Florence, where we got to relax

Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Aug 09, 2005

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Monday, July 4, 2005

July 1
Happy Canada Day! Our morning Busabout stop was in the lovely town of Orvieto, where some inflated Bishop had built a Duomo about 10 times larger than the town needed (or could afford -- it took three hundred years to build -- you can't get anything accomplished with this whole "siesta" thing). It was a beautiful building inside and out, and the town was situated on top of a cliff, so the stop was very worthwhile. The mid-day stop was in Sienna, but we only had about fifteen minutes to grab a spot of lunch, so Sienna be damned. An hour later we reached Florence and made our way to our accommodations, which were right in the centre of the historic part of the city. That afternoon and evening we simply walked around the historical district and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Florence.

July 2
In the morning we walked to San Lorenzo Church, which was built for the Medicis. The Church was fairly simple, inside and out, but contained bronze altars sculpted by Donatello, so they were doing okay. Next we happened upon a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit which contained small models of some of his more fascinating inventions (30 or so). Many were workable, and it was great to see how they functioned and how many of da Vinci's ideas were far ahead of his time (war tanks? Ease up, da Vinci, you're an artist...). After walking past Dante's house, we had the best ice cream we've had all trip, and that's saying something. It was then on to the Palazzo Vecchio, which was a home of the Medicis and a monument to the power of Florence. After touring the palace on our own for an hour, we enjoyed a guided tour led by a gentleman in fifteenth century costume. After explaining how the tour would work, he put on a gold chain which meant he was "in character" as Giorgio Vasari, who designed much of the reconstruction of this palace, as well as the Uffizi and the passageway from one palace to the one on the other side of the river. We went through secret passages into rooms that were normally inaccessible, had terrific explanations of many aspects of life at that time, and had to act as though we were visitors to the palace. This was definitely one of the trip highlights, and was well worth the three euros spent. Our last stop of the day was climbing Piazzale Michelangelo, which was a steep climb but has a wonderful view of the city. Goodnight.

July 3
Another leisurely morning visiting a few of Florence's churches. The Baptistry, where Dante was christened and which is the oldest building in Florence, was quite small but amazing. The entire ceiling was religious tile mosaics depicting many biblical stories. By contrast, the interior of the Duomo (the city's main cathedral, with the 3rd longest nave in the world) is almost void of decoration. In fact, of the dozens of churches we've been in on the trip, its interior was the plainest (K: which was fine, we got to leave right away). Next we went to San Croce Church, which was unfortunately closed due to a pseudo soccer-rugby match called calcio storico. Annually, the butchers from the four regions of the city meet (meat?) each other in the most violent spectacle either of us has ever witnessed. There is a ball, and goals, but the goal is punching and kicking each other in the face, groin, and ribs. There are medics wandering the field tending to the wounded as the game goes on around them -- the medics start the game on the field, and remain for the duration. We had considered attending, but as we saw them set up for the match we noticed 50 or so police waiting for the game to start, and decided that we wanted no part of an Italian butcher riot. Butchers have knives. T.V. would suffice. After the blood-bath ended, we headed out to enjoy the sunset over our last night in Italy, and it was a beauty.
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