Florence is a money pit, but oh so exquisite!

Trip Start Aug 16, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2009

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Where I stayed
Ostello Venezia (Venice)

Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Today my plan was to see as much of Florence as I could before catching a 4:30 pm train to Venice. So I got up early, took my backpack to the train station, and was at the Duomo by 8:30 am to climb up the stairs to the top of the dome. There were 463 of them, although thankfully not as steep as the stairs at Sienna's bell tower.

It was actually an interesting climb. The stairs started out going up in tight right angles. Then there were some really tight spiral stairs, followed by a walk on the inside of the dome. That was really neat to see the frescos on the inside of the dome so closely. And they were very beautiful. Then the rest of the stairs went up the middle of the dome. The dome was actually built in two layers, so there were stairs going right up the middle of them. And then at the very top the stairs actually went straight up the inside of the dome. It was really very cool.

The view at the top was, of course, very amazing. Florence is a very beautiful city and I could pick out all of the churches I was planning on visiting later in the day.

After I had my fill of the view I went back down all the interesting stairs and headed over to see the Medici Chapels. Rick Steves rated it two triangles (three is the highest), so I figured it would be good. But the one really big chapel was mostly covered in scaffolding, and the other chapel just had a few sculptures in it and was otherwise pretty stark.

I next went inside San Lorenzo church, which was right next door. But it was also not that interesting on the inside or outside. So my day wasn’t starting off very well and I’d already spent 12 Euros on entrance fees.

But my day soon started to get better. I next went to the San Marco museum. It was an old monastery that had many frescos by a monk named Fra Angelico. There were a whole bunch of little cells where the monks lived, and each one had a fresco inside. They were very interesting and I was very bad and took a few pictures of them even though I wasn’t supposed to. I was getting really tired of how so many places didn’t let you take pictures. I really don’t see the harm if you don’t use a flash. And personally, if I don’t take a picture of something I likely won’t remember it.

Anyway, my next destination was the Duomo again. The actual church hadn’t been open yet earlier so I wanted to go back and go inside. But when I got there the line was really long. And I could tell from before that it wasn’t very impressive inside, so I decided to not worry about it for now.

So I went to another nearby church called Orsanmichelle. It was very different because it was just a big square building with lots of statue-filled niches around the outside. But the inside was very beautiful (and I snuck another picture when I wasn’t supposed to).

Then I went over to the Bargello museum. It’s funny the really famous museums in Florence are the Accademia, which has the famous Michaelangelo statue of David, and the Uffizi, which had many Italian paintings including Botticelli’s "Birth of Venus." I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to go to those, but the Bargello museum had a bunch of statues, which I really enjoy. So I decided I’d rather go there. And I was glad I did. They had a lot of amazing statues, including another famous David. This one was by Donatelli and was done in bronze (but alas, I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of him). There were a bunch of statues, though, in a courtyard outside that I could take pictures of.

When I left the museum, I walked over to Piazza della Signoria again, and looked more closely at all the statues they have there. Then I walked over to the Santa Croce church. This is one that I remember visiting before, on my trip 18 years ago. All I really remembered was going inside and seeing the tombs of Galileo and Michaelangelo. So I was surprised when I went inside and it was a really huge church. And this time I was able to go up to the front part of the church, where there were some side chapels with very cool frescos.

My next task for the day was to walk up to the Piazza Michaelangelo. It was across the Arno River from everything else, and up on a hill. We had actually stopped there on my trip 18 years ago, and the view was just as incredible as I remembered it. I also went up a little further to yet another church, called San Miniato. And it was surprisingly ornate inside.

On my way back across the river, I stopped at a gelato place recommended by Rick Steves and got my daily fix. I think I have a new favorite flavor – it’s called “crema” and I’m not sure what exactly that means, but it’s very good.

By this time I only had about 2 hours until my train left. So I walked back through Piazza della Signora one last time, and swung by the Duomo to see if I could get inside. It was lit up brilliantly by the afternoon sun and just looked amazing. And I got right inside, but it was indeed not very impressive so I didn’t stay long.

My final stop for the day was one last church, called Santa Maria Novella. It was right by the train station and I had already walked past it 4 or 5 times on way back and forth to the hostel. But I hadn’t yet been inside. And it was very beautiful, but they had some photo Nazis there and I wasn’t able to sneak a picture. But it had more black & white striping, and some amazing frescos.

So that was my hectic day in Florence. I literally spent the entire day on my feet, barely stopping to rest. I spent a ton of money on entrance fees, because even most of the churches charged a fee (they’re usually free). But, I saw a ton of amazing art and most of the fees were completely worth it.

I managed to time my day perfectly and I got to the train station a half hour before my train left. This was my first experience on a high-speed train and it was awesome. I actually had an electrical plug, so I was able to charge my computer. And we only had three stops between Florence and Venice (regional trains stop at every single station). So it only took 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to Venice.

When I arrived at Venice I went out the front of the train station, and there was a canal right there! I bought a 3 day pass for the vaporettos, the boats that ferry people all around Venice. And then I rode the vaporetto over to Guidecca Island, where my hostel was. The island is just south of the “main” part of Venice, and my hostel is right on the water. And I could see St. Mark’s square, the main square of Venice, although it was pretty much dark by the time I got there.

I checked in to the hostel, ate some snacks, and then prepared some blogs before going to bed. I was very exhausted from my long day of walking, and l was looking forward to being much more relaxed in Venice. I have three whole days before taking a night train to Vienna, Austria. So I should have plenty of time to see things as slow as I want, and take lots of breaks.

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