post

Florence

September 9, 2014 -Tuesday – Venice to Florence

Rick Steves Best of Europe in 21 Days tour

The cornfields have turned brown and the farmers are harvesting as we drive from Venice to our first rest stop near Bologna, which has Jennifer’s favourite, an AutoGrill. The rest stops on the Italian expressways (Autostradas) serve very tasty food – not a Burger King or McDonalds to be seen thank goodness! As we travel through the Tuscany area, the road has more curves and hills, and we drive through lots of tunnels.

We arrive in Florence early this afternoon. The bus stops in a local square, we unload ourselves and our bags, and walk a few blocks to our hotel, Hotel Accademia Florence. After getting settled, we go on a walking tour of the centre of Florence. We have an Italian guide with us, but Jennifer leads the tour. Apparently, the Italian guide is with us so the Rick Steves tour group doesn’t get hassled for conducting “unauthorized” tours of the city – Italian bureaucracy in action!

Michelangelo's statue of David
Michelangelo’s statue of David

We line up for the Gallery of the Academy, and after 10 minutes or so get inside to see Michelangelo’s statue of David. I saw the copy of the David statue in the nearby Plazza della Signoria when I was last in Florence in 2006, but there is no comparison to seeing the original inside the museum. David is beautifully lit with both outside light coming through a transparent dome, and also floodlights. Jennifer points out how his expression changes depending on where you gaze upon him. His naked body is exquisite, although his right hand is too large. Jennifer explains that the original plan was to mount David high on the front of the Duomo, which might explain why his hand was bigger than normal…otherwise from the perspective of people on the ground, the hand would not be easily visible.

We go for a group dinner to nearby Trattoria Nella this evening. The food is good, and wine and bottled water is included with most of our Rick Steves group dinners. Our guide Jennifer takes us out for gelato afterwards, so I am really full by the time we return to our hotel.

September 10, 2014 -Wednesday – Florence

I am awoken at 6:30AM by thunder and lightning crashing and booming over the city. The rain comes down hard, however it is all over by 7AM. An exciting start to the day! Several of us go to the Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) early this morning and climb up to the top of the dome. It is very close quarters, since the stairs to the top are between the inner dome and the outer dome. We are rewarded with superb views of Florence from the top.

Pasta a fagioli
Pasta a fagioli

I go to Trattoria Antellesi for lunch, which is the little trattoria right beside our hotel entrance.  I have a beer and a wonderful soup called pasta a fagioli, which is a vegetable soup made with pasta, beans, vegetables in a rich and creamy broth. It is often thickened with shredded bread.

We go to the Uffizi Gallery this afternoon with a local guide who specializes in the Uffizi. There is a crush of people and groups, so we have to wait about three quarters of an hour to get in. Photos are now allowed inside, but when I checked earlier, there was no indication of this recent change in policy. So I am stuck using my cellphone camera inside. Our local guide tries to maneuver us around the huge crowds inside, with limited success.

Quite a few of us go to Giglio Rosso Ristorante for dinner on our own this evening. Our meals are excellent, and they bring around a dessert cart with some really yummy choices, which virtually all of our group can’t resist!

Tipping in the European countries we visited is not required in restaurants, since servers and other staff are well paid. That said, leaving the change on the table when the bill is paid is considered polite. Americans (and Canadians) have the reputation of leaving too much of a tip, which the Europeans interpret as being too flashy. If exceptional service is rendered, a 10% tip would be in order, but no more. Payment in cash (rather than credit card) is expected, and many restaurants don’t accept credit cards, or charge extra if a credit card is used. So take Euros to pay for your meals, and don’t tip too much!

September 11, 2014 – Thursday – Florence to Rome

I am awoken again this morning at 6AM by thunder and lightning however the rain isn’t coming down hard like yesterday when we walk to meet the bus. Once we are on the Autostrada to Rome, the rain comes down hard, so the views are not great as we travel south. It’s a good time for me to pull out my notebook computer to write in my travel journal.

Florence
50 photos, 2 videos
Jennifer talks to the group about the Renaissance in Florence
Jennifer talks to the group about the Renaissance in Florence
Jennifer talks to the group about the Renaissance in Florence
Jennifer talks to the group about the Renaissance in Florence
Michelangelo's statue of David
Michelangelo’s statue of David
Michelangelo's statue of David
Michelangelo’s statue of David
“Atlas Slave” - one of Michelangelo's incomplete statues
“Atlas Slave” – one of Michelangelo’s incomplete statues
Rape of the Sabines statue
Rape of the Sabines statue
Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph and Saint John the Baptist
Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph and Saint John the Baptist
Riccardi Medici Palace
Riccardi Medici Palace
The Duomo front facade
The Duomo front facade
Decorated entrance to the Duomo
Decorated entrance to the Duomo
People at the top of the Duomo dome
People at the top of the Duomo dome
The front face of the Duomo
The front face of the Duomo
Baptistery doors
Baptistery doors
Giotto's bell tower (campanile)
Giotto’s bell tower (campanile)
Ornate inset featuring cherubs
Ornate inset featuring cherubs
City Hall & Plazza della Signoria
City Hall & Plazza della Signoria
Roman and Florentine statues
Roman and Florentine statues
Bronze statue of Perseus holding Medusa's head
Bronze statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head
Poseidon statue with towers behind
Poseidon statue with towers behind
City hall against a blue sky
City hall against a blue sky
The group enters Trattoria Nella for dinner in Florence
The group enters Trattoria Nella for dinner in Florence
Group dinner in Florence
Group dinner in Florence
Group dinner at Trattoria Nella
Group dinner at Trattoria Nella
City Hall at night
City Hall at night
Poseiden statue at night
Poseiden statue at night
Side street off the Plazza della Signoria at night
Side street off the Plazza della Signoria at night
Duomo dome and side at night
Duomo dome and side at night
Duomo facade and tower at night
Duomo facade and tower at night
Thunder, lightning and rain
Thunder, lightning and rain
Climbing the narrow stairs
Climbing the narrow stairs
Beautifully decorated ceiling inside the chapel
Beautifully decorated ceiling inside the chapel
The group inside the Duomo dome
The group inside the Duomo dome
Sandy, Dennis and Marian climb the stairs to the top of the dome
Sandy, Dennis and Marian climb the stairs to the top of the dome
A landing between the inside and outside domes
A landing between the inside and outside domes
View of Florence and the Tuscan hills from the top of the Duomo dome
View of Florence and the Tuscan hills from the top of the Duomo dome
View of Florence from the top of the Duomo
View of Florence from the top of the Duomo
Giotto's bell tower (campanile)
Giotto’s bell tower (campanile)
Joe at the top of the Duomo dome overlooking Florence
Joe at the top of the Duomo dome overlooking Florence
View of Florence and the Tuscan hills from the top of the Duomo
View of Florence and the Tuscan hills from the top of the Duomo
Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, the Florence train station & Mercato Centrale from the top of the Duomo
Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, the Florence train station & Mercato Centrale from the top of the Duomo
Tools and instruments used to build the Duomo dome
Tools and instruments used to build the Duomo dome
Pasta a fagioli
Pasta a fagioli
Merry-Go-Round in the Piazza della Repubblica
Merry-Go-Round in the Piazza della Repubblica
Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca
Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca
Madonna of the Magnificat painting by Botticelli
Madonna of the Magnificat painting by Botticelli
Ornate ceiling
Ornate ceiling
Corner of an ornate ceiling
Corner of an ornate ceiling
Ornate ceiling and hallway
Ornate ceiling and hallway
Doni Tondo (Doni Madonna) painting by Michelangelo
Doni Tondo (Doni Madonna) painting by Michelangelo
Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River
Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River
Looking south across the Arno river
Looking south across the Arno river
Looking back at the Arno River as we leave Florence on a rainy day
Looking back at the Arno River as we leave Florence on a rainy day

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