I slept like a baby. First to pass out, and a good thing. Apparently there was a night club that was hopping well into the morning. I awoke at 4:30am and walked quietly up the apartment stairs to get to the bathroom. I crept slowly and cautiously so as not to wake up Malorie and Sarah. I got all the way to the bathroom and realized I had no idea where the light switch was. I felt along the inside of the door. Nothing. I felt along the outside of the door. Nothing. Then Malorie whispered across the room, “It’s on your left.” So I felt to my left. Nothing. Suddenly the flashlight from Malorie’s phone shined right onto the switch. In fact it was on my left, but it was at thigh level. Not up high, like you would expect. Their locks are weird, why wouldn’t their light switches be weird, too?
Feeling badly for waking Malorie I finished my business and whispered a quick, “Thank you” as I headed back down the stairs and into bed. It was entirely too early to get up, and though I’ve been known to blog at this hour, I wanted to be respectful to Malorie and Sarah, of whom at least one I’d already awoken.
Within a few hours we were all awake and getting set for our early scheduled admission to The Accademia to see the Statue of David. I learned as we were getting ready that neither of the girls had slept well at all. Between the loud partiers and pesky mosquitos in their ears, they’d had a restless night. I’m not sure how I slept through it… perhaps it was due to my “sleep apnea”, which they’d been awake enough to diagnose. I totally don’t snore…
We walked out of the apartment, still nervous to shut the door behind us (but we did). The gate was closed so we went to unlock it, but the key wouldn’t unlock it. Having unlocked it easily from the other side the previous evening, I reached my hand around to the front and somehow managed to unlock it with ease. Annoyed, we exited the building and walked the short distance to the museum. When purchasing our tickets in advance we had requested 9:00am but got switched to afternoon times when we received our vouchers. Sarah emailed them back and got hers and Mal’s changed to 8:15am, but when I did the same, I received 10:15am. We were hoping they would still let me in. Fortunately, they didn’t say a thing about it, and I was able to go at the same time.
We got into the museum and as we circled the corner, began discussing how we should go straight to David as it would only get more crowded as the morning progressed. We looked for a map nearby and and couldn’t find one. All we could find was a row of unfinished sculptures. Suddenly, we looked up and he was right there in front of us, in all his gigantic glory. The famous Michaelangelo sculpture depicts David just after he conquered Goliath. It truly was fascinating and so much bigger than I expected. How one can carve such art out of a chunk of marble, without any modern technology, is unfathomable.
We spent some time circling David, taking photos and admiring the work. As we had suspected, the small area became increasingly crowded and we were ready to enjoy other parts of the museum. We entered each of the small rooms and viewed artwork from centuries ago. We saw mostly paintings, but there were also sculptures and literary works, including part of Dante’s Inferno.
Having spent an adequate amount of time at The Accademia, our hunger began to get the best of us and we decided we should find a place for breakfast. Since our appointment was so early, we didn’t really have time to eat anything before we left the apartment. We walked a few streets closer to the duomo, our next stop, and found a nice little patio cafe. We all got a chocolate croissant, (my go-to), and I ordered my first espresso. I knew it was a small amount of coffee, which is why I hadn’t ordered it previously. However, I knew I was going to need a little kick. When i received it, I couldn’t help appreciating how cute it was in the little cup. The brownish-white foam was swirled around the top and the aroma was divine. I savored it as long as I could, but it was consumed rather quickly.
As per usual, we were finished with our croissant and coffee long before anyone came to get payment. We utlized the time to rest and enjoy each other’s company in the shade of the patio canopy. Recharged for our day, we continued on to the duomo.
Down the beautiful streets of Florence, we strolled. There were several small shops, many of which were selling leather goods. As I was exploring the store fronts I saw a leather store across the street that grabbed my attention. There was a beautiful leather mid-thigh coat with fur around the sleeves and bottom. While the coat was not my style, I still found it to be beautiful! I suggested we check out the shop, and at our leisurely morning pace, I received no disagreement. We walked into the leather shop and were greeted by a man who looked Italian but spoke extremely clear English. He introduced himself as Max, and engaged us in conversation. We learned that he’s from California, very near to where Sarah was born and has lived in Florence for 18 years. He briefly talked our ears off, and as I sneakily increased the distance between us, he turned his efforts toward trying to sell some leather. I have always heard that Italy is the best place to buy leather goods. I didn’t come here with any particular souvenir in mind, but suddenly I saw one of the most beautiful leather jackets I’ve ever seen. It was brown and fitted with a beautiful design. He insisted I try it on, and while I didn’t intend to buy it, I thought it would be fun. Of course, once I put it on, I couldn’t deny how cute it was on me. I asked how much it was and was delighted to learn it was 50%. What a bargain! I looked to the girls for support in purchasing or to talk some reason into me. I received 2 thumbs up, so without further ado, I bought that baby. Max then proceeded to talk our ears off for another 10 minutes and I honestly can’t tell you what he was talking about… something to do with being able to read people and being a Merlin in Florence. What???
Following my purchase, we stepped back into the hot sun. I had been conflicted about wearing a skirt or not. The forecast was calling for a sunny, hot day and I knew the skirt would keep me cooler, however, when entering any duomo/cathedral, covered shoulders and knees are required. My skirt wasn’t low enough to cover my knees, but thanks to a long tank, I was pretty sure I could pull the skirt down far enough to sneak through without giving anyone a show. I had brought my scarf for my shoulders.
We approached the duomo and, as with the others, it offered its own unique and majestic beauty. It was very large in comparison to some of the others I’ve seen and more colorful with a dark green running through the stone.
We decided to take the time to go inside. Sarah had already been before, but didn’t mind going a second time for Malorie and me. We found our place in the almost too long line and debated on whether or not they were going to say anything about my knees not being covered. Ahead of us were many women and girls with shorts and short skirts on, as well as sleeveless tops and no apparent means of covering them. One by one each of these women and girls were admitted into the duomo. By the time we reached the front of the line, I felt fairly confident it wasn’t going to be a problem. Soon it was our turn to enter. We walked into the duomo, and were greeted with a turnstyle requiring a ticket. To the left was a closed ticket booth. Apparently we were in the line for people who had purchased advance tickets. Concerned this would happen, we had done a quick internet search while waiting in line, which indicated a ticket was not needed to enter the duomo. Another tourist saw our dilemma and simply stated: “Welcome to the jungle,” as he pointed around the side and told us where we could purchase our tickets. As we exited, we unanimously agreed it was not that important to us to see the inside given we’d have to wait in a ticket line, and wait in the entrance line again. Instead we walked around the piazza and took some photos. Every time we turned a corner of the duomo, we were greeted by another long stretch of the building. The dome was contrasted from the gray and green of the buidling by a brilliant gold.
The duomo was an architectural masterpiece that was contributed to by several architects over a span of 140 years. After spending some time in the piazza, we then decided to walk toward the Uffizi, our next stop, keeping our eyes peeled for a nice place to eat.
The sun was beating down on us and I took satisfaction in the fact I had remembered my sunscreen. Sweaty and tired, we entered another piazza near the Uffizi and saw a cute covered patio to our left. While discussing whether or not we were all on board with this particular restaurant, one of the servers came to us and invited us in. I’m learning if I don’t want to feel obligated to eat somewhere, I need to be indecisive from afar. They have perfected their ability to suck people in to eat at their establishments. Nonetheless, we all thought it was a nice little place and would’ve chosen it anyway – primarily because there were misters keeping the flowers from overheating, and we couldn’t help but imagine how nice it would feel on our faces.
We chose a table on the edge of the patio, by an aforementioned mister, and I finally had an opportunity to use some of my Italian. The menu had plenty of variety and I wanted to choose something Florentine. I asked the server what his favorite pasta was and he recommended a delicious pasta with asparagus. It was very different than other pastas I’d tried and I was super pleased! Despite the blistering heat, hot coffee and pastas never seem to get old.
Mid-lunch we were interrupted by a gentleman just next to us who learned from our conversation with the server that we were American. Because of his upcoming trip to NYC, he was very interested in talking to us. He was from Istanbul and made it a point to give us his card. I coudn’t read anything on it, but the conversation did allow us a theme song for our few days together… Istanbul not Constantanople…. Is it stuck in your head now, too? By the way, if you talk to Sarah, she really loves hearing this song. Don’t be afraid to serenade her.
We wrapped up our refreshing lunch and walked by the Pseudo-David (replica) at Piazza della Signoria to get to the Uffizi. We didn’t realize we were dining just across the piazza from the Uffizi, so we ended up being quite early for our 1:00pm appointment. As we were walking across the piazza into the entrance area, we were unexpectedly approached by a young woman, seemingly in plain clothes inquiring as to whether or not we were going to the museum. We were all caught off guard and naturally assumed she was sketchy. As it turns out, she is placed there to facilitate entrance to the museum. She informed us we could only exchange our vouchers for real tickets between 12:45pm-1:00pm, and could only enter the museum between 1:00pm-1:15pm. She directed us to Door 3, where a woman with absolutey no personality at all exchanged our vouchers for tickets. With the extra time, I felt it necessary to have my daily gelato.
We walked down a nearby road assuming there would be a gelateria right around the corner, and of course there was. Interestingly, some of these “roads” are the size of a typical alley in the US. Thankfully they are cleaner, charming and lined with businesses. On occasion you’ll see someone come through on a bike or small car, but some are even to small for motorists. However, you have to be cautious as some you think are too small for motorists are not and you have to get creative to avoid being hit or having your feet run over. In Siena I actually had to step into a doorway to let a bus pass.
I grabbed my gelato and we went back to the Uffizi to wait for our time slot. Of all the gelato I’ve had, this was my least favorite. It was not impressive. I’ve found anything that looks like a gelato company should be avoided. Anything that looks like a hole in the wall is a gem. Granted, nearly everything looks like (is) a hole in the wall.
One o’clock approached and it was time to check out the Uffizi. We were already a little overstimulated with art, but art history is a huge part of Italy and the Uffizi is one of those places to which you have to go. (Some may disagree – I suppose it depends on your perspective).
We walked up 4 flights of stairs without the luxury of air conditioning. By the time we arrived at the top, we needed a break. Our tickets were checked and we moved into one of many rooms with art-covered walls, some dating back as far as the first century. Unbelievable. Over the centuries, the art was largely the same – focused on Jesus… his birth, his works, his crucifixion. The Crucifix with Mary Magdalen by Luca Signorelli was painted circa 1502-1505 and was restored in 1909.
The Baptism of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo Da Vinci was painted circa 1470-1475 and was restored in 1998.
Under the direction of Verrochio, the early style of Da Vinci is documented. Attributed to his talented hand are parts of the landscape, parts of Jesus and part of the angel in the profile. I am not a huge art lover, but I have A desire to experience culture and I do appreciate certain works. Every now and then something really stands out to me and these two pieces are examples of such.
We somehow managed to start on the second floor, and after a quick break on the rooftop terrace, we were able to find the first floor. At this point, we were hot and our eyes were glazed over. We decided to go, but not before a “quick” trip to the bathroom. We followed the signs for “toilette”, entering the basement of the Uffizi, passing a few partially excavated tombs still in the wall, with more ruins below the stairwell. We turned left, then right, then straight past a column, then right again, then left, and there was the bathroom indicating the end of the labyrinth.
With empty bladders and empty energy stores as well, we returned to the our Airbnb for a much needed nap. I immediately passed out as soon as resting my head on the pillow, and Malorie was right behind me. Almost 3 hours later when I finally woke up, Mal was still snoozing next to me and Sarah was resting, but not asleep. Very slowly we got up and planned our evening.
Nico had recommended crossing the Ponte Vecchio and checking out a part of town where the locals hang out. I had inadvertently left my plug-in adaptor in Siena, and the one I purchased right out of the train station in Florence had already quit working. (I bought it from a guy on the street for a measley €5, so I didn’t expect it to last long). Needless to say, I was on the search for another cheap plug-in adaptor from a guy on the street. The Ponte Vecchio was a great place to start looking, and just happened to be on our route.
We arrived at the Ponte Vecchio and perused the shop windows full of jewelry. This bridge, as with many others centuries ago, held many shops. They once included butchers and merchants, though now it’s primarily jewelers and souvenir stores. About halfway across the bridge we paused to take some beautiful photos with the Arno River in the background.
The Ponte Vecchio is a famous bridge in Florence because it is the only bridge left from pre-WWII. When the Nazis retreated from the advancing British army in 1944, they destroyed every other bridge in Florence but left this one standing. When compared to the other nearby bridges, its age is apparent. After taking some photos I found a guy with an adaptor. I was just getting ready to purchase when he picked up his cardboard table and moved to the side. I was very confused and assumed he was just calling it quits for the day. I soon discovered there were police officers patrolling the bridge and clearly his “work” is illegal. Nonetheless, I still needed an adaptor, so gave him €5 for the goods once the police passed. What are you gonna do?
We strolled over to the other side of the Arno and browsed store windows as we walked to Piazza Santo Spirito, where we would see the Basilica di Santo Spirito. Nico suggested grabbing a piece of pizza from Gusto Pizza and taking it over to the steps of Santo Spirito to eat it. As we came into the piazza, we saw several restaurants with cute patios and decided to do that instead. Furthermore, the line for pizza was nearly 30 people long. We aren’t much for waiting in lines.
After some debate, we finally decided on a little restaurant. The server offered us a Prosecco while we waited for a table to become available. Soon we were seated and we began our meal. While the pappardelle looked good, I wanted to try some seafood. Sarah and I ordered a plate of prosciutto and melone to share (prosciutto and cantoulope), and I ordered shrimp scampi with prawns over sauteed vegetables.
We sat together, relaxed and enjoying the cool breeze. Behind the basilica, the sun was setting as evidenced by pink extending from behind it. As the sun had begun setting, the weather was perfect. Suddenly Sarah alerted Mal and I to the presence of Max from the leather shop. We were on the other side of town! I looked, and sure enough, there he was, earbud in and evidently waiting for someone. We were talking about how weird it was when he discovered our presence as well. He approached our table and, thankfully, wasn’t as strange as before. He gave us a little history about the area in which we were dining. Centuries ago, Michaelangelo used to come to the Basilica di Santo Spirito and dissect bodies to perfect his art of sculpting. When he was done, he’d walk across the piazza to the fountain and wash his hands. While I found that an interesting tidbit at the time, thinking over it again, that was a creepy thing for him to tell us right before dinner. Following his history lesson, a group of runners ran through the piazza. People in the restaurant cheered for them, and many of them waved as they ran through the piazza. Max informed us there is a 10K every Wednesday evening. They ran through twice during our dinner. Finally, Max left us to wait for his “sidekick,” who was 5 years old when Max met him. Again, very strange.
Sarah and I enjoyed our appetizer and we were soon presented with our meals. Mine: several gigantic prawns with beady eyes staring at me. They might as well have been lobsters!! Their legs and antennae were creepily extending from the vegetables and I required some instruction from Sarah on how to eat them. After a few times of cutting into the top part of the body and having a greenish-brown liquid pour onto my plate, I quickly learned to only cut into and eat the tails. At one point a wire-like antenna got stuck in my mouth and swam around for a few seconds before I could get a hold of it and take it out. I consider myself to have an adventurous palate, but these things literally grossed me out to the point I couldn’t eat them anymore. Void of legs, eyes and antennae, I can eat shrimp all day! Seeing a whole crustacean and all of his friends on my plate – not appetizing. I’m forever traumatized.
It was getting late and I was emotionally distraught from my dining experience, so we headed back to the apartment. Despite having a dessert at the restaurant, I was still repulsed by my meal, and the only thing that could rectify that was…. gelato. Right on the edge of the river was a cute little gelateria and I found some delicious options. I opted for a gray gelato – simply because it was gray and unique. I ended up getting a combination of fig and sesame. It was surprisingly delicious.
We crossed the river and walked by the Uffizi and it was gorgeous at night.
To make it even better was an accordion player, Yuriy Krechunyak. He is fabulous! I have done a little internet searching and cannot find his album, but I will. It was perfect and I was mesmerized by the beauty of his music.
With Sarah and Malorie waiting, I finally returned to our walk home. After a long day, we finally made it back to the apartment to the tune of a mambo band at the nearby club. It was loud and obnoxious, and I wondered if I might fall victim to the same insomnia that afflicted Sarah and Malorie the night before. I laid down, and thankfully, immediately fell asleep.