Day 6 - Florence, Italy

6:19 AM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

Tuscany at it's best. Florence as seen from the top of the Duomo

At 2:30am I woke up with a great idea. I downloaded a TripAdvisor map of Florence app. I had used the Paris one and the London one on our last trip and it was very helpful. Once you download the app you don't need internet to use it. You can type in requests for nearby restaurants. You can even get specific about if you want vegetarian or Indian or whatever. You can also get directions from where you are to different attractions or whatever. I woke up, downloaded the app, and went back to sleep. Turns out I downloaded some crazy app that didn't work so we were left flying blind through Florence. Luckily our hotel is just down the street from the Duomo which is just down the street from the Ponte Vecchio so we didn't get as lost as I had expected.

The hotel we are staying at calls themselves a bed and breakfast but really they should be called Bed. They give you vouchers for a restaurant several blocks away to fulfill the "breakfast" part. We woke up, got ready and walked to the restaurant to have our most important meal of the day. It was not the best breakfast of the trip. They had no room for us so we had to wait a while. Meanwhile asshole tourists who pretend they don't know they are cutting in line just sit down where they are not supposed to so the employees have to stop what they are doing to tell them to move. They decided to let us eat at one of the tables that looked like was normally only reserved for dinner guests. It was cute but difficult to get to and from as we went back and forth to the buffet. It was on a tiny landing at the top of some stairs. There was just barely enough room for the two of us and the table. I ordered two cappuccinos and we got in line for the buffet. The best part of the buffet was the ice cold water available. The past few days I have been sweating profusely. I couldn't come close to re-hydrating fully. I tried my best. There was a super sugary juice of some sort. We couldn't tell what it was. I think it was a super sweet pear juice. Husband thinks it was a type of Tang. Either way it was awful so we stayed clear of it. There were loads of tarts and pastries. I got a doughnut. It was pretty dry so I ate it with a yogurt. I think it was the first doughnut I have ever had in Europe. I also had my usual bread with butter, cheese and meat sandwiches. We drank loads of water and finished our cappuccinos. Well, no, I finished both cappuccino, he didn't want his.

After breakfast we walked to the Academia to see how long the line for the statue of David was. I say how long to see the statue of David because that is pretty much the only thing I want to see in that museum. The line looked super long again. We had so much to do today that we decided to skip seeing David. Gasp! I know I know. Sorry, we are already doing Florence wrong. Despite having sworn never to come back to Italy, we were already talking about the next time we come. Next time we will see David and we will come in November. Today was a bit cooler than the day before, although it was still super warm. The humidity seemed slightly less today and there was a bit of a breeze. After ditching David we went to the Duomo. For ten Euro you get a ticket that gets you into the church, crypt, tower, dome, baptistery and museum. The latter of which was closed until November but that is ok. We immediately began climbing the stairs of the tower. By the time we got to the top, just under 500 narrow steps, we were once again drenched in sweat. I don't know why I keep bothering to put on makeup each morning. The views were incredible though. I forgot to charge my camera so I had to use my phone camera which might not capture the grandeur of the whole of Florence as seen from above but I will have the memories. One thing I will definitely remember is how GOOD it felt every time we passed a window on the way up. That delicious fresh air in my face Ahhhhhhh.
The tower as seen from the dome of the church, Florence, Italy

After descending the 500 stairs of the tower, schmushing past the folks going up, we got in the line to see the church. While the husband waited in line I did a little shopping. So far I have not bought much, just  a couple magnets and a tile to hand on the wall. So I had some catching up to do. I felt I didn't have the right to buy anything with David on it since we never saw him and I was so impressed by Perseus that I bought a little 9 inch statue of him. I also got an ornately painted ball shaped Christmas ornament and a magnet with the Florence fleur de lis crest symbol on it. I was getting out my credit card to purchase my items when out of the corner of my eye I saw it....a little leaning tower statue! It is now mine and my Eiffel Tower and Big Ben are no longer lonely on my book shelf. I took my loot and met the husband back in line for the church. He looked relieved that I had finally showed back up and immediately left the line. I thought maybe he had to go to the bathroom but he came right back. Apparently, sometime after I left to go shopping, he had taken his phone out of his pocket and as he did the ticket to get into the church and all the other places had fallen out. It had then blown across the square. That whole time he was just watching it blow away, hoping no one would pick it up but not wanting to leave our spot in line to get it. He got his ticket and all was well again.
Then ceiling of the dome of the church was painted with all sorts of really cool scenery.

The church was churchy. Someone was there shushing everyone. It was very quiet in there so I think that that was the person's whole job. A church shusher. It's a big church shaped like a cross. The altar had a big gold cross. There were some really old looking paintings on the walls. The kind with colorful cartoony Mary and Saints and Jesus all surrounded by lots and lots of gold. All that stuff is always really old. At the intersection of the top of the cross shaped floor plan there was a dome. The ceiling of the dome is painted with beautiful scenes of what I imagine are heaven and hell. I wanted a better look at it because there was so so much going on but it was way high up. We continued through the church that was silent aside from the person shushing and descended some stairs to the crypt. I had figured the crypt would be nice and cool because it is underground. I was, as always, wrong. It was warmer and stuffier than anywhere else we had been today. That's OK though. There was a bunch of hella old stuff everywhere. Some stone walls were from the Roman era. Most all of the stone altars and grave stones were from the 1300's. There were several places where we both had to duck our heads so we wouldn't bonk ourselves on the ceiling. This is a big problem everywhere we go pretty much. We circled, saw and left. Up the stairs and back to the church we went. When we stepped outside it was a nice breath of fresh air again. We circled back around and got in line to go up the dome. We are like clockwork. Good little tourist soldiers following the routes that take us to the next line to see the next thing. There is just so darn much to see in Florence. It's history goes back so far.

My legs were burning and rubbery from having gone up the tower earlier but I always love going up things and I was excited to go up the dome. I love the views you can get from going up things. So we waited and waited. This time we were in the shade. As we got closer to the door I saw a couple ambulances. One was closing it's doors and driving off. I am pretty sure that the combination of the heat, humidity and steep, narrow stairs causes people to have heart attacks or at least pass out. It took about 40 minutes to get to the entrance. Right as we started to enter, a couple cut in front of the couple in front of us. My husband tapped the man on the shoulder and told him where the line started. The guy nodded and pretended to not get it but turns out that he understood English just fine. So he remained. He was giving us the ol' "What are YOU gonna do about it?". The couple ahead of us were looking around not sure what to do. Always the savior, the husband went up to a security guard and told them about the cutters. I mean, we waited way too long to let these asshats in. The guard didn't understand right away. Then the people around us started saying what happened. Then hubs made a cutting sign with his hands. The guards understood that and threw the couple out. It was SATISFYING as all get out. When you are traveling and it is hot and you are waiting in these long lines...you get pretty irritated. It was so vindicating to see that couple shunned and tossed out. I see people like them too much. What sort of poop heads do things like that? How do they justify it to themselves at the end of the day? To quote Seinfeld; "We are living in a society here!".
My lunch was a tomato bruschetta. The end of summer freshness of the tomatoes was so good!

Inside the building we went up and up all over again. The stairs this time were much, much narrower and much, much steeper. Tall husband hit his head a few times. Because it was so steep and narrow, it was difficult to pass the folks coming down so every now and then we would have to stop and let a line of 20 or so people go down. This time there were no windows to add a bit of air every now and again so it just smells like humanity. The air is very still and swampy. On one of our first stops the lady behind us was trying to catch her breath bur couldn't so she was panting hard like a small dog. I have never heard a human make those sounds. She is over weight so that may have added to her trouble. She barely fit along the corridors. I understood why the ambulances were waiting at the bottom. We were just raining sweat as we ascended the hundreds and hundreds of stairs. It got more narrow and more steep. We broke out onto a landing inside the church finally and we got some air. I looked up and saw that we were standing at the base of the ceiling fresco that I wanted a closer look at earlier when we were in the church. There were all sorts of cool things to see in the massive painting. There was a man being torn apart by a beast. There was a goat demon. There were men climbing out of heavenly windows. It was great. I took a lot of photos. Before too long we were back inside the walls going up again. At the top we exited outside and walked along a catwalk that surrounded the top of the dome of the church. The views were best from this vantage. If you only want to go up one massive set of stairs in Florence, I recommend this one and not the tower. The dome is higher than the tower too so the views are completely unobstructed. We took in all the cool breezes and sights. We took videos and selfies and looked down at all the people in all the lines for the various attractions in the city then went back down. We walked around the octagonal shaped Baptistery but didn't go in. There was scaffolding surrounding it and I wasn't sure if it was even open or not. We did get to admire the golden doors. Last time I was in Florence we wanted to see the famous doors that are actually made of bronze and depict some kind of religious scene but when we arrived we just saw planks of plywood. The bronze part was out for cleaning. This visit the doors were there in all their golden glory. Now it is museum time....
The view from our lunch spot and our favourite statue in Florence...at least of the ones we saw.

We decided to skip the Uffizi Museum for now and go to the Museo de Galileo. That way we can end the day at the Uffizi, exploring it at our leisure. This way we can be sure we don't miss the Galileo. The husband had been looking forward to the Galileo Museum more than anything on this trip. On our journey to the museum we stopped and got sandwiches. We walked to the square with all the statues that we loved so much last night and sat on some steps to eat. The square was super crowded but we found space on the steps to eat our bruschetta and drink our frozen lemonade. Despite the massive amount of people around us it was quite relaxing. We had a great view of the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa. The same statue that I bought a little replica of so it will provide a nice little memory for us when we see it on the bookshelf. As we ate, some folks came up near to us to take photos of the statue we were sitting at the base of. Then an old gypsy lady approached us. She stuck out a plastic cup full of change. She rattled it in our faces. It was obvious what she wanted so I just ignored her. The husband did not ignore her. To my surprise, he reached out to take the change out of the cup. He said "oh, great, thank you!". The lady went berserk. I was dying laughing. She was so shocked she didn't know what to do. She stormed off in a huff. I guess she doesn't like it when people ask her for money but it is OK to rattle a can in our faces asking us for money. No one came around bothering us after that. She went swearing and cursing off across the piazza.
Eating lunch in the square

After lunch and a rest we headed towards the river to the Museo Galileo. Again, it was not as cool inside as I had expected it to be but it was cool enough that I could dry some of the sweat off. We were able to tour the whole museum because it wasn't very big. It was laid out nicely. You would enter a room and you could either walk around and look at everything or you could sit on a bench or chair and watch a video. The video showed the location of everything in that particular room then explained the function, development and use of each of the ancient scientific equipment. There were loads of globes and astronomical tools. We got to look at Galileo's actual telescopes. There were math machines, sextants, balances and much more. I liked the room full of glass chemistry ware. I don't know why, but there is a display with Galileo's index and thumb fingers and also his middle finger. Why they are there in their little glass cases is a mystery to me but I found it quite interesting. He added so much to the advancement of science I guess he can also donate his fingers. And why not? I know that many churches have the body parts of saints displayed here and there. I figure this is the same thing. A "holy" relic left in a science museum by the patron saint of astronomy.
Galileo's actual fingers.

We felt refreshed after being out of the heat and sun at the Galileo Museum. We exited the Galileo Museum and went next door to the Uffizi Museum. The line was not too long and it was all in the shade so it was totally bearable. The wait was about an hour and we got to lean on a railing and stretch our legs a bit. Once inside I got a map. I had already researched online all the things at this museum that were a must-see. I needed to see all the Caravaggio and Botticelli and I wanted to see all of Da Vinci's work that was there too. We walked into the first room that was supposed to hold the two most famous Botticelli, the Birth of Venus and Spring. We walked into the room and my heart sank. There was a big sign on the wall saying something in Italian  about restoration. I was gutted. No! We waited all that time and the most famous works of art in the building are not even on display? They really should tell you that before you wait in line and pay your entrance fee. An employee of the Uffizi noticed my dismay and approached us. She took the map that was in my hand and proceeded to tell me in great detail what was in every. single. room. She must have talked for 15 minutes. My feet were getting tired of standing there. She was super helpful but she was TOO helpful. She had a strong accent so I was not really sure all of what she was saying but I did hear there was another Botticelli room and where to find the Caravaggio so we started thanking her and trying to inch away. We got into the flow of a passing tour when she caught up to us and started to talk more. We let her go on until she was done. I have no idea what she was saying at this point. How much is there to say? The museum isn't even that big! We managed to break away again with a bunch of Grazie! Grazie! and we ran out of the room.
Me looking insane in front of the Birth of Venus

We decided since the museum is only two floors big we could run through it and see every room. We walked down the hall looking at all sorts of really old things. Then we entered a crowded room....there they were! The two paintings by Botticelli that I came to see! I have no idea why they were in a different room than they were supposed to be in but I didn't care at this point. I pushed and slid my way up to the front and studied each painting. They are absolutely amazing. It looks like he painted these massive canvasses with only a tiny tiny brush. Such detail! I was in super high spirits after that as we made our way past paintings and statues of all sorts. We found the Caravaggio hall. There were two very famous ones I had to see and I got to see them with relatively little crowds to get in my way. I saw the Bacchus and the Medusa paintings. We were very impressed. We made our way through every room until we had seen every single piece of art in the museum. That includes the ceiling art. There were paintings and gold designs on every single ceiling in all the halls and in the rooms. It was just beautiful.
Carravaggio, Medusa and me.

After the Uffizi we decided to just walk around the city for a bit. We crossed the river and wandered around the other side of the city. We found a cafe and decided to just eat dinner there and then because they had food we both could eat. We sat outside in the cool shade. I had a half liter of their house white wine. It was perfect for me that evening. It was cool, spritzy and a little bit sweet. I had pesto gnocchi. The hubs got a tomato and cream soup with a calzone. We drank a giant bottle of water too then I stole the bottle so we could fill it up later! Bellies full we wandered our way back towards the hotel. We caught the sun setting as we crossed the Ponte Vecchio. Perfect timing. I had been wanting to have a glass of Grappa since we arrived in Italy but it never seemed like a good price or a good time before. So I went into a wine shop and bought a little bottle to take to the hotel. We also stopped at a cafe and picked up a pistachio cake and a cannolli. The husband has been saying he had to try a cannolli while we were in Italy so we checked a few things off our list as we made our way to the hotel. Once at the hotel we kicked off our shoes, cranked the A/C and had a little picnic on the bed. It was marvelous. What a great way to end a wonderful day in Florence.
Cannolis and grappa. Not too shabby.

The great day made up for the other hot days. We are back to talking about someday coming back to visit. We don't hate you anymore, Italy!

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