Monday, January 26, 2009
After cutting an hour of class and rushing to meet everyone else to get on the train to Florence, my roomate called me telling me, and my two other friends, that there's a strike going on and that we wouldn't get to go. I forgot that in Europe they have scheduled strikes (and of course don't put it up on the website).
Oh Mom...I'm having flashbacks to when we were in Paris and this happened :(.
But it's just all part of the adventure of traveling!
We found out that the strike ended at 5pm so we just had to delay a few hours and then took the ~2 hour ride to Florence (it's very nice to be centrally located in Italy!). When we got there it was pouring rain and very windy. I'm sorry to tell you that that kind of set the tone for the rest of the short weekend. (Though, as we were leaving the train station, a guy, in a funny-accent, did tell me "I love you" - what nice people in Florence! :-P) Jess did a wonderful job booking a hostel close to the train station but our shoes were completely soaked from the moment we stepped off the train until we left that Sunday.
Mom, everyone continued to bash the Rick Steve's book [it doesn't help that you sent me Andy's site :-P] but I'll tell you that Jess soon took my Rick Steven's book, as she mockingly calls him, and never gave it back. I helped find a restaurant that night, with his help, which had a fixed menu (a primi, secondi, and contorni) for 12 euros! so I think I convinced them as well.
The rain had finally stopped so we were able to wander the streets a bit. I forgot how centrally located and walkable Florence is. I didn't realize how many up-scale shops there were or how many hotels were right around the historical section of the city. It was just very strange being here in the off-season and being here without my family. The four of us were very conscious of the fact that we could have chosen to study abroad here and that this could have been our Perugia. There are thousands of Americans that study here, as opposed to the 200ish that study here, so there is a completely different feel. The Americans stick out a lot more and it appeared stuck to more American bars where they don't even try to speak Italian and go much more for the alcohol then the social scene that draws the Italians, even though the four of us had trouble finding any nightlife while we were there. My friends liked to make fun of how completely ignorant some of the girls were being, but it is scary that some of them really do try to run off with these Italians when they can't even understand what they're saying...
At least in Perugia we're just seen as a small part of the many foreigners that make up the city.
I didn't care about the shoes or the high-fashion. I was just racing to see the Duomo again. The two Annas we went with (my friend from Brooklyn and my roomate from Australia) were making fun of me because they didn't understand (because they have never seen it before!). I'm also not much of a shopper....
But anyways, we turned the corner and saw it in all of it's glory!
The white marble is unfortunately not as striking as it is during the day (and I'm sorry, it was too rainy for me to take pictures of it during the day) but I hope everyone is fortunate enough to see this building at least once in their lives.
We slept a little too late for being in Florence for such a short amount of time. Jess suggested that we go to the Medici Chapel, because her aunt had taken her before, and I can't believe we didn't go there (Mom, Dad, and Julie!). I wish I could have taken a picture of the inside, because the gold-leaf dome was incredible and looking at it hurts your neck in a way that only the Sistine Chapel can rival. What was so striking about it was the contrast between the gold top and the very dark marble that covered the rest of their tomb. The Medicis were definitely showing their wealth and influence they had in Florence by this monument...
Right behind the chapel were the famous outdoor markets. There were entirely too many "ciao bellas" and superficial attempts at making conversation in the market, but that's all part of it (plus bargaining which I fortunately didn't have to do too much of). There was that familiar scent of leather (jackets, belts, shoes, books, keychains, bookmarks, etc.) and tons of scarves pouring out on the street but I wasn't really looking for anything in particular. (Mom and Dad, I can't help but remember how scared I was when that guy took us back into his store and started putting his lighter up to the leather jackets you were thinking of buying...) We all kind of split up and I bought some nice stationary and then tried to find something to eat.
I hadn't had breakfast and was trying to look for a good meal and found a stand right in the middle of the market. They were serving a "typical florentine" sandwich which I thought would be good to try a local favorite here. I tried to take a bite out of it and literally couldn't get through the "chicken". I felt awful wasting food but I just felt so grossed out that I had to get rid of it, and went into an indoor market, similar to the Reading Terminal Market, and bought some fun pasta to get my mind off of it. Anna later asked the people at the stand what it was, and they said it was cow stomach (maybe you would have liked it Dad)!
We continued walking around and tried to get lunch (I wanted anything at this point) but had a lot of trouble finding a restaurant in the early afternoon that would serve us (I can't emphasize enough how restaurants literally turn away service in the middle of the day because they close). We finally found a pizzeria and then went for gelato. Gelato really is the best in Florence and Jess and I have been dissapointed with what we've found in Perugia so far, but no one really felt like going to the good gelaterias I remembered when there were so many teasing us.
We briefly got to go inside the Florence Cathedral, but I wish we could have climbed up the bell tower and explored the Dome more. Truthfully, the inside of the Cathedral isn't too much to talk about, but the outside is so ornate that I'm sure simplicity makes sense in the context (or maybe I was just still so overtaken by the churches in Assisi). It was so wonderful to see the bronze doors facing the Duomo as well.I realized that I had never seen the original David, just a marble copy in the Piazza della Signoria, along with the The Rape of the Sabine Women and the town hall (pictured), so we all went to the Galleria dell'Accademia. At first we wandered around and they had an exhibit showing the history of musical instruments - a lot of them looking like the originals that the musicians the Medici's hired used (with what looked like real gut strings to me!). I saw cellos and basses with three and five strings, very old guitars, my first hurdygurdy, spinets, and very strangely-shaped brass instruments. I think I enjoyed this exhibit a bit too much considering I should have stopped fooling around and have spent all afternoon looking at David, especially when my friends had already left me at that point.
I wandered my way back and went into a back room and briefly got distracted by unfinished marble works by Michalengelo and other masters of the time, when I realized that David was at the end of the hall! At that point you can't look at anything else. It was amazing because there was barely anyone there, and we sat there like four silly girls thinking we could see him breathe. I really didn't realize how massive he is.
Later in the evening, we went to the Ponte Vecchio which was so strange to see at night without all of the jewlery shops open. It was a bit awkward because several couples were making out on the bridge, but I forgot that couples come to put locks on fencing around monuments to eternalize their love or something silly like that...
We also briefly saw the Pitti Palace, which I had never gone to before. Jess said that there are beautiful gardens in the back and I really wish I could have seen the museum inside, but next time I guess.
We went out that night to some Irish pub, which kind of turned me off because I saw JMU and Villanova t-shirts hanging from the ceiling, but the Americans were good fun for Anna and Jess to mock. As we left, and were walking back to the apartment, two Italians tried to ask us back to their place to have wine with them. NO THANK YOU.
Just some friendly italian men. I'm glad my friend had some good comebacks in Italian.
I'm upset I didn't go to the Uffizi and may try to make it a daytrip in the future. It's just hard to fit in everything you want and to travel together as a group. At least I rubbed the snout of the bronze boar. I hope that gives me good luck for the rest of my trip.