Florence and Francesco

Trip Start May 27, 2012
Trip End Jun 05, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Monday, May 28, 2012

The first full day in Florence was mind blowing. I got myself up at a decent time and my friend Francesco was waiting in the lobby at our hotel. He had taken two days off of work to show me and my Dad around Florence, and had taken his scooter down to our hotel. We all had breakfast at our hotel, which was by far one of the best I've ever had in Europe, and we began our grand tour of the city.

Francesco first took us to the house of Dante Alighieri, the famous Italian poet who wrote works such as Dante's Inferno. Next we stopped at the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, a small covered outdoor market. A small statue of a boar called Fontana del Porcellino stands at the edge, and visitors rub the boar's nose in order to return to the city one day. From there we circled back to the Duomo and went inside. The church was not as detailed as I had expected, but Francesco pointed out that it was built with a different style than some of Europe's more prominent churches. We were able to go into the crypt, where there are the remains of a foundation from an even older the church the Duomo was built on top of. It was even more historic than the Duomo and you could really see the age on the original flooring and stone that was left. 

Once we finished there it was time to start climbing things! The bell tower of the Duomo was first, and all I could think about was the video game series Assassin's Creed. Part of it takes place in Florence and Venice so I recognized a lot of the scenery along our trip. It was a fun climb up the tower, and I got my dose of exercise and circular staircases. The view from the top was fantastic! Francesco showed us the direction where he lived, a short little ride out toward the hills around the city but still well inside Florence. After we climbed down we went inside the baptistery, which is the older building right next to the Duomo. The ceiling is pained gold and depicts biblical scenes and angels. From the baptistery we headed north, grabbing a snack and enjoying the scenery. I felt very comfortable walking around on the cobblestone and narrow sidewalks. Even though the traffic could be a bit random and startling to some people, it wasn't much to me as there was always more foot traffic. Our next church we stopped at was built for the Medici, an old ruling family of Florence, and was called the Opera Medici Laurenziana. It was very odd as the front of the church remained unfinished stone and mortar. Apparently since no one could agree on what it should look like it was just left unfinished. The inside had a lot of Medici seals and flowers covering the ceiling. It was one of the first stops on our trip that didn't allow pictures inside, and thus began my crusade of taking candid photos. I know it may seem rude, but most of the rules are implemented for tourists who use flash photography. Instead of having to tell everyone to turn off their flash they simply don't allow photos. This just doesn't fly for history buffs like me haha - many times the staff didn't even care anyway. 

Francesco took us to the national library next. The main room he showed us was the study room, which was covered in old books and very quiet. If I was ever a student in Florence this is where you could find me. By now it was early afternoon, and we still hadn't had lunch, so Francesco took us to a nearby panini shop. This place turned out to be pure Italian - a little sandwich shop on a corner that no tourists ever found or set foot it. There were a couple teenagers in the back pressing paninis and the menu above the counter was only in Italian. It was nice to have a local order for me, and I still don't know what exactly I had other than it was delicious. After we ate we went to another famous church, Santa Maria Novella. It is across the street from the train station and has a nice courtyard. There are old paintings inside as well as a beautiful altar. One highlight was a large cross than hung down in the middle of the church and was from the 13th century. Right around the corner from the church was the Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella. It is the oldest and most famous pharmacy in Florence, open to the public since the early 17th century. It is made up of several different rooms, each selling different types of products. 

Our next stop was one of the most historical, the Basilica di Santa Croce. It was a decent walk to our east across the city, so we saw a lot of the city walking over. This church had a uniquely decorated wooden ceiling and had a lot of beautiful side chapels, however the altar was under construction so we couldn't really see it. What really made this church stand out was the number of historical figures buried there. I had no idea Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli (just to name a few!) were buried there. It was amazing to see their graves and imagine the importance of all these people. After Santa Croce we hailed a taxi, which was "very expensive" to Francesco
(it was about the same price as in any big US city) and went to Piazzale Michelangelo, a lookout to the south of the city that provided excellent views of Florence. It was a great spot to see the setting sun and looked like a good hangout spot. We decided to climb further south and higher up the hill. There was a small church and monastery, San Miniato al Monte, with a crazy background. According to legend, St. Miniato was denounced as a Christian, was beheaded, picked up his head, and walked up to the top of the hill where the church would later be founded in his honor. The view from the top of the hill was even better, and I took a lot of great pictures. I didn't want to leave. It was such a fantastic view - all I could do was sit there and wish everything was this peaceful and simple. 

We found dinner at a small family owned restaurant nearby. It was delicious! We split a nice bottle of wine, a salami plate, bruschetta, and I had a pasta dish that was purple due to the wine sauce. Francesco introduced me to an Italian dessert I'd never heard of before - chocolate pear pie. It is definitely a European style dessert, any American would deem it not sweet enough, but I enjoyed trying something different. After eating Francesco gave us a walking tour back down into the city, passing an old city gate and part of the city walls. We walked all the way back to the center of town and got to see more of the nightlife. When we reached the hotel Dad went to bed and Francesco and I went out for a drink nearby. I am very grateful to have such a good friend in Florence, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get a tour of the city from a friend I made in Copenhagen. We sat around and talked for a while, and I got a glimpse into what an Italian's life was like in this city. It was a very long and fun first full day in Florence that I'll always remember. 
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