A full day in Firenze
Today I pass the torch (iPad) to my wife for today's blog.
We're sitting on the bus on our way to Verona and Venice as I type this. We passed two nights (1.5 days) in Florence (Firenze) or the city of flowers. We started our day yesterday bright and early with a a walk in the sunshine to the Galleria dell'accademia. with our guide. Everyone had slept well in the generous sized rooms with newer marble bathrooms, all with showers and or tubs and breakfast featuring Nutella filled croissants and espresso - a healthy start to the day? - well, delicious anyway.
Firenze is the birth place of the Renaissance and home town of Michelangelo so, of course our first stop was to see the 15 ft sculpture of David. It is enormous and magnificent. Every vein, muscle, and sinew has been sculpted out of the marble to portray the shepherd David ready to sling the rock at Goliath. Amazing to realise that this masterpiece was created during the start of the 16th century during the Renaissance. He was only 26 years old when he sculpted it!
Lunch time was spent exploring the plazas or piazzas found in the city centre filled with many shops, market stalls and cafes. The Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore sits in one of the piazzas with the Baptistry and bell tower, all gorgeously decorated with red, white and green marble. A stunning and surprising vista after following narrow streets lined with neo-classical buildings of 4 stories in height. Another piazza holds the Doge's palace or city hall and it's here that other 15th and 16th century statues sit, along with a replica of David. This piazza dell Vecchio is essentially an outdoor museum.
Scarves and leather goods, and store upon store of gold jewelry on the Ponta dell Vecchio are the city's wares and they are abundant. Of course one can't forget about the gelato and chocolate - especially the chocolata calda - hot chocolate served with whipped cream and tasting like straight melted dark chocolate. Yum!
So, after lunch it was a climb up to the dome of the Duomo - around 200 steps to see the fresco of the last judgement on the ceiling and from there also we could see the beautiful patterns on the inlaid marble floors below. Then outside, at the top of the dome, we were able to have a panoramic view of the city.
All bravely climbed the stairs up the Duomo but some didn't make it outside which was fine as we then had a coach to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte,one of the highest points in Firenze. We attended mass with the Benedictine monks (of which there were only 4) and, by chance, with 100 students from a Christian school in Texas in the crypt of San Miniato. It was a moving yet chilly experience.
Afterwards we coached back down to our neighbourhood to a different restaurant for another delicious 3 course meal. There, I was again treated to birthday celebrations by the students and chaperones. Earlier in the day the students had handed me a Harlequin cone hat which I wore for a bit in the streets and was happy to do. But it didn't end there. In the church yard before mass the students flash mobbed me with a dance. I had thought it was some retreat dance or something that everyone had decided to do so I initially joined in, trying my best to keep up. Only when I heard the song and knew that it wasn't a regular retreat song and that everyone could do it but me, I stopped in amazement and gratitude. Anyway, I was happy for the acknowledgement but didn't expect the rap, the champagne or the cake at the restaurant - never mind the card and framed signatures and photo of Doug and I at the top of the Eiffel Tower!!!! Granted, one only turns 50 once but really, the fact that I was in Italy for it would have been celebration enough! Your children are seriously an amazing bunch of people - together and individually. They have been so open to new ideas, acting respectfully and with a sense of adventure and I feel blessed to have had this chance to travel and hang out with them.
So, we are nearing Verona now and the day promises to be wet. I'm sure we will still enjoy the sight of Juliette's balcony and lunch in a cafe before continuing on to Venezia.