans during their retreat at the end of WWII

The Arno river panorama 
The footpath leading up to the view point at Piazzale Michelangelo

Toward the southwest - wow, the sun is making a brief appearance, and this is what I imagined Tuscany looked like

Firenze to the north, the Duomo stands out a bit 
Dark clouds looming

As the churchbells rang in unison over the city, we knew the forcast was calling for some heavier showers in the afternoon.  We needed a solution.

Something eerie about the clouds rolling over the hills with distant churchbells

So we started a walk toward Boboli gardens as the rain picked up in intensity, thinking we could find something indoors to look at - there was a museum on my tourist map.  Our shortcut through the Forte di San Giorgio was a bust - we ran into an admission gate for the gardens that I was not about to pay given the current weather.  We were forced to turn back and find another way down.

In retrospect, we probably should've just headed back to the Ufizzi art museum, bit the bullet to wait in that long line and pay the admission.  That's hindsight for you.

Free view of the garden - would've been worth the admission in better conditons

Our detour took us back toward the Vecchio bridge where we ducked into the first decent looking restaurant.  The timing was well done, it was coming down in sheets now.  Our table near the covered porch ad a nice view.

A rainy bridge view, glad to be inside

The restaurant was a bit more upscale than our usual picks, and I was underdressed, but no one seemed to care at 1 pm.  Typically when we travel I try to use cash everywhere except hotels.  However, our hotel in Monterosso was cash only, so I decided I could put a food bill for the cost of what I was budgeting for the hotel on my credit card!  I know, bad math hehe, but hey we had a great time, and we really dragged this meal out.

After soup and main courses, we were on to dessert and grappa

A grappa toast - we haven't done this since Krakow (with wodka)
And then since we kept hanging around with an eye on the weather, the waiter brought by a few shots of gratis limoncello (and he refilled them)

So about 3 hours later, this happened!

A church by the train station

However, before that I got a lampredotto.  Yes, we had hung around the restaurant so long that I was ready for more food.  A lampredotto is traditional Firenze street food, like an Italian beef sandwich you might find in Chicago, except they use the cow's abomasum - the 4th and 5th stomach.  Both in taste and texture most people might struggle with this one - it doesn't taste like beef, but it's not bad either.

An internet photo of a lampredotto that looked just like mine

An internet photo of an Italian beef sandwich from Chicago, with the giardiniera. Not so different, eh?
So by that church by the train station, we ran into a gelato festival!  Kerry had mentioned this is going on, but didn't know where, so we were happy to stumble on it!  This was high end gelato made by chefs who took it seriously.  Not your touristy stuff.  10 euro got you a ticket for 5 tastings plus a gelato drink (?).

So you hand your ticket to the guy and he gives you a "taste".  Except, a taste is like 2 big scoops in a cup.  You can also ask for just a little taste for free - don't even have to give up your ticket.  The little taste was a mini shovel full, like a bite size.  Anyway, we were lousy with gelato - our 5 tastings took us a long way.  One guy refused to take our ticket, so we ended up with 6 tastings!  We were stuffed on gelato, and I was actually at my limit.  The "drink" advertised rum, but when you got to the stand he said drinking wasn't allowed in public places.  We ordered the virgin gelato drink as to not waste our ticket, but it was just overkill.  Most of the drink was binned.

Each booth had a description of gelato and the creative chef behind it

This is no joke of a concoction   Sardinian pecorino cheese with caramelized pears and honey.  It was very interesting, and I enjoyed it.

Kerry ordering another "taste"

Whipped cream with strawberry sauce - hard to go wrong

"Mediterranean  Fantasy"  no clue... still ate it
So we definitely over did it.  We were both on the nauseous side from the massive dose of dairy and sugar.  It was time to catch our train (we already picked up our bags).  So we headed to the station to jump on our Freccia Argento high speed train to Rome

Terrible pic - but I wanted to get a picture of the front, it just got by me too quickly

Here we hit 241 km/h.  Later we'll hit 250!  Travel to Rome was fast and the ride was smooth - highly recommend!

So I pause here again.  Rome is next!


  1. Bummer on your weather, way to make the best of it. I have to agree with you, David was worth the wait and price of admission. We just stood there and stared at it. The Four Prisoners were interesting as well, I didn't think much of them at first but appreciated them after looking at them for a while.

    Bidet instructions? Obviously you did this post while you were sleep deprived. ;)

    I think we stayed at the Kent State University logo on your map. Our apartment was at the "American College" per our receptionist.

    Gelato overdose, not a bad way to die.

  2. Hmm, perhaps a little TMI with your bidet fetish, Jeff.

    I think I'd draw the line at cow stomach. You certainly our adventurous. I see you had octopus earlier as well (not a big fan due to the texture).

    Sounds like you had a recently relaxing day in the middle (I guess the weather dictated some of that).

    Looking forward to Rome . . .

  3. sleep deprivation + a couple pints, haha