We made our way back to the bus via the vaparetto with reluctance. I was a little sadened by looking back at Venezia. It is such a better view upon approach. However, it was comforting to know that we would soon be in Firenze after an Autogrill cappucino stop of course.
Firenze: The Heart of the Renaissance
I can only try to imagine what it must have been like to live in Firenze during the explosion of art that we now know as the Renaissance. One of the big time savers of the tour is staying in city centers. The clean and comfortable Hotel Accademia Florence was located about two blocks from the Duomo. We checked in and shortly met Dimitri outside the hotel for a city orientation followed by a tour of the Accademia to see Michaelangelo’s David.
We stood in awe of the David. It is one of those rare things that actually live up to or exceed the hype. You really have to see it to understand the grandeur. The Accademia is full of other interesting exhibits including other statues but let’s face it we go there for David.
If you can’t get to the Accademia there is a replica of David in Piazza del Signoria but it is just not the same. We then wandered around Firenze and met for a spectacular dinner that included a sampler of three super fantastic pastas and roast beef. The beef was first flamed by the waiter before being served. It was another magical night.
We had the morning free so we decided to head up to Piazzale Michelangelo to check out the view we read about in Rick’s book. We made our way accross the Arno and up to the Piazzale Michelangelo only to be told that the area was closed due to a celebration that evening where fireworks would be set form the location. It was the feast of Saint John, the patron saint of Firenze. We made the best of it and found Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte by accident. It was a bit of a hike up the hill but well work the climb. In addition to the interesting church interior and graveyard there was a spectacular view of all Firenze from the church coutyard.
We made our way back down to the Arno from the basillica taking a different route just to see where it would take us. I think a great thing about traveling is how much fun it is just to wander around the city. I mentioned we were developing a dependency on espresso and we found a small cafe and quickly fed the addiction while making a new friend. We started out with our limited Italian but were quickly speaking english with the delighful woman behind the counter. We had a pastry and cappuccino. Another great thing about Rick Steves tours is they encourage you to embed yourself in the culture. We had a delightful walk back to the city center. With more time to kill before our tour of the Uffizzi we continued to wander around the wonderful city of Firenze.
We would spend the afternoon enjoying the Uffizi Gallery and the spectacular art. Again we had a wonderful guide who provided background regarding the advances of Rennessiance art. It was once again great to have a professional perspective regarding the art work as well as the historical perspective.
We were on our own again after the Uffizzi and we ran into a parade for the Calico Storico championship which is held on the feast of San Giovanni (Saint John the Baptist) each year. Calico Storico is a sport that is part soccer, part rugby, part boxing and part mixed martial arts. It is a traditional Florentine game where four parts of the city battle for the championsips. The teams are designated by colors. Santa Croce (blue), Santo Spirito (white), Santa Maria Novella (red), and San Giovanni (green). PIazza Santa Croce is converted into a playing field. We learned all this from the barman behind the counter at a local bar along the parade route who patiently explained the sport to us after the parade passed. We sat in the packed bar and watched White and Green battle on TV. The game was a bit barbaric for my tastes but then again what can you expect from a game that is centuries old. San Giovanni’s feast day would culminate with a great fireworks display from Piazzale Michelangelo. After dinner we made our way to Ponte Vechhio to view the fireworks. It was very crowded and recommend you get a spot early if you want to see the fireworks. The streets were alive with tourists and locals.
More Firenze Photos
Requiem for Running Shoes
Okay, okay, I had several hundred miles on the shoes but alas, they are no more. You see after wearing them on the damp hike to Mad King Ludwig’s Castle I packed them up in a plastic bag not completely dry. After a couple of days in the bus, the ordiforousness was not much to anyone’s liking. I did try to rescuscitate them by adding baby powder and leaving them outside the hotel window for our two nights in Firenze. But the stench was stubborn and did not subside enough to be considered acceptable. Afraid of passing the smell on to other luggage under the bus, I left them in a shallow grave in the hotel garbage can. Farewell my trusty steeds, you carried me through many miles of smiles.