Okay, back at the travel-blogging!
Last Tuesday was another outing day – we decided to go to Florence (Firenze). We left Perugia and took an hour-or-so train ride into the huge Florence rail station. The first thing I noticed as we left the station was the speed of the city. We had spent the past week in a (relatively) small Italian hill town, and now we had landed in a hustling, bustling metropolis of street vendors, tour groups, business people, students, restaurants with menus in two to four languages, souvenier shops and tabachhis. One of the upsides of being in a touristy area like this was that more people had a familiarity with English, so among the chaos we were able to communicate a little more easily for directions and navigating menus.
A street vendor selling…small camera stands?
The Duomo, or more properly, the Basilica of Santa Maria di Fiore (since duomo is a generic Italian term for a cathedral) is probably one of the most notable attractions in Florence. There are three buildings located in the Piazza del Duomo, including the Baptistery (octagonal and ginormous), the bell tower (tall and ginormous), and the main cathedral (ginormous with a big dome).
Baptistery in the foreground, the bell tower, the facade of the main cathedral, the doors of the baptistery, a representation of God near the top of the cathedral facade, the dome of the cathedral (Mom in the foreground), another view of the bell tower and the length of the cathedral.
I wanted to go to the top of the Duomo to look over the city, but…
So, this entire trip I was craving fried calamari. Don’t ask me why foods fried in wheat product don’t upset my stomach like other gluten-containing products, but they don’t. I never eat too much fried food because the fear of being decimated by gastric upset is great, but not so great that I completely eschew fried calamari. So it was with great delight that I discovered that the World’s Best Fast Food Calamari is located in Florence, Italy. I give you: Re Calamaro!. Even the fast food in Italy kicks American food’s butt! Yum, yum, yum.
Another famous area of Florence is the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a palace that houses the Uffizi Gallery. The gallery contains words by da Vinci, Boticelli, Michelangelo, Rafael, Caravaggio and many other famous artists. The Uffizi requires reservations (or a five-hour wait in line in July), so we chose not to go inside, but outside of the Uffizi in the Piazza della Signoria are many incredible statues.
Under the Loggia dei Lanzi (the set of three arches alongside one edge of the Piazza della Signoria) is one of my favorite statues, Perseus with the head of Medusa. The detail is mind-boggling; one expects Perseus will step down from his pedestal to show you the final death throes of Medusa’s serpentine locks.
I call this piece Big scary dog, indifferent pigeon.
We all have our tourist moments. This was (one of) mine.
Over the River Arno (Fiume Arno)
Mom and the Hubby on a bridge overlooking the Arno toward the Ponte Vecchio, close up of the Ponte Vecchio, buildings along the Arno, a view of the Uffizi and Galileo Science History Museum from the opposite bank.
We saw locks all over Florence; we figured it was a habit to leave your bike lock hooked to your “parking space”. But outside of the Uffizi we overheard a tour guide explaining that the tradition is you leave a lock in Florence and your true love will find you. Another blog site, Students in Europe, has a different story:
It turns out the locks are a tradition in Florence. Couples bring a lock and lock it to the chains, then throw the key into the river as a declaration of the strength and eternity of their love. As I looked closer, I saw that many of the locks had the lovers’ names or initials written or inscribed on them.
Here is one of the chains near the Ponte Vecchio covered with wishes for, or declarations of, true love.
There was a ton of motor traffic in Florence. Like Perugia and Rome, scooters and small motorcycles appeared to dominate the vehicular traffic in Florence. This is a street along the Arno River chock-full of parked bikes.
I love this video I took of Italian drivers and their odd relationship with stop signs. Or, lack thereof:
Florence was a day trip – we were in town a mere six hours or so, and look at all we saw! It was a beautiful, exciting city, and I would definitely spend more time there if the opportunity presented itself.