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Day 4: Venice to Florence

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I slept on and off for about 6 hours, Dan only slept 2 or 3. I was up around 5am, did some work until 6:30 or so when we got dressed, finished packing and headed down for breakfast around 7. We caught a boat at 8:15 to the train station, and had about a 40 minute wait until we could board for a 9:25 departure.

The train ride was uneventful but a little late. Because I’m still fighting a cold in a major way – probably worse than yesterday – we caved and took a taxi to the hotel. It was a good choice. We got there just after Noon and our room was ready so we went on up. The hotel has a shuttle that drops you off at the train station but there was a lunch break and the next one wasn’t leaving until 2:15pm so we went up to the lounge for some snacks then both took little naps. (And had we known that we could’ve saved about €20 on the cab, because it picks you up from there, too! Oh well.)

We stopped at the pharmacy in the train station to get cold medicine and tissue for me. I saw the shelf that had cold stuff on it and started to walk towards it, not realizing I had entered the pharmacists’ area and got shooed away. Even what we would call over-the-counter drugs here had to go through the pharmacist. So we took a number and ended up with the same guy who shooed me. I asked if he spoke English. “Little bit.” Just like in Germany, everyone’s favorite answer to that question! (In Belgium and The Netherlands it’s “of course” with a shake of the head like “who doesn’t?”) I asked for a decongestant. Of course the box was all in Italian so we couldn’t tell what it was, but it was Johnson & Johnson and somehow that made us feel better. Dan asked him if it would make you drowsy, he says “little bit.” Later I mused: maybe that’s the only English he knows and he uses it for all questions?

So we were off again. New city, better weather. It was about 43 degrees when we headed out – 10 degrees warmer than Venice this morning or most of yesterday. And it wasn’t raining. Very happy about that. And as soon as we took a walk down our first street outside of the train station we were like “ah, this feels so much better.” Our admission for the day is: we really didn’t care for Venice all that much. I know, blasphemous to some, but for us it was a lot like Bruges: all tourists, all the time. It’s beautiful, it needs to be seen, but like Bruges it felt more like a theme park than a city where people actually live. 24 hours was enough and we wouldn’t go back. The whole time we were there we kept saying: if it’s this crowded in 35 degree rainy weather in January, can you imagine how bad it must be during the high season? Yeah, no. Not our cup of tea.

Florence, on the other hand, felt great to us from the first block. We like places that feel lived in and have some things to offer tourists to boot. Florence had that feel for it from the beginning: you couldn’t really tell the tourists from the locals, there were businessmen walking about in suits with briefcases (never saw that in Venice for sure!), bicycles, motorcycles, cars, pedestrians, a nice mix of all. And wide streets. Well, relatively wide. I didn’t realize until Florence how much my claustrophobia had kicked in in Venice!

And Florence is no slouch in the art, history, banking and political worlds: home of the Medici family and Michelangelo, birthplace of Leonardo and the Renaissance. Lots of history, lots to see. So let’s get started.

 You know we can’t pass a church without walking in. This was just tucked away on a simple street so it was hard to get a good angle of the entire front so I took one portrait, one landscape.
This is San Gaetano, construction funded by the Medici’s, built early 1600’s.

 

 I love the flooring, very different.

 

 Wherever we go we wind up on that city’s version of Rodeo Drive. Florence was no exception. Dan and I were discussing this in Venice, which was flooded with high end stuff even though it’s all tourists. Do people really shop like that when they’re traveling? We never buy anything. I guess we’re just not shoppers.

Above and below are the same spot from different angles. I just liked the look and feel of this, especially the curved alleyway.

 

Our first bridge, and from where the next several shots were taken. The statues adorning the entrance reminded me a little of Paris.
 Looking to the right.
 Looking to the left. A bridge called Ponte Vecchio, filled with merchants, not unlike the Rialto in Venice.

Looking back at the first bridge we were on.
 And the next one! We liked this view better.
We were making our way to Piazzale Michelangelo, a lookout over the city. It was a decent climb.
 Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region. This is the closest we’ll get probably to a Tuscan hillside. It was very pretty.
 The next few are all of the Florence skyline, with the cathedral as the dominating point. There will be a picture of it later, and we’ll spend some time there tomorrow.

 

 

The part no one was looking at. We thought it was pretty!
The trek back down.

 

 This was at the bottom of the hill. We’d checked out the menu on our way up and decided to have dinner here. We’ve been getting by on two meals a day essentially – breakfast in the hotel, a snack midday, and an early dinner.
We got 4 courses and split each. The best was a homemade pasta with ground rabbit and pecorino cheese. This was both our best meal in Italy so far and the cheapest. Gotta love that.

 

 Since I’m still fighting this cold, we decided on an early night again. We headed back around 5:30 so the sun was completely down. Made for some nice shots.
We had one other stop to make – Piazza della Signoria – but ran into a bunch of things that at this stage I can’t even quite make the distinctions. Like Bruges and a couple of other places we’ve been, the entire central city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so everywhere you look is “wow!”

 

 

 I don’t know exactly where this was; we were just walking around, suddenly we looked up and here we were.

So this was our goal: Piazza della Signoria. A big plaza that has all the masterpiece sculptures bordering it. Pretty amazing. There’s a balcony that has more on it but it was closed for the day already, although free to the public.

 

 

 

The cathedral. We passed it on our way back to the train. More on this tomorrow.
I’m going to bed, where Dan probably already is. We came down to the lounge once we got back to the hotel. He went to shower a little bit ago and to get some sleep – he got less than me last night – and I stayed to finish this.
And I can’t believe I’ve been in Italy for 4 days now and still haven’t had any gelato. I must be sick….
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