Wednesday, June 25, 2008
On Monday morning Ally and I boarded the train for our hour long ride south to Florence, Italy. Our ride traveled through the rolling hills of the Tuscany region in northern Italy. We saw some beautiful rolling hills and sprawling vineyards from our crowded train couch. The Tuscany region is most notably known for its wine production and one of our favorites from our trip, Chianti.
Florence, or Firenze in Italian, is the capital of the Tuscany region. It is the home of the Renaissance and the birthplace of our modern world. Although Florence is a small city, we found it to have some intensity. Markets sweep across the city and everybody is trying to sell you some leather. Our hotel was near the cities largest market area in the San Lorenzo square, tucked away from the main tourist sites. We had some difficulties finding our hotel and Ally was not pleased to find we had to walk up four flights of stairs with our bags to reach our room. Also, this was our first hotel that made you leave your key at the desk while you are out and we were pretty skeptical about that, but everything worked out fine.
We took off from the hotel and began to dig into the Renaissance culture. After getting our bearings around the city, we found out that there is much more to the Renaissance than art. To them, art applies to all areas of life beyond paintings and statues be it food, fashion and speaking. We found the best way to experience this was to walk around this charming city is while eating our new favorite treat, gelato. Gelato is an Italian ice cream, much better than any ice cream I have ever had. You are practically eating art with its very dense and flavorful taste. Ally and I were on a mission to try as many flavors as possiblle; I think on our last day we each had three servings! We justified it though by walking everywhere all day and she ordered the fruit flavors while I stuck to the chocolate and even tried a riso flavor (rice). Firenze is said to have Italy's best gelato and we were not let down.
We did a lot of sightseeing in Florence and were able to view one of our favorite works of art here. The Accademia museum houses Michaelangelo's David, the Renaissance man. We learned a lot about this historical statue and its meaning for the birth of humanism. David is symbolic for a break with the past from man being a playing of the supernatural to a confident individual. Florence was surrouned by many powerful city-states and David was to the be mascot of Firenze during their break their power. Michaelangelo's statue is enormous and portrays some of the finest work of art known to man. (Below: David, Ally and I waiting in line for Accademia)
The rest of the museum had other interesting Renaissance paintings and sculptures that caught our interest as well. Another museum we visited was the Bargello. A museum dedicated to sculpture is the house to Donatello's David, the first male nude to be sculpted paving the way for Michaelangelo's David. It also had many other sculpting works my Michaelangelo spanning three floors.
One of Ally's most frightening experiences occurred when we climbed to the top of Firenze's gothic cathedral, Duomo. The church is beautiful, covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble and a stunning dome (below). We learned that the church was built with an uncovered dome because the technology was not yet discovered to build a dome. Their Renaissance style of thinking gave them confidence to believe that the challenge would be overcome. This domo and church become the model for all other domes to follow.
463 steps later and we reached the top of the copula for a grand view of Florence (above) and the hills of Tuscany. Ally got freaked out inside the dome where we were pressed between the wall and a railing, with a great view, (more frightening to Ally) of the church below. She pressed through and realized how much she would have missed if she didn't make it to the top.
Our hotel included breakfast which allowed Ally and I to spare on lunch and splurge on some savoring dinners. My favorite was a hand made tortellini we ate at the Osteria del Porcellino. It had very large noodles for tortellini and was covered with cheese, nuts and pears. It may have been the slowest meal I have ever eaten because I did not want it to end. We even topped it off with another Italian favorite, tiramisu.
After dinner, we spent our nights eating gelato and hanging out at our favorite spot in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio. Ponte Vecchio is Florence's most famous bridge and is lined with shops filled with gold and silver. It was a perfect place to people watch and listen to people playing music on the bridge (below is a view of the bridge from Piazza Michelangelo during the day from across the river). We were lucky enough to have great weather and witness some beautiful sunsets (first picture) here since the sun did not set until around 22:00.
Up next, we prepare for our train ride to the Cote de Azur in southern France.