Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Italy, Rome --> Florence {day 4}

Our last day in Rome came around all too quickly. There was so much left to explore and so much that we could have seen, but our excitement to see Florence meant that leaving wasn't too bad. The buses were a mystery to us. We had caught one on the first day, but it seemed we had got lucky that one happened to come by as we were waiting, since we could find no schedule anywhere. Oh, Germany, you spoil us! 
So, not knowing when a bus would come, walking seemed like a more assured option of catching our train. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get there, and enjoyed seeing things we'd become familiar with. We passed by the spot where Caesar was murdered and stopped for a drink, (I never imagined typing such a sentence!) and found our way easily, enjoying early light in the city, to arrive at the station with time to spare. 

At the station, we weren't sure which platform our train would arrive on. We waited for a while, but not wanting to leave it to the last minute I went in search of information while Malcolm waited with our luggage. At information a man was directing people and I asked him which platform our train would arrive at. I had a moment of panic as he took my ticket and said to follow him, since he had no official identity badge or anything and I had read perhaps too many stories of pick-pockets and the like. Fortunately, he was not up to no good and did in fact lead me to a board where our platform had just started displaying. Relieved, I went back to find Malcolm and, after playing charades with an old Italian woman who had misread her ticket and was in the seat we'd reserved, we settled in for a comfortable journey to Florence. 

In Florence we were very determined to find our accommodation without getting lost, so our pace was slow and steady. It was easy enough finding Il Duomo, since it's massive. What was, however, tricky was avoiding being the weird-looking person in the background of everybody's pretty pictures and dodging selfie-stick-salesmen who clearly don't recognise disinterest, while looking for the next street we needed.

We stopped by a BnB to get the key to our apartment, and were soon enough in an apartment with air-conditioning and lunch. But, we weren't in Florence for the air-con, so we were soon out the door to explore again! 

After coming across the square by the Uffizi gallery where we spotted some impressive statues, we returned to Il Duomo. Since there was a short line, we decided to wait the approximately 3 minutes and checked out the interior. What struck me at first was simply how empty it was. But as one got closer to the front, the beautiful painted dome became visible. It almost didn't seem to fit the rest of the cathedral, but it was remarkable to look at - especially the 3-D effects and the way it's painted. 

As we walked out the exit, we noticed that the queue to Giotto's belltower wasn't all that long, either. So, lovers-of-short-queues that we are, we joined it. We bought a ticket there and started making our way up. There are several levels, which are met with both relief (space! air! vertical ground!) and dread (oh, there's another flight of stairs over there...). The 414 steps weren't too bad though, especially when one is then rewarded by the view!

The terracotta roofs were just as one imagines Tuscany, and the view over them was breath-taking. One has to descend some time though, and we made our way back down the belltower. We'd planned to go to the Accademia Gallery the next day, but with a couple hours until closing time, we decided we'd go over right then and see how the queue was looking. It wasn't long at all, and the wait was about 45 minutes - which seems well below average. Plus, there was a South African couple in front of us, and hearing their jo-burg accent kept me amused.

Inside, there is a lot of religious, mainly catholic, art and many people go straight in the direction of the Statue of David. We decided to get our money's worth though, so we lingered through the exhibitions. Seeing the Rape of the Sabines was interesting, and some of the paintings were amusing on closer inspection.

As we left one exhibition hall, I looked over to Malcolm and asked "we haven't missed anything, have we?", since I didn't want to have missed out on anything. Malcolm answered that I clearly had, and pointed my attention in the other direction. There was the statue of David by Michelangelo.

Seeing it in person was awe-inspiring... the detail and the accuracy were remarkable. We stood for a while, circled it to see from all angles, looked at it some more, and then also had a look at some of Michelangelo's other work. There are several statues that are not completed, but seeing the figures emerging from the stone gives one a different sense of appreciation. There was also one of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion, but it's disputed as to whether or not Michelangelo really was the artist because the proportions seem off. 

With sunset approaching we searched a spot from where we could admire it. The river seemed to be a good place, and while lingering on the bridge we may have been included in a student-film that was being shot. I can understand why they chose to film here! 

We walked over to the must-see Pont Vecchio and squeezed through the crowds to the other side and started a search for tiramisu.

Closer to home, at the Piazza di Santa Croce, we enjoyed the quieter atmosphere so we had a look at the restaurants nearby. At TaTo - Tasty Toscana - we found some at a really good price, but not such a romantic location since it was slightly behind the cathedral. The man there was very accommodating though, and agreed to my bizarre request to have it take-away to sit on the Cathedral steps... he let us take it in the glass and trusted us to bring it back when we were done. 

Whether it was the best Tiramisu in the whole of Italy is irrelevant since it was certainly one of my favourite moments, sitting side by side, enjoying the fresh air, watching the square light up and listening to the music being played. 

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