Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 4- Florence

Leaving Rome this morning was bittersweet. The hostel quickly came to
feel like home as I once more settled into the routine of travelling
that was my life once. Chris is sad not to be able to see more- truly,
a lifetime in Rome isn't enough to see everything worth seeing!- but
it's time to move on to Florence- 'Firenze' in Italian.
The train is a wonder- the carriages are numbered backwards, which we
didn't know until too late, so we got to double-time down the crowded
platform to ours. Our compartment-mates are all English-speaking, a
couple from New Zealand and a gentleman from California. We joked
about the vagaries of Italian culture and the differences we'd
The scenery from the train is gorgeous, and Im glad that I chose an
Intercity train rather than express. It's all rolling hills, farmland,
and dilapidated villas. Everywhere are flowers, small gardens between
houses, and pastures. It would be a postcard, except for the
dilapidated cars and occasional rubbish piles. They're almost
necessary though, to convince me, when I start to disbelieve, yet
again, that Im really here.
An Italian woman joined who spoke English, and she pointe out the
sites, explaining that at Orvieno was an Etruscan city, and telling us
it's history- that once the Etruscans ruled Rome, but that it reversed
in only a single generation.
As our companion from California left, he pressed a €20 note into my
hand, and asked us to have a bottle of goo wine on him. I was touched,
thinking of my desire just last night to buy one. Truly, the Universe
watches over us in bewildering and lovely ways.

The arrival in Firenze was confusing- there are multiple stations in
most cities, so we got off at the suburban stop indicated by our
ticket, the wandered a few blocks in utter confusion. Finally, a nice
woman at the Informazione booth explained that we had to get on
another train to Santa Maria Novella Stazione. This accomplished, we
once more got lost looking for the hostel, which eventually turned out
to be quite close to the station. Reception was lovely, once we got
past the three flights of stairs. Our room is very small, but
perfectly adequate and quite lovely.
Firstly, we set out for the Academia, where 'David' stands. Florence
is a walking city, though, so we wandered in and out of tourist
markets, through little side streets and past shops selling
'Florentine papiro', stamps, knock-off leather, and gelato. When we
finally found the Academia, the line was about a half hour long, but
we enjoyed chatting with a lovely Dutch couple. The museum itself is
mind-blowing. Three Stradivarii were on display- a violincello, a
viola, and a violin. I got pictures of two before I was told no
pictures. I was less than a foot away from a Stradivarius!
The rest of it wa equally beautiful- when we turned the corner and I
saw David, I literally just stopped dead. He is beautiful, lifelike
and perfect in form. His expression isn't one of triumph, but one of
consideration. He is beyond beautiful, and I snuck two pictures of him.
The unfinished sculptures are nearly as amazing- thr chisel marks are
clearly visible, and it's simply breathtaking- the emergence of form
from rock! There are no words for the beauty and majesty of his work.
As with the Vatican, I wandered out in a daze. I saw David. The David.
When did this become my life? I mean, really?!
Afterwards, we wandered through an open air market catering mostly to
tourists. I enjoyed shopping and haggling, getting €10 taken off of a
belt that might theoretically be tough enough to stand my life- it's
bison leather LOL Waiting for the woman to finish changing the buckle,
I bought a gelato and chatted with a cute Albanian girl.... And found
out what we visited Florence in the middle of the Gelato Festival!!!
So yeah, this necessitated a trip to the Piazza di San Giovanni, where
we got a 5 taste card. Interestingly, this is the largest one they
offer- otherwise it's just for a single taste. I find it an
interesting contrast to the States and our 'all you can eat'
mentality. We had orange sherbert (that's what it tasted like,
anyway), hazelnut, strawberry that was almost a sorbet, custard, and
an OMFG rich chocolate!
We wandered the Piazza for a bit before heading south toward the
river, stopping for pictures in the Piazza Della Signora and then
walking (slowly- by that point my knee and hip were killing me) along
the river and over the Ponte Vecchio. An Italian man was playing bad
American blues but mostly decent music, and it made a good place to
get off of our feet for a bit... until we realized we hadn't had a
real meal all day, only snacks.
While most of the point of going to Florence was to eat in Tuscany, we
ended up dining at a little ristoriante beside the hostel.
Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly the Tuscan dining experience we had
hoped for- the rabbit was late and overcooked- but it still was
pleasant to eat a traditional dish in a ristorante in Florence.
We didn't get wine, but only because I was too irritated with the
place. We decided to do it in Venice, instead.
So we headed all 25' back to the hostel and curled up together in our
cozy little room.

The only real blasphemy is the refusal of joy. -"Jeffrey"

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