April 11, 2008

Florence, Italy

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Sun night/Mon/Tue April 6-8 - Florence When I walked into our hotel room in Florence (Hotel La Scaletta) I really felt for the first time that we were in a different culture linked to a different time.
A few hours earlier we checked out of perhaps the "shortest" room I've ever stayed in and just walked into the "tallest". The ceilings of Room 30 were nearing 20' with a long window over looking the street below. I'd describe the walls as a fresco red, with old stone steps leading to a mirror on a wall long ago sealed off. We walked down to the hotel from the train station; it was late (~11pm) but we had enough energy to zip downstairs (94 steps, thankfully they had a SMALL lift, barely big enough for 2) and grab some late-night gelato at the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) - best gelato of the trip, so far.

Rain was in the forecast for Tuesday, so Monday was focused on outside activities. We started with a hike up to an overlook. En route stopped at a local grocer to stock up on bananas & H2O and stumbled into a quaint "paper shop". Florence was filled with these ancient paper & leather shops, as well as lots of gold/silver shops (especially on the Ponte Vecchio), and T managed to find some nice leather boots.The lookout contained a large (nearly full size) replica of The David & beautiful views of the river, bridges and churches (including the iconic Duomo of Florence). Venturing further up we found a large monastery (got to go inside) and captured many photos, of course. On the way back down the hill we spent .6 euro for a much needed WC stop! Winding through the streets we ventured into the Palazzo Vecchico Piazza, home of Neptune fountain, another David (on the spot the original was located; it was moved many years ago after someone tossed a bench out the window and broke his arm) and numerous other statues (including a bronze depicting the slaying of Medusa) and the likes of da Vinci & friends in the Uffizi courtyard.
End of the afternoon included a visit to the local market for some bartering for pashminas & photo opp w/ the bronzed wild boar, followed by a visit to the top of the Duomo dome (~450 steps, no lift). The view inside & out was beautiful.

Dinner was awesome, T ordered the best risotto we've ever had. I've noticed a trend at Italian restaurants - pasta dishes are superb, while second courses (meat dishes) are great, but not quite as good as the pasta (or anti-pasta, which would preceed the pasta, of course). After dinner we walked deeper into the local district to take in a piano recital in an old neglected church. The audience numbered merely two dozen. It was an enjoying & relaxing way to wrap up the evening. Our final day was a rush through the final "must-see" sights on our list - Galleio's finger & telescopes in the Science Museum and, of course, "The David", which was well worth it, and some turbo shopping before we were back on the train station in route to the little town of Magione in Umbria region.

Originally I was going to skip a stop in Florence, but glad we made it - and wish we had more time. Thanks for talking me into it T! Sample more photos (most taken by T).

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