Room at the Corona D'Italia hotel
Having learned our lesson on day 3...we took no sleeping aids and just went to sleep of our own accord. We woke up bright-eyed and bushy tailed for our next move...on to Firenze. We made it to breakfast no problem and realized that we hadn't missed much when we overslept. Still...free is free and I ate as much as I possibly could and drank my coffee. We had a 930 train so we could take our time getting ready (to some extent). This trip was on the Eurostar and we hoped and hoped for no one to sit next to us, but they did. It really didn't matter though because I promptly fell asleep and slept the majority of the way there...which is how I like to travel. I do hate the idea of missing great scenery, but sleep called and I answered.
This place is so large there is no way to get a good picture
We really didn't have any plans for Florence
. We had a tour planned for the next day, but today was just a walk and explore day. First mission, find the hotel. This turned out to be super easy... we came out the train station and made a right turn and a few blocks away...voila...our hotel. This was the largest hotel we had stayed in so far and they changed us to another room because ours wasn't ready. This room was nicer than our room at the Piemonte, but not as nice as Alpi. It was the largest room though. We tossed our bags and hit the streets in search of what else, but food. We walked out of the hotel and went in a direction that clearly was not the happening side of town, after about a mile we gave up and turned another direction.
The unbelievable 3-D work painting on the inside of the Duomo
Here we found some restaurant to eat. We should have known it was bad because everyone else at this place was also American. We had Pizza and it was so bad that I only ate a few bites. Obviously I was going to need to eat again soon. After eating we set out to find the Duomo, which is really all I know of Florence. The way to the Duomo is streets line with vendors selling mostly scarves and leather goods. It is like Canal Street on steroids. Anyway, we quickly find the Duomo. I don't know how you could possibly miss this cathedral. It is a monstrosity. It is clearly very gothic and it's pink and green and is so large that there is no way to get a good picture of it. We took a long walk around it just to get the scope of it.
The torture like stairs to the top of the Duomo
Then we decided to head inside. I convinced Angela to wait in line while I found something to snack on. I found the Black Bar and got some strawberry dessert concoction and by the time I found Angela she was going in the door and I had to scarf it down. The inside of the cathedral is such a contrast to every other church we have seen. It's barren and not ornate at all. The painting of the cupola, however, was very detailed. We were inside all of 15 minutes and were ready to go. Angela had to go find a bathroom and I got in line to take the 463 stairs to the top of the duomo. This was the slowest moving line ever. Angela was gone 20 minutes and I swear I was in the same place when she got back. Then miraculously it began moving.
The "break room" on the way to the top of the Duomo.
Right as we are about to pay Angela announces that her claustrophobia may keep her from going up. Well, that's just nonsense. We start moving and as she's talking I feel panic rising inside of me. At one point we come to a stand still with people in front of us and behind us and I think I am going to be the one having a panic attack. But then we start moving again and all is well with the world. We had two little girls behind us counting the steps so we could keep track. Somewhere around 275 there is what I have deemed "the break room". It's just a little space with some statues, but if provided a quick break before finishing off the other 200 steps. The steps become very narrow and two way at different spots and slows the process down.
The view that made the stairs to the top worth it!
Also as a break is a walk around the cupola so you can see the scenes up close. We finally reach the top and it is spectacular. It is a perfectly gorgeous day and all the orange rooftops before you are so scenic. I even took Nichelle out for a picture. We stayed up there awhile...you have to after the climb! Then we leave to head down. At which point, I experienced real live terror. It took me a good five minutes to start going down the stairs. I hate going down stairs like this. I am a nervous wreck at basketball games walking down, or football bleachers, and add this to the list...the stairs of the Duomo. Once we got going though, I was fine. Once we arrive at the bottom we decide we need gelato and it's back to Black Bar.
Angela and I at the time...learning to perfect taking pictures of ourselves!
Now this turns out to be the best gelato we have the entire trip, so we take a picture of it. It is located on Via Calzaiuoli right by the Baptista. We continue to follow Via Calzaiuoli (pronounced Calts a wally) or something close. And look at the shops and everything. This area reminds me of the area of Rome
by the Spanish Steps. We end up in some Piazza and decide it is as good as time as any to eat. There are no less than 10 restaurants in this piazza so I look at each and every menu before deciding on one. I made an official rule to not eat at any restaurant that had pictures in lieu of words on the menu (this was surprisingly common).
The best gelato we had in Italy!
We also passed on a restaurant thats menu consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers and Guiness. Any restaurant that serves hot dogs is probably not my kind of restaurant unless we are at the fair. This time we actually made a decent choice. As we were finishing up a young American couple sat down and we talked to them for about 15 minutes. They had just come from Venice
and were going to Rome later...just the opposite of us. They were very nice and from Chicago and it was nice to have a conversation with them. The pointed us in the right direction of the Ponte Vecchio and we were off. The Ponte Vecchio looks quite mysterious at night and was very lively with vendors selling knock-offs and harrassing anyone that even glanced their way.
We hung out here for quite a while before deciding we should come back in the day time. I really wanted to go the Boboli gardens and it is over this way, so we plan on coming back the next day. We make it back to our hotel with relative ease and it's only 10 or so, which is certainly the earliest we have gotten in. We make plans to go to the Mercato in the morning and afterwards to Boboli gardens and then off for our Chianti Wine tour. End of day 4.