Saturday, October 20, 2012

Florence & Siena

Day 8: Florence

Florence is art.
The whole city breathes it from the architecture to the world famous museums.
Shopping is just as popular as the art. We enjoyed both.

Our first day in Florence (we came in the night before and crashed immediately) was spent at the Uffizi Gallery. Heavy hitters included Boticelli's Birth of Venus and his Allegory of Spring.

We spent the afternoon strolling through piazzas and squares and people watching.
Piazzal Vecchio is a large square with many replicas of famous art works (the David, Rape of Sabine, etc.) This faux-David stands where the original stood.

Streets of Firenze | Sidewalk chalk masterpieces
Protests | shopping
While walking to the market, we heard blasting music and a heard of policemen walking through the street. A trail of protesters followed behind. I took pictures of their signs to ask Andreas about the details later. It was to protest an underground tunnel for a high-speed train. I loved that we had someone to ask.

We wanted a bird's eye view of the city so we hiked the Bell Tower for its view of the famed Duomo.

Yes, friends. It was 414 steps to the top.

It was a butt burner and the stair well got a bit cramped toward the end.

This was also the day that I had to wear leggings as pants. I'm so ashamed. While very acceptable (and often seen in Italy), I was embarrassed and felt very breezy. You see, we did laundry at our apartment the night before, but there wasn't a dryer. So it took days for all of our clothes to dry. Hence, the leggings as pants debacle. It was the only dry bottom I had. I tried to spice it up with a belt around my shirt but I was just a hot mess.

The panoramic view was breathtaking.
I'm not afraid of heights, but let me tell you, the tower was swaying.
I kept imagining us falling to our death.
We didn't, but I booked it down the stairs after we got our pictures.

Ah, Florence.

Dinner was at a small restaurant (Pepe's) by our apartment. The quattro-formaggio (four cheese) gnocchi was delicious and the tall skinny Sprite can cost us $3.5. I just adore the skinny cans.

Day 9: The David

Today we saw the big one: The David by Michelangelo.
This picture is contraband.
I couldn't help myself.
It is a sickness.

The David is larger than I imagined and more magnificent than the pictures.
I was dimwitted enough not to make the connection that this is David of David and Goliath fame. He has a slingshot hung around his shoulder and back.
The most popular spot to sit and ponder its beauty is from behind. A tour guide noted that most women like to view it from here. His tour didn't catch the joke, but we sure did.

We hit the heart of Florence by visiting the churches, the Duomo Baptistery bronze doors (copies) depicting Bibles stories.

It started to rain and I began to regret my shoe choices for the trip. It became unseasonably cold and very wet.

We spent a wet hour at the Ponte Vecchio and took shelter in the Galileo Science Museum when it really started to pour. The unknown museum was quiet and full of science equipment. It is quirky with a strange (and terrifying) birthing exhibit.

Oddly enough, the most famous artifact on display is Galileo's finger.

After dinner, shopping and another church, we took our sorry, soaked selves home and tried to thaw out.

Day 10: Siena and a Glimpse of Tuscany

Siena was the perfect day trip from Florence. The bus ride was just over an hour and the rolling green hills made the time just fly by. The little I saw from the bus window made me desperate to come back and spend a whole vacation in Tuscany.

My dream? A cooking class in Tuscany. Wanna come?

Our first sight was Il Campo, a popular, red-brick square with a gradual decline like an amphitheater. I think people watching was invented here.

It was refreshing to just sit and soak up the sun.

Il Campo is home to Palio, an intense horse race. The square is packed with spectators as the horse race is on the perimeter. I heard it is a nightmare with the crowds, but I am dying to attend one day.

Two very Italian things: pizza and cigarette butts everywhere | people watching on Il Campo
gelato lovers | gelato stacked a mile high

 Siena has all of the charm of Florence without the crowds.

At this point I was getting cathedral fatigue, but this one was special.
The interior was black and cream striped.
We hiked a tiny set of stairs (we're talking body-to-body when another person passes by) to get a sweeping view of Siena.

I dream of getting lost in those hills.

Our Siena dreams ended with a sunset-bus ride back to Florence. Yes, I am getting romantic and dreamy about my bus ride. It has come to this.

Our last night in Florence was a gastronomic dream.
We ate at Tres Panches which means three benches or seats. The tiny restaurants literally only has three tables. We didn't have a reservation and convinced our waiter we could finish eating in an hour (not drinking certainly speeds things up).

This was, without a doubt, the best food of our entire trip.
Each bite warranted an audible groan. It was pure heaven. (Which I am sure I did, embarrassingly)
The sad, little pictures don't do it any justice. It was phenomenal.

We loved our host in Florence. We rented a room from Andreas and his girlfriend Tatiana. We found the room on (where we found many of our apartments).

It seemed strange to share an apartment with a stranger, but I loved it. It was out of the hustle of town (we got to know the bus system really well), very clean and it came with a guide. Andreas gave wonderful suggestions (he suggested Tres Panches and for that we are eternally grateful), helped us with translations and let us do laundry. Need a hook up in Florence? Andreas is your man.

Next up? A city you've never heard of and the biggest tourist trap in Italy.

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