After visiting David, we had a bit of time before the train.

Lunch, San Lorenzo market, pick up our luggage and walk to the train station.

Lunchtime: We just wandered around town until we found something. I guess we chose this place based on it’s look entirely. It looked cute.

The food was not so great. Not terrible, but probably the worst meal we had all week. Just not good.

Forst. Write it down. Don’t go there when you’re in Florence.

While we were eating, one of the restaurants nearby was serenaded with street performers (who then walked by each table asking for money) …… It was, also, right next to Rossopomodoro where Andrew and Devo got their soup.

After lunch, we mozied on back to the bed and breakfast, through the San Lorenzo Market.

Context: San Lorenzo Market is in a square and neighboring streets about 1/2 block from our b&b. The Church of San Lorenzo on one side of the square is where Andrew and Devo sat and drank beer on the wedding night.

We wanted to bring back a few pashminas, and so stopped by the San Lorenzo Market on our way out of town.

Next time I’m there, I want to go earlier in the day, right after the merchants set up. And get lots of pictures of the colors and textures and products and all that are spilling out of the carts …

At one of the carts on the end, I found the 5euro, solid colored pashminas I really wanted. I picked out 7 or 8 pashminas, I think.  3 for myself and the rest for Christmas gifts. And a pink tie for Andrew. And the sweet couple running the cart threw in the tie for free. Sweet man handed me back change just for the pashminas, and told me the extra 3euros was “for coffee” … sweet.

Andrew’s going to wear (what we call) his “Italy tie” to Kaitlin’s wedding …. you’ll see it soon!

I wear my pashminas (a scarf) pretty much every day I leave the house. At least until it gets warmer.

That is the kind of travel souvenir that I just love!

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You turn the corner, and walk into the hallway where you know he is.

Your expectations are high, but you try to temper your excitement so you’re not too let down. Just in case.

You try to avoid looking up to save the moment as long as possible but it’s too hard.

You know that the place is packed all because of him. You’re elbow to elbow with other camera-toting-but-not-allowed-to-take-pictures tourists all facing and moving toward one end of the room.

Finally, unable to postpone the moment you look up. Past all the heads. Your eyes adjust to the light focused on him.

David is absolutely as overwhelming as you have heard.

The first part of the long room leading to David houses Michelangelo’s Prisoners (another one of the reasons I so wanted to visit the Accademia where they are housed) …..

(either side of the image above)

From Rick Steves:

These unfinished figures seem to be fighting to free themselves from the stone. Michelangelo believed the sculptor was a tool of God, not creating but simply revealing the powerful and beautiful figures he put in the marble. Michelangelo’s job was to chip away the excess, to reveal. He needed to be in tune with God’s will, and whenever the spirit came upon him, Michelangelo worked in a frenzy, often for days on end without sleep.

The Prisoners gives us a glimpse of this fitful process, showing the restless energy of someone possessed, struggling against the rock that binds him. Michelangelo himself fought to create the image he saw in his mind’s eye. You can still see the grooves from the chisel, and you can picture Michelangelo hacking away in a cloud of dust. Unlike most sculptors, who built a model and then marked up their block of marble to know where to chip, Michelangelo always worked free hand, starting from the front and working back. These figures emerged from the stone (as his colleague Vasari put it) “as though surfacing from a pool of water.”

The Prisoners was designed for the never-completed tomb of Pope Julius II (who also commissioned the Sistine Chapel ceiling). Michelangelo may have abandoned them simply because the project itself petered out, but he may have deliberately left them unfinished. Having satisfied himself that he’d accomplished what he set out to do, and seeing no point in polishing them into their shiny, finished state, he went on to a new project.

As you study the Prisoners, notice Michelangelo’s love and understanding of the human body. His greatest days were spent sketching the muscular, tanned, and sweating bodies of the workers in the Carrara marble quarries. Here, the prisoners’ heads and faces are the least-developed part – they “speak” with their poses. Comparing the restless, claustrophobic Prisoners with the serene and confident David gives an idea of the sheer emotional range in Michelangelo’s work.

Note: the photos of David are totally against the rules. At the foot of the sculpture is a gallery employee shouting “No PHOTOS!” if she even catches a *glimpse* of a camera.

But I’m stealthy …

From Rick Steves:

When you look into the eyes of Michelangelo’s David, you’re looking into the eyes of Renaissance Man. This 14-foot-tall symbol of divine victory over evil represents a new century and a whole new Renaissance outlook. This is the age of Columbus and classicism, Galileo and Gutenberg, Luther and Leonardo – of Florence and the Renaissance.

In 1501, Michelangelo Buonarotti, a 26-year-old Florentine, was commissioned to carve a large-scale work for the Duomo. He was given a block of marble that other sculptors had rejected as too tall, shallow, and flawed to be of any value. But Michelangelo picked up his hammer and chisel, knocked a knot off what became David‘s heart, and started to work.

The figure comes from a Bible story. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, are surrounded by barbarian warriors led by a brutish giant named Goliath. The giant challenges the Israelites to send out someone to fight him. Everyone is afraid except one young shepherd boy – David.

The statue captures David as he’s sizing up his enemy. He stands relaxed but alert, leaning on one leg in a classical pose. In his powerful is steady – searching with intense concentration, but also with extreme confidence. Michelangelo has caught the precise moment when David is saying to himself, “I can take this guy.”

Note that while the label on David indicates that he’s already slain the giant, the current director of the Accademia believes, as I do, that Michelangelo has portrayed David facing the giant.

David is a symbol of Renaissance optimism. He’s no brute but a civilized, thinking individual who can grapple with and overcome problems. He needs no armor, only his God-given body and wits. Look at his right hand, with the raised veins and strong, relaxed fingers. Many complained that it was too big and overdeveloped. But this is the hand of a man with the strength of God. No mere boy could slay the giant. But David, powered by God could. … and did.

Originally, the statue was commissioned to go on top of the Duomo, but the people loved it so much they put it next to the Palazzo Vecchio on the main square, where a copy stands today. If the relationship between the head and body seems a bit out of proportion, it’s because Michelangelo designed it to be seen “correctly” from far below the rooftop of the church.)

This was one of my favorite moments of our trip …..

There’s not much more I can say about David …. except that you MUST see him. If you’re in Italy, of course.

Add it to your Bucket list.

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On our last morning in Florence, the one thing that we DEFINITELY planned on doing was visiting the Accademia. So much planned ahead that we bought time-scheduled entrance tickets a couple months ahead of time to make sure we were able to get in ….

So, noonish, we headed over to that side of town (remember, walking across the length of Florence is fairly easy to do in less than an hour) … and found several lines out in front of the museum.

One for reservations (score!) and a longer one for without (I wonder how long they all were waiting). … and still another line for tour groups …

Waiting in line, tons of people have doodled and graffiti’d on the wall …. look what I found (found. not drew myself). ..

While we really were visiting the Accademia for one reason, since we were already there, we took a look around some of the other wings of the gallery ….

They have a musical instrument museum … so interesting!

From Wikipedia:

The exhibition path moves through plucked string instruments, bowed, winds, harps, lyres and also includes keyboards. Amongst the most important instruments in the collection is the violin known as the ‘Tuscan Strad’ built by Antonio Stradivari in 1690 together with othe four instruments forming the so-called ‘Maedicean quintet’, built for the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici. Another outstanding piece is the viola by David Tecchler, the German born luthier who worked in Rome in the first half of 1700 and maker of some of the best instruments of the time. His is also one of the fine mandolins from the private collection of queen Margherita di Savoia who left as legacy to the museum.

Just so amazing!

look at the years …. and these were some of the newer instruments …

Also at the Accademia, we found this hall of …. well, plaster. All of these busts and statues were basically plaster casts. Rough drafts before the sculpture itself was carved out of more permanent stone ….

But – the MAIN reason we visited this gallery was to see Michelangelo’s Prisoners and David …. stay tuned.

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So Thursday morning in Florence, we visited Santa Croce. That gorgeous basilica I’ve blogged about the last couple days. With the memorials and the tombs and the Catholic art and the little nuns. The photos do NOT do this place justice. I just loved the space and the light.

But that wasn’t even all of it. RIGHT next door is a leather school (Miranda visited the leather school when she was in Florence and bought herself a wallet).

It really is right next door …. In the same building complex, sharing a courtyard, I think.

Andrew was pretty excited about la Scuola del Cuoio ….

From their website:

Scuola del Cuoio was created after World War II through the collaborative efforts of the Franciscan friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori and Casini families, Florentine leather artisans since the 1930’s. Their mission was to give orphans of the war a means to learn a practical trade with which to earn a living.
Santa Croce, with its strategic position along the banks of the Arno river, since the 13th century had been historically the district where the industries that required great quantities of water were concentrated. The tanners of via delle Conce and via dei Conciatori, just a few steps  from  the garden entrance of the Monastery and Scuola del Cuoio, were an important part of the Santa Croce neighborhood with the dyers of Corso dei Tintori and even the soap makers of via dei Saponai. The tanned hides were used for centuries for the leather manufacturing of the city and at the Monastery itself to cover the great manuscripts. Post-war Scuola del Cuoio brought those traditions back to the Monastery.

Look at all the fun tools they have ….

The workers/students were set up in kind of a wide hallway. Or really long and narrow room. The tables/workbenches are set up along one wall so tourists (read: me with my camera) can walk past all of them to watch their work and see what they do.  They also all had mirrors above/behind them, so observers could see the intricate work from that different angle as well …. It was a pretty interesting set up.

(shot in the mirror:)

They have a lot of the work (wallets, belts, planners of all kinds, keychains, etc) for sale on the premises and you can also get them personalized (with initials, fleur de lis, etc).

Andrew really wanted to get a wallet, but it was extremely expensive (if I remember correctly around $50 or more), so we decided a Target wallet would be good enough. Too bad though. I understand why it is so expensive, we just can’t afford that.

Feel free to shop online, though, if you don’t think you’ll get a chance to go to Florence before you need a new wallet or purse.

And before we leave … a couple shots of the courtyard of the church. Green with huge trees. SO so pretty at 11am.

Coming up next : the Accademia (and David!!!!)

P.S. Remind me next time to study up on my Catholic history before visiting Europe

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Continuing on our Thursday morning, in Florence, at Santa Croce …..

(Every once in awhile I remember to take a self portrait, or Andrew kindly asks if I want him to take a picture of me. ….. proves I was there, right?)

also: I was wearing Andrew’s glasses for a little bit because my eyes aren’t so good at seeing far away. Which is why I’m going to go to the eye doctor sometime this year.

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Andrew loved the skulls. Lots of skulls on the grave/tomb markers. Pretty morbid, to us. But I’m sure it was stylish at the time … .

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I love this pic below. Just look at the size of this place! And the scaffolding ….. but the high ceilings and the big open area in the middle, with that high window…. love.

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I don’t know what this (below) is, but it definitely looks like the sculpture or painting was removed, huh? So interesting…. look at that texture of the wall. Imagine that the whole place looks like that under the decor ….

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One of the biggie’s I was pretty excited about : Michelangelo’s tomb:

From Rick Steves:

Santa Croce was Michelangelo’s childhood church, as he grew up a block east of here at Via dei Bentaccordi 15 (where nothing but a plaque marks the spot). The tomb, with the allegorical figures of painting, architecture and sculpture, was designed by Michelangelo’s great admirer, the artist/biographer Vasari.

I don’t know if you can tell from the images how big the thing is, but I couldn’t fit it all in one shot ….

We really learned a lot about Michelangelo while we were in Italy (all still to come on the blog, but we saw David, St. Peter’s basilica, the Sistine Chapel, La Pieta and more) …. I feel like it wouldn’t have been a complete trip if we missed this memorial to him. …

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{sidenote: we saw Angela’s last name ‘Lingrosso’ a lot of places}

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Scaffolding covered almost half of the art in the church….. kind of disappointing, but they were nice enough to show us what we were missing …

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little bitty nun! I love it!

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and even more skulls

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This piece of tunic was revered to be St. Francis of Assisi’s …. for real.

But then I found this article stating it couldn’t possibly be.

However, I also listened to an interview (can’t find the link at the moment) talking about how the actual authenticity of relics is less important than the meaning behind and the respect it receives.

hmmmm…..

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I feel a little like we didn’t spend enough time at this church, but it was pretty huge. And overwhelming. And amazingly interesting ….

and yet, still not done here. We next visited the adjacent leather school ….

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For those of you just joining us, I have been chronicling Andrew’s and my week in Italy …. Rome, Florence for a wedding, and then Rome again. ….   It was magic.

Our last morning in Florence (Thursday) we made time to visit the Basilica of Santa Croce (note: this is post 1 of 2 about the church).

This church was huge and ornate and so interesting. Granted, there are churches/basilicas EVERYWHERE in Italy. Everywhere. On every corner, in every nook.

But this was one of the bigger ones ….

The front – faces a a big empty square :

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(the tickets were pretty neat:)

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You pay for your tickets and enter the building from a side entrance …I’m sad for Miranda that she didn’t get a chance to go in … because it was …. overwhelming. Before we even left for Italy, I decided I really wanted to come to this church (if we had time) because of how many amazing people from history who are buried or memorialized here (like at Westmister Abbey in London). Soo so interesting.

From Rick Steves:

This 14th-century Franciscan church, decorated with centuries of precious art, holds the tombs of great Florentines. The loud, 19th-century Victorian Gothic facade faces a huge square ringed with tempting shops and littered with tired tourists. Escape into the church and admire its sheer height and spaciousness.

Seriously, so many tombs. So very many. And a bunch were even under scaffolding

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This is going to sound terrible – but I’ve already forgotten what many of these tombs/memorials are for. I knew when I was there – and I tried to take the photos that would help me remember. … but – in the image below for example – I can’t read what the tomb says, can you?

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Image below, there was a private service going on in one of the smaller chapels. I love that. I love that these huge, historic, touristy churches are still actually used as places of worship.

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(image below looks back towards the main entrance)

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(see? scaffolding)

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(look at the intricacy of those stained glass windows)

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(the tomb below was roped off : the carving made the floor uneven.)

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(roof)

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Below is (I’m pretty sure) the tomb of Galileo Galilei: Being condemned as a heretic in life, his remains were only allowed to return to the church long after his death.

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This image below, we weren’t entirely sure what had happened …. look at the image on the wall. Either that top part had been removed, and they had drawn in where it used to be …. or the top part was covered up, and it’s in the process of being restored. Unclear.

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Come back Thursday for the 2nd half of Santa Croce. Friday will be the leather school adjacent to the church.

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Florence, Italy – Dante – Thursday

Thursday morning – we had about 1/2 day in Florence to do touristy things before catching our train back to Rome.

Leisurely breakfast at the B&B. We *technically* checked out, but were able to keep our bags there AND keep the keys ….. so, yea. They’re pretty lenient on that sort of thing :)

As we were heading out for the day, the bride and groom had just woken up and were eating, while getting directions to their day excursion.

I found out later they didn’t end up going, but instead the B&B hosts made Angela and Devo dinner. As in homemade Italian food – more than they could possibly eat. It sounded amazing …. . But that’s a post for Angela to do.

Planned our 1/2 day in Florence – luckily you can walk everywhere, so we kind of just walked in the general direction of the church I wanted to visit.

When Miranda was globe-trotting last summer, she visited Florence and “stumbled upon” Dante’s house. …. when Andrew found out he was super excited, so we wedged into our plans a meander to that side of town.

Check out the teeny tiny streets of Florence … so cute! And a little bitty car parked on a sidewalk (2nd photo down).

I tell ya – visiting Europe REALLY makes me want a SMART car

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This is how we found Dante’s house …. I knew from the map we were *roughly* in the neighborhood. But it’s so hard to tell which of these little alleyways are actual streets on the map, and which are just alleys. They kind of all look the same to me.

But then we stopped at an ATM to get euros, and saw this little street/guidepost, pointing us through the archway.

Lucky that sign was there.

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This is the street that was through the archway … narrow. With a church on the left, and Dante’s house on the end on the right …

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A look inside the door (below)

We did NOT go inside. It was really interesting to see the location (and the church nearby) but

From Rick Steves:

Dante’s house – actually a copy built near his house – reopened after a lengthy restoration, but is painfully lacking in artifacts, many of which were destroyed by a fire while in storage. The reopening releases Dante fans from the Purgatorio of waiting, but falls short of Paradiso. The house’s only valuable offering – not worth the entrance fee – is the exhibit of information panels that introduce visitors to the history of Florence within the context of Dante’s life.

I think the entrance fee was something around $10 for EACH of us. … not worth it.

But cool to be there. On those streets. Where centuries ago that writer walked. …. so interesting.

Learn more about Dante Aligheri from Wikipedia.

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Check out the graffiti’d PacMan ghost above  …. or a cartoon octopus. Who knows.

The streets of Florence are sooo interesting … we made our way to Santa Croce next …

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Florence, Italy – Duomo – Tuesday

When you’re in Florence, if you can make it happen, try to climb the Duomo tower at sunset.

No question.

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Tuesday afternoon, our guides from Accidental Tourist drove us back to the city of Florence from our host’s home in Tuscany after a very filling and delicious lunch.

sidenote: Andrew and I were in Aly’s van with Virginia and Angela’s parents.

The Duomo dominates the skyline of Florence, and the city square where the Duomo is located is one of the primary areas of the city.

*Technically* the word ‘duomo’ is just an Italian word for cathedral church. Florence’s cathedral/Duomo (pictured here) is officially called : Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Still.

From Rick Steves:

Florence’s Gothic cathedral has the third-longest nave in Christendom. The church’s noisy neo-Gothic facade from the 1870′s is covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble (see 1st image of this post). Since nearly all of its great art is stored in the Duomo Museum (behind the church), the best thing about the interior is the shade. The inside of the dome is decorated by one of the largest paintings of the Renaissance, a huge Last Judgment by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari.

The cathedral’s claim to artistic fame is Brunelleschi‘s magnificent dome – the first Renaissance dome and the model for domes to follow.

Because we didn’t get into town until around 430p or so … and were pretty exhausted and still full of food, we didn’t get to the Duomo until around 6p. Because of the time, and our interests, we elected to climb the dome of the cathedral rather than go inside.

I think they only allow people to climb the dome up until 630p or so. We knew we were cutting it close, but it turned out perfectly!

From Rick Steves:

For a grand view into the cathedral from the base of the dome, a peek at some of the tools used in the dome’s construction, a chance to see Brunelleschi’s “dome-within-a-dome” construction, a glorious Florence view from the top, and the equivalent of 463 plunges on a Stairmaster, climb the dome.

Yea, that’s right. 463 steps.

Holy geez.

At least we worked off all those calories.

I took off my sweater pretty much right away. Another 50 steps up I put my hair in a ponytail. Another 50 steps up I got Andrew to carry my bag (including memory cards, guidebook, etc).

phew!

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A tiny window, over-looking the city, just partway up the stairs:

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A lot of people thought they were EXTREMELY clever to graffiti RIGHT next to the sign that says ‘Do not write on the walls:

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On the way up and on the way down there are 2 different room/landing areas that act as mini-museums. These are (I think) statues/sculptures that used to reside in the square outside the cathedral, but were moved inside to be preserved. Check out the defacing that has been done over the years. So sad ….

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Dome artwork:

pretty intense.

From Wikipedia:

It was suggested that the interior of the 45 metre (147 ft) wide dome should be covered with a mosaic decoration to make the most of the available light coming through the circular windows of the drum and through the lantern. Brunelleschi had proposed the vault to glimmer with resplendent gold, but his death in 1446 put an end to this project, and the walls of the dome were whitewashed. Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici decided to have the dome painted with a representation of The Last Judgment. This enormous work, 3,600 metres² (38 750 ft²) of painted surface, was started in 1568 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari and would last till 1579. The upper portion, near the lantern, representing The 24 Elders of Apoc. 4 was finished by Vasari before his death in 1574. Federico Zuccari and a number of collaborators, such as Domenico Cresti, finished the other portions: (from top to bottom) Choirs of Angels; Christ, Mary and Saints; Virtues, Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Beatitudes; and at the bottom of the cuppola: Capital Sins and Hell. These frescoes are considered Zuccari’s greatest work. But the quality of the work is uneven because of the input of different artists and the different techniques. Vasari had used true fresco, while Zuccari had painted in secco.

It was huge. And so more vivid and colorful in real life.

Andrew’s favorite was the guy pulling himself apart (2 photos down) . …

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More of those steps …. We thought they felt very Alfred Hitchcock or Edgar Allen Poe. Low ceilings. Awkward angles. Non-conformity of step depth. Dark. Stone.

Pretty creepy if you were by yourself, for sure!

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And then – finally – we found the light. It almost felt like coming up from underground ….

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aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh  {and all of heaven opened up and the angels sang!}

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yea. It was 463 steps. And we were EXHAUSTED (we slept well that night, for sure) … . but it was sooooo worth it.

When else are we going to be in Florence and get to see this view?

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(thanks to the friendly stranger who offered to take the shot below)

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Now whenever you look at a photo of Florence, you can imagine Andrew and I at the very very very top of that big dome!

I think about it.

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(and then we had to walk back DOWN the steep scary steps. Easier going down, though, that’s for sure)

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Just a glimpse of the inside of the church on our way out. It was already closed to visitors for the day …

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And as a bonus:

In the same square as the Duomo is the Florence Baptistery – with those famous doors!

From Rick Steves:

Florence’s Baptistery is dear to the soul of the city. In medieval and Renaissance times, the locals – eager to link themselves to a classical past – believed (wrongly) that this was a Roman building. It is, however, Florence’s oldest building (11th century). Most festivals and parades either started or ended here. Go inside for a fine example of pre-Renaissance mosaic art (1200s-1300s) in the Byzantine style.

editor’s note: Andrew and I did NOT go inside

continuing with Rick Steves:

The Baptistery’s bronze doors bring us out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Florence had great civic spirit, with different guilds and merchant groups embellishing their city with great art. The city staged a competition in 1401 for the commission of the Baptistery’s north doors. All the greats entered and 25-year-old Lorenzo Ghiberti won easily, beating out heavy-weights such as Brunelleschi (who, having lost the Baptistery gig, was free to go to Rome, study the Pantheon, and later design the Duomo’s dome).

Later in 1425, Ghiberti was given another commission, for the east doors, and this time there was literally no contest. The bronze panels of these doors (image below) added a whole new dimension to art – depth. Michelangelo said these doors were fit to be the gates of paradise.

(behind gates and tourists … and these are copies! The originals are in the museum)

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One last look back at the Duomo facade …. pink and green? Like pajamas? Or beautiful? what do you think?

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(I know it seems like a long time ago, but when we left off on our Italy trip, it was the middle of Tuesday, we were at Villa Gondi learning how they make olive oil and now wine) ….

Yes, in addition to learning about how they make olive oil, we toured the facilities of how/where they make wine. In Tuscany. Italy.

*swoon*

After learning about the olive oil equipment and steps … we ended up on the ground floor, and Steve opened this (big) door to lead us back to where the grapes start ….

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The wine made in this region of Italy/Tuscany is Chianti wine … but wine made here also has to adhere to specific standards to be considered Chianti (and get it on a label). If you want to learn more about the standards Chianti wine must adhere to, visit the Wikipeda article.

But first:

Do you know how they make white wine?

Nope, not with green grapes (although, sometimes). It’s with peeled grapes (green and red). The red in red wine comes from processing the grapes with the skin still on.

The image below is one of the contraptions used to process the peeled grapes for white wine. Red wine grapes have to sit for awhile first (to help break down the skin) so they’re not processed like this …

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Those vats behind Steve are holding grapes-turning-into-red-wine …

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We got to see all the big oak barrels where the red wine is aged …. these big big ones (pictured below) are for (I think) the reserva grade wine (middle of the 3 levels). Smaller barrels are used for gran reserva.

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Learn about Chianti Rufina

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And finally, for a fuller idea of the space, check out the video below that I happened to find on youtube.com …

Even for someone who doesn’t drink wine … this was FASCINATING!

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Florence, Italy – Villa Gondi – Tuesday

The Tuesday of our week in Italy was for pre-wedding festivities with Angela, Devo and the rest of their guests.

The bride and groom booked us a full day excursion into Tuscany!

We got picked up about 930a in Florence by 2 guys/vans from Accidental Tourist. Steve (an American ex-patriot) and his born-in-Italy 20-something year old son Alessandro.

We all piled in and drove about 45 minutes out into the Tuscan countryside. Andrew and I rode with Alessandro, and he was so good about answering any questions we had about where we were, where we were going and Italy in general. Angela’s dad put him through a whole q&a on the police/law-enforcement system in Italy! cute.

If you check out the Accidental Tourist website, they offer several different options for Florence excursions. I highly (highly) recommend you check them out if you ever go to Florence. Angela and Devo have done the cooking class. We did the ‘Wine and Snooze’ tour ….

First stop of the tour ….. Villa Gondi – an estate in Tuscany where they make olive oil and wine (future posts on each).

The view!!!!

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First – Steve brought us to the front yard of this estate – Villa Gondi – and gave us a little bit of its history. He knows all the details. He’s a great storyteller.

by the way, this tour is EXACTLY why I need a video or audio recorder. Because there is no way I ca remember everything Steve told us about this estate.

And the website is in Italian.

There are some details available online – about the estate and the wine and the family – but if you want more, I found a video (at the end of this post) taken by a previous Accidental Tourist guest.

Enjoy the view ….

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Tuesday was our day of not really any touristy things planned. Angela had got several of her wedding guest/entourage booked in the same bed and breakfast (full post later) and made plans for us all to do some pre-wedding activities most of the day Tuesday.

After the chaos and anonymity of Rome, it was actually kind of nice to wake up on Tuesday morning and share a bathroom with one of my/Angela’s friends from high school. It was comfortable and relatively relaxing to be with people we know.

I think Andrew really liked the traveling-with-people-we-know part. You’ll have to ask him.

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(I can’t help posting this pic – he’s just so cute!)

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So ! Because of Angela’s plans … all of us left the b&b around 9a to walk across town to meet the vans picking us up for the day-long tour.

The Duomo and Bapistery (pictured below) were literally 1/2 a block from our b&b.

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Virginia wasn’t staying in the same place as us, but she came over in the morning to walk with us.

Poor Virginia!

Arrived in Florence without any luggage. The airline had lost or misplaced or misdirected her luggage. So she had to go find a 1-Euro store for some last minute shampoo; she didn’t have anything other than what she was wearing on; she even had to go buy shoes once she got to Florence.

Sad.

Luckily, her bag arrived the MORNING of the wedding. Perfect timing…

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This building – that we never got a chance to go into, but we did walk by several times – is where the Uffizi gallery is housed.

This was formerly offices (“uffizzi“) during the Medici days (renaissance-ish time frame) but is now one of Europe’s top 4 or 5 art galleries.

They only allow 600 people at a time into the galleries, so you must make a reservation (and wait in line). We did not get into the gallery while we were in Florence.

Bummed that I never got around to shooting photos of it, but just outside this building (you can see it a little bit on the right in the 2nd photo down) is an outdoor sculpture gallery. 8 or 10 in a little courtyard. And they’re all lit up at night.

We’ll just have to go back so I can get my photos.

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Image below you see 2 statues at the corner of the building. The one on the left is a David replica. It represents where that statue originally stood when it was completed. More about David when we see him for real (!!).

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To get to the pick-up point, we crossed over the Arno to the other side. In the image below you can see the Ponte Vecchio. This was the only of Florence’s bridges that wasn’t destroyed in WW2 (rumor has it on Hitler’s specific order).

The Ponte Vecchio and the buildings on it date back to Medieval Europe.

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Once on the other side of the Arno, we met in one of the piazzas right near the river. Angela’s family (parents, brother, brother’s fiance) and Devo’s bestman and his family met us there.

We were picked up by 2 vans from Accidental Tourist and taken out to the Tuscan countryside … 45 min out of the city. Just WAIT til you see.

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So after a day and a half in Rome, we took the train north (about a 3.5 hour train ride) to arrive in Florence a little after 7p. It was dark, our first time in the city … trying to find our bed and breakfast using a Rick Steves map that was ….less than ideal, shall we say?

Um. Yea, the map that I was looking at didn’t have all the streets on it … so for a bit I thought we were lost. Dragging our suitcases down the cobblestone streets.

Oh, by the way, we borrowed a suitcase from Kaitlin and we *think* that those cobblestone streets pulled one of the wheels off her suitcase. It came off somehow. ..

Oops.

Here’s part of the Florence map. You can see on the left the train station, and our b&b was on San Lorenzo (or ‘B. S. Lor.’) by the Duomo … so you can see why I would expect it to be easy. But no. …

Oh well.

Rick Steves map of Florence

Eventually, we found our way into the Duomo square, and found the correct street. Hurrah!

So, by this time we were hungry, tired, thought we were maybe lost and looking for number 9.

As we walked up the street, numbers on both sides (on these cute tiles) … found #9 and it was a store front. Shoe store, I think.

Excellent. Pretty sure we were not staying at a shoe store; did I right the address down wrong? Shoot.

We walked up a little farther and saw #3  …. what? Numbers going backwards?

SO I thought maybe it is supposed to be #19??  We walked a bit farther on …. #11 …. #15 …. #7 ??

So confused.

We FINALLY found another #9 that looked like an apartment building front door, found the buzzer. Hallelujah, we’re in the right place.

Found out later … they had recently re-numbered the street but didn’t bother to take the old numbers down. True story.

so, just an FYI for when you go to Florence.

So, we got to our b&b, and Angela and Devo were already there …. More on their time in Florence later. …

Our host gave us a tour, gave us the keys, was so pleasant and friendly …. more on the b&b later…

Then it was time for dinner. Angela asked the host if he had a recommendation on where we could go to eat. … And the sweet man (Sabino) actually called his friend’s restaurant and made a reservation for us all! Nice.

And that – my friends – is why you never hesitate to talk to the locals when you travel.

The restaurant – called Dante – was in this great building with brick arches inside, and yummy food. Gallery below.

At the Dante:

One of the perks of having an ‘in’ with the owner …. after we finished our meal, the waiter brought by a 1/2-filled bottle of limoncello and some shot glasses (images above). On the house! Such a fun little highlight. … except that limoncello tastes like gasoline. … but, you know.

After that, all we had to do was find our way back to the b&b ….. walking through Florence at night …. such a gorgeous experience!

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Below – Ponte Vecchio

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Below: front door to our b&b …

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Tomorrow – Tuscany!

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