Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Postcards from Italy: FIRENZE

We checked out of our hostel a bit later than we had wanted to and literally ran to the station to catch our train to Florence that morning. We got there a couple of minutes before it was scheduled to leave but it was already gone from the station. We found two Americans who had missed the same train and they said our tickets were good for later trains during the day so we waited in the station for what I think was two and a half hours and then boarded the next train to Florence (Firenze). While we waited and during the train ride I read the pdf’s of Rick Steve’s guide to Italy that my dad had photocopied and emailed to me earlier (seriously life saving) and planned what we were going to do in Florence. Instead of our train ride being an hour and a half like the first one this one was way slower and ended up being a three and a half our trip. We were getting nervous for a while that we had gone too far and missed our stop, but we finally got there around 3ish I think. 

We went to our hostel to check in but since we were so late the lady had put a note on the door telling us to call her...uh well none of us have phones...problem. We eventually find some pay phones but we can’t figure out how to work them and they don’t seem to be taking our money and the help is in Italian. Great. So we wander back down the street and after a while find someone to let us use there phone in one of the hotels and the lady called the number and spoke to her in Italian for us, thank goodness. She finally comes back to the hostel to check us in, she was actually really nice and told us she was our Italian mother while we stayed there. She even told us where not to go and then gave us advice on a restaurant and places where the young kids go to get “confused” these days haha. 
the door to our hostel, this picture was taken later that night when we got home
Since we were there in Florence for a Sunday and a Monday most of the museums and churches were closed, and the ones that were opened closed between 4 and was already close to 4pm. Florence is Italy’s main center for art so I have really really always wanted to go there for a longgg time. Since we had to pick one thing to see that evening we went to Accademia to see Michelangelo’s “David” the most famous sculpture in Florence and arguably, the world. It had a huge line since we didn’t make reservations but no worries I had two gelatos (#6&7 that are sadly not documented) while waiting in line (in my defense we hadn’t had lunch so I was really hungry). I had studied it in art history so I knew it was going to  be huge but it still surprised me when I saw it. It is around 17 feet tall and pretty incredible. The detail is amazing, my favorite part was the hands- you could see each individual vein. Although Michelangelo is one of the masters his work has never been my favorite. It’s because he liked to idealize his figures to have perfect and really muscular bodies and I like a more natural style. So my favorite “David” is still Bernini’s. 
you are not allowed to take photos so i snapped this really quickly and it didn't focus, but really the blurriness is to your benefit- see it's basically censored for young eyes^
After that we walked by the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo Cathedral), and down to the water to walk on the bridges perhaps? I was trying to navigate us to the restaurant that the lady at the hostel recommended but on the way we got rained out. It completely poured and we got stuck waiting for it to calm down underneath one of the buildings on a side street. Eventually we made a run for it and found the restaurant and ate there. It was kind of cheap and had a large menu but the food was just okay. We split a “Michelangelo” pizza and I ordered pasta with pesto sauce. Then we stopped by Santa Croce church, walked down towards the river again, passed by the Palace, and stopped at Ponte Vecchio- a bridge with houses and shops built on it. It was beautiful and perfect- the sun had just set, there were couples everywhere, and a man playing romantic songs on the guitar. It was just what you picture when you think of Italy. On the walk back to the hostel we got another gelato. We actually had internet in this hostel (thank goodness) so we could check our emails. We also skyped with Patrick as he was safely in Norway. 
Duomo. (this picture looks stretched?...i didn't take it)

the baptistry 

i really felt like a ninja turtle eating this pizza, i mean it was named after mikey and he loved pizza

"Dezi pose" at the Sante Croce church

yes, florence is beautiful.
Ponte Vecchio from afar
after all the pictures of myself or just one other with me, it is nice to get ALL of us in the picture for a change 

we stood looking out at this for a while, admiring the lights, the reflection of the city in the water, and really feeling how lucky we were to be there, in italy, living our dreams.  

goodnight lovely florence.

GELATO #8 chocolate chip, tiramisu, and other (look at that thing)
Lauren left that morning for the station so she could catch her train to Rome and fly back to London. Me and Dezi checked in to our next hostel and then stood in line to get into Duomo Cathedral. Duomo is gorgeous on the outside, I loved it. Most of the architecture in Florence has the same style to it- white stone with pink and green accents- it was really interesting, I had never seen anything like it before. The baptistry is a smaller building right next to the main cathedral and on the doors the “Gates of Paradise” by Ghiberti are sculpted. I then went to the Medici Chapel while Dezi looked around. The Medici were a family in Italy that were patrons to the arts and bought many famous pieces of artwork to put in their properties. Inside they had paintings and then a separate room with sculptures by Michelangelo
The dome inside of Duomo
me&dez, its blurry but the best we could get 

The Medici Chapel 

sculptures by michelangelo
Santa Maria Novella Church
We walked back to the bridge Ponte Vecchio to see it in the daytime when the shops were open. It wasn’t what we were expecting, all the vendors were actually selling fine jewelry and other expensive trinkets. We were hungry and so it was time for another gelato. I was just going to get a cone but Dezi saw these little waffle things that she wanted to try but because our Italian was bad we didn’t understand her when she thought we both wanted a waffle sandwich-type-thing with gelato on the inside. It was like 10 euros (ridiculously expensive) and not even that good. It was really funny to watch us eat it though, because the chocolate gelato was melting all over us, down our arms and all over our faces and I got the worst of it hah it was so sticky I had to wash off in a fountain. 

ponte vecchio 
have a mentioned that italy is beautiful?

on ponte vecchio
this is what gelato shops look like- towering piles of cones and giant mountains of icy cream
the infamous GELATO #9
couples locking their love together on the bridge, they do this in paris too
We were walking around and decided that being exhausted+walking around crowded places=nap time in a green space. So we laid down for a while in the grass while a pigeon with a broken wing decided to stay next to us for perhaps protection? as it inched closer and closer. After we were a little more rested we walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which was at the top of a hill overlooking the city. We found a little garden off to the side and it was breathtaking. It was my favorite part of Italy (combined with the Piazzale). There were flowers, fountains, fruit trees, and little walkways leading through the greenery. I picked a lemon off the tree and me and Dezi laid in the grass to enjoy the view.  We walked the rest of the way up and at the top I got a slushee drink and sat on the steps to enjoy it. We could see the whole city of Florence and all the tiny people down below walking to the sites just as we had hours before. And I liked Florence better this way. Out of the heat and the crowds with a panorama of the city and everything in it. Me and Dezi bought matching bracelets from one of the vendors and then we continued up some more steps to the Santa Miniato al Monte Church and cemetery at the very top. The church was in the same style as Duomo just on a much smaller scale. The ceiling on the inside was my favorite part, the wood was colorful and detailed, and the style was beautiful. We had perfectly chanced our timing to be there just as their service (Evensong I am guessing) stareted and the priests started to sing. 
this is where we rested 
the steps we climbed to get up there

there are a lot of pictures of this place but it is breathtaking so they are needed to try and capture the beauty 

dezi thought when you eat a lemon you stick the whole thing in your mouth...well this is what happened haha^

the lemon 

piazzale michelangelo
steps overlooking the city 

the sky was beautiful that day 

fake david 

 San Miniato al Monte Church

i love that ceiling

Afterwards we explored the cemetery. I love cemeteries. To me they aren’t creepy and each one is unique with lots of stories just waiting to be discovered, and each one has a personality. I love the cemeteries in England, they are ancient, covered in vines, and some deep in a forest of trees. But I loved this Italian graveyard for different reasons. It was at the top of the city so it had an amazing view. the style and trees were completely Italian, and some of the larger mausoleums had very interesting architecture. We were there for so long that we acutally got locked inside the gates. But we found one of the workers to unlock it for us, I guess it wouldn’t be a good idea to be in there once it started getting dark haha. We walked back to the main plaza and ate dinner at a cafe overlooking Florence. The ambiance was incredible so of course they ripped us off on the food but I didn’t even care because it was worth it. On the way down we stopped by the garden again to take pictures and walk around, also getting kicked out of there was they started locking the gates to close it down. Perfect day in every way. We went down to the river to get gelato and it was so good. Mine was melon, chocolate mousse, and dark chocolate mmmhmm. 

i love that view so much 

can you see me? i'm next to that huge mausoleum.
that couple is going to haunt dezi now 
i always find cats in cemeteries 

the guy who let us out when we were locked in haha

where we ate dinner 

GELATO #10 chocolate mousse, melon, dark chocolate ♥
We had seen this large concrete dam in the water that was only half-covered with a water fall so there were people on it. It looked cool and I though about walking down to it but the people down there looked kinda of sketchy but Dezi also wanted to look so down we went. We had to go underneath the bridge to get to it and there were a bunch of sketchy guys down there and at this point I was like we should goooo now but Dezi said that once we pass them it would be fine...well there were just more guys like that on the waterfall part too and we were the only girls down there except for the one making out on the other side...yeah not good. We wanted to leave but we did not want to go back the way we came because at this point the guys were all looking at us in both directions. So we kept going straight hoping that there would be another outlet but there wasn’t. We walked up a grassy hill to the wall to see if we could jump it. It was kinda high but there was a piece of metal someone had stuck into it for that purpose so I gave Dezi a boost and she helped me over too, scratching both of our elbows in the process but we were safe and back to the normal part of the city. whew. Adventures right? At this point we decided it was best to go back to our hostel before we got into anymore trouble. 
the cool looking dam-waterfall that got us into trouble
and the walkway+wall we had to hop to the right
now onto Venice.


Steve and Donna said...

I'm tired from going through all your pictures- wow! Do you think you covered it all? (hah)

P Witt said...

you win the award for longest blog post ever. Also, I felt like every sentence could have ended with a "and then we got gelato." Brilliant.