Travel Journal


(Saturday 6 November 2010) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 75-76 -- 10/19-20/10 Florence
It was only a couple hour drive to Florence and we arrived earlier than check in time. Parking was available in a paid lot across the street so we paid a few Euros for a couple hours hoping free street parking would open up on the street in front of the hotel. And then came the rain. We broke out the ponchos and started to head to a museum as I wanted to get out of the cold weather but Julie didn’t think there was time with the parking and we could not “add” time and wanted to walk around looking at the plazas but I flat out refused as that’s how I got sick in Amsterdam walking around in cold rain. So we got something to eat and went back to the hotel to use the internet and wait to check in. A parking spot had opened up across the street from the hotel which was not of the side of the street that the clerk had said we could park for free. Julie asked if it was okay to park there and the clerk said, “Yes, its okay, but if a space opens here (the hotel side) park here because it is more okay.” I’m not sure what that meant. Are there varying degrees of okay? We decided to risk it and leave the car there. I did diligently check for the more okay spot to open up during the rest of our stay but it never did so we had to settle for the just okay spot.
Checking her email which we had not had access to since Vienna, Julie discovered her mom’s cruise ship had had mechanical problems so the voyage was scrubbed? Nellie had made her way to Serlano by train and wanted to meet up there. Where’s Serlano? We found it on the map as an alternate port for Naples but we were locked into reservations here and were planning to stop in Rome next to start the process of getting a Brazilian visa for Julie before heading down to Naples. We shot some emails back and forth over the next day and decided we’d either meet her the day after we leave Florence or drive directly to her when we were finished here.
Florence does have public transportation. There was a light rail line just by our hotel and rather odd small buses that hold maybe eight passengers that we saw driving around; however, all our sites were centralized as short distance from the hotel so we never used them,.
When the rain slowed to a light drizzle, we ventured to the Plazza Vecchio admiring the copy of the statues in the courtyard.
I booked the highly recommended guided tour of the Secret Passages” for the next day and then we stood in line at the Uffizi.
Now I heard you could reserve tickets to skip the lines and the book suggested that the Uffizi and the Gallerie were the two to consider doing so, but it wasn’t really high season, we couldn’t print the passes from the internet, and they charge 3 Euros per ticket, so I thought we would take our chances. It was about an hour and a half to get in where I learned a bit about Italian etiquette for lines. It’s okay to talk loudly and to constantly press against people in front of you. Also a queue is rather fluid and part of a group can seep in front of you while still carrying on a loud conversation with the rest of the group behind you. It really was more amusing than annoying.
Anyways, we got in and began exploring the vast collection of art here. There is a good balance of painting to sculptures here and most of the pre-impressionist styles are represented here. Again the echoes of “No photos” rang out in the galleries. Here’s my contribution with a photo taken at the gift shop.

We took a quick bite to eat at a hole in the wall place which had cabinet type doors with shelves and numbered spots where you would rest your wine to keep track of which glass was yours. Cheap and good eats!

We took a walk around enjoying the plazas in this medieval type town before returning to the hotel. The next morning we took the guided tour of the Vecchio which I recommend. I think there were only about eight persons in our group so I got a lot of chances to pester the guide with questions. The history of the place is very interesting along with the scientist/prince Francesco I who was a disappointment to his draconian father, Cosimo I. The art work in the Salone is stunning and the ceiling fresco in the center with god bearing Cosimo’s face tells volumes of this ruler. I enjoyed the secret treasury of Francesco with hidden cabinets holding his scientific experiments and herbs with a filing method based on the painting and sculptures in the room.

Not learning our lesson from the Uffizi, we went to the Galleria dell Accademia which houses the original David by Michelangelo. Again no photos allowed so here is one Julie took.
There is also an interesting exhibit of stories laid out like comic strips or different sections of the artwork which tells an episode of the story all connected together. It’s also nice to learn that Michelangelo was recognized as the genius he was during his lifetime. Essentially any big project had to get his approval in Italy before work commenced.
Afterwards we visited Florence’s Duomo which is huge. The exterior is beautiful in a legos garish way and the interior very spacious and gracefully done. Julie was not up for the 463 steps up to the cathedral dome so we passed. Across the way is the Baptistry whose bronze reliefs are fantastic. We didn’t go inside but just marveled at the doors.

Feeling a bit hungry, we hit a sandwich shop for a good snack at a place popular with the college crowd. Quite a few US students there and it was a shame to hear their conversations as they seemed a bit bratty and I don’t know if they appreciated the opportunity they had to study in this great city.
That night we hit a bar recommended by the hotel clerk and enjoyed some wine and music videos from the 80s (my era!). The people there were very friendly and the owner got us some shots on the house and we enjoyed tapas type food from the bar.


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