Florence - Part I

Florence Travel Blog

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Palaia
I think there was an earthquake last night... from what we don't really understand on the radio.  It seems it was several hundred miles away and hundreds of people were killed.  We felt no tremors and I slept soundly throughout the night.

We came in to Palaia for coffee this morning.  I had a yummy caffe machiato and some little almond pastry thing.  The town is small and cute, about 200 ft from one bell tower to the other.  There is a little bar/restaurant called Peggio Palaia meaning "worse than palaia".  The town was built upon sandy soil and they have to keep maintaining and fortifying the soil beneath it so it wont wash away. 

We are heading to Pontadera to catch a train to Florence.
Palaia
  Stopping along the way for gas it was a hefty $100 euros.  Walking through the lot Africans stop us and ask us to buy goods.  The train ride is about 40 minutes (?).  We stamp our tickets in these yellow machines.  As we get closer to the city I am enthralled by all the graffiti at each stop.  It is like art work, with different tags.  I watch them pass by and try to spot the better looking ones.

We arrived at the busy train station in Florence and exited by way of an underground tunnel lined with shops and busy with traffic similar to Korea.  When we emerged from underground we were in front of Santa Maria Novella.  For a charge of 2.50E, me and my mom decided to go in.  We walked in through a courtyard, paid the entry at the booth, and were allowed to enter.
Santa Maria Novella
  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed.

The church was breathtaking upon entering, even a bit intimidating.  Especially since it is the first church of the day and the first large, old style church that I've been in (our family is not so religious).  The first noticeable thing was the size and expanse of space, and then the huge hanging crucifix.  With no censorship here, the crucifix, artwork and everything in Italy holds back nothing.  It is brutally bloody with plenty of carnage.  The ceilings were tall and vaulted.  there were frescos of heaven, the devine, and hell.  There were crypts and other memorials for the dead important.  The first of which i have been too; and in this trip, definantly not the last. 

Being close to lunch time now, and Joe and Rocky not being so interested in sightseeing since they've already seen it, we decided to stop for lunch and a small cute cafe called Osteria Belle Donna.
Osteria Belle Donna
  After some difficulty finding food (with several severe food allergies, and language barrier, with guide books handy... so touristy lol) I settled on spaghetti with meat sauce.  I might as well try the most basic thing in the place it was made.  We had some bruschetta first.  All food was excellent, in large portions, with of course some decent red wine.  For Italians, it is apparently normal for a person to eat anti-pasti, primo, and secundo.  I had 1/4 of anti-pasti and primo and was absolutely stuffed.  Three courses on the regular? I think not. They'd have to get me a wheelchair with a mattress on standby.  How do Italians not get super fat?!

We were now near by Ponte Vecchio.  So we strolled that way to see the infamous bridge and to walk over.  It is just like in pictures.
Ponte Vecchio
  Once you're on it, you would have no idea you are actually on a bridge.  Although not very tall, it is quite wide.  The entire thing is lined on both sides with gold shops.  Apparently a great place to find some quality gold.  (Be careful. This area is supposedly teeming with pickpockets, so keep your bag(s) close to you). 


At this point, me and my mom were ready for a sightseeing marathon...  Joe and Rocky were definitly not ready for that marathon lol and we decided to go our own ways and meet later.


We then went to Santo Spirito next, which is the church with the unfinished front (and also guidebooks say where drug dealers hang out).  However, they weren't open until 3:45, so we went to Santa Maria Delcarmine instead which my mom insisted was awesome, but were turned away at the door because we were not part of a "tour group".
The stairs
  After a small debate on if we should try to sneak in with another group, we just decided to make our next destination San Miniato and Piazza Michaelangelo.






We trekked through the city, the cobblestone streets and narrow alley ways, following our guidebook maps to the destination.  We came to the entrance leading to a huge staircase.  In the quite warm Spring sun, we climbed and climbed, higher and higher, turning back frequently to take a breath and catch the view through the trees.  We reached the top.  It opened up with a gelato bar on the right, the viewing area on the left, and the church off to the right.  We veered off to the right to take in the famous view of Florence.
San Miniato (and mom)
..and grab some much needed water from a vendor.   









We then wandered around to San Miniato which from the outside was a very beautiful church.  Inside the cool semi-dark church, it was also beautiful.  The classic large white pillars, the humongous organ which was the size of a wall was being played by an invisible person.  Behind everything, there were stairs down to what I assume was San Miniato's "fake" tomb (his remians have been said to have been removed to Germany.)  It was kind of creepy down there, being dark, with the candles sitting around on the tables. 






We next came back outside, and sat down for a while.  The area in front of the church had a lot of people just hanging out.  Mostly tourists and school groups.
mom going up via belvedere
  We also just briefly looked at the graveyards around the church. But we had to leave soon and meet at the Duomo with Joe and Rocky.  We left this area by via Belvedere.  We walked along the huge hill beside the wall and hten followed via giorgio past what was Galileos house back down to Ponte Vecchio to the towering Duomo/Basilica/Baptistry for the meeting spot. 




We all walked back to Santa Maria Novella and caught the train back to the their villa.

We missed out on some things like Uffizi, Academia, Bobli Gardens, and of course Duomo and shopping but we will have to return to see them.  Florence is a big city.  You can't cover everything in a day. 

Tomorrow I believe we will be going to Cinque Terre.  I can't wait!
sylviandavid says:
Fun blog... we really loved florence...
Posted on: Jan 02, 2010
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Palaia
Palaia
Palaia
Palaia
Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella
Osteria Belle Donna
Osteria Belle Donna
Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio
The stairs
The stairs
San Miniato (and mom)
San Miniato (and mom)
mom going up via belvedere
mom going up via belvedere
Palaia
Palaia
Graffiti @ Pontadera
Graffiti @ Pontadera
Osteria Belle Donna
Osteria Belle Donna
Osteria Bella Donna
Osteria Bella Donna
Osteria Belle Donna
Osteria Belle Donna
Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio
Entrance to the stairs
Entrance to the stairs
The stairs
The stairs
Piazza Michaelangelo
Piazza Michaelangelo
From the michaelangelo piazza
From the michaelangelo piazza
The way we took back to Duomo
The way we took back to Duomo
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
San Miniato
The tomb
The tomb
The tomb
The tomb
the organ
the organ
San Miniato
San Miniato
The graveyard
The graveyard
looking back down via belvedere
looking back down via belvedere
Duomo
Duomo
Baptistry
Baptistry
Florence
photo by: monky