Friday, April 3, 2009

Firenze, Italia (Mar 24-25)

My favorite way to travel in Europe is quickly becoming by train. The train ride from Rome to Florence was very different scenery than my trip through the Alps to Milan. Instead of giant mountains there were tall hills with manors or villages at the tops. The low lands were devoted to agriculture. The only bad thing was the grey weather that followed me all the way from Rome to Florence.

One thing that gray, rain weather is good for is museums. Therefore I went to the Galleria dell' Accademia and the Galleria degli Uffizi on my first day in Florence. I honestly spent more time waiting in line than it took to see all of the art in the museums. The Accademia is famous for Michelangelo's Statue of David. Although there is little else in the gallery worth noting, the David was intense. Somehow all of the pictures in my textbooks never quite conveyed how tall the statue really is. The statue is very beautiful and totally worth the 6.5 euros I paid to see it. In the Uffizi, I saw Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and "Spring." I almost missed both paintings because the entrance to the room with the paintings is through the back of another room. I'm really glad that I backtracked and found the entrance since those two paintings were the main reason I stood in line for as long as I did. I didn't recognize any of the other works in the gallery but staying in the gallery kept me out of the rain so I was happy to check out all of the rooms.
By the time I ran out of paintings to look at, it had stopped raining so I ventured out and decided to climb up to the Piazzale Michelangelo which is, more or less, a parking lot at the top of a hill that looks out over the city of Florence. The climb up the stairs to the piazza was much harder than I was expecting. Stairs weren't steep but there were a lot of them. Luckily enough people walk up to this spot that there were plenty of benches surrounding the parking lot. Even though the sky was still fairly misty from the afternoon showers, you could still see the expansive city and the Tuscan mountains beyond it. Many of the buildings had red tile roofs and the misty mountains in the background created what is considered to be a classic Italian backdrop.

Since I did the museums on the first day, I did churches on the second day. Florence, like every other major Italian city, has a ton of churches. It turns out that the Duomo in Florence is the Duomo with the third largest knave in the world. The Duomo and several other well-known churches in the city have exteriors of green and white marble. I haven't seen that combination any where else that I've traveled. I visited close to a dozen churches over the course of the day ranging from the gigantic Duomo to the tiny hole-in-the-wall church that Dante and his family attended. Overall, I've found the church is Italy to be more beautiful and better decorated/organized than the churches I've seen anywhere else. I really liked checking out some of the smaller churches, it was a little like stepping back in time. I went up to a monastery next to the Piazza Michelangelo and heard the end of Vespers. From inside a large mostly empty marble church the echos of the chants were flat out eerie. I didn't make it to St. Croce which is where Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli are supposed to be entombed. I also missed the Palazzo Piti which is where the Medici's lived. However, I'm definitely planning on returning to Italy so I'll have another chance to see them.

One of the high points of visiting Florence was seeing my friends from JMU. We met by chance in Dublin and have kept in touch with facebook and email. They're studying in Florence so they were able to show me their favorite pizza and gelato places. Pizza and gelato are essential when traveling on a student's budget and these places had some of the best I had tried so far. The pizza in Florence was at least twice as thick as the super-thin pizza I had in Milan but it was still very light, nothing like the gummy crusts you sometimes get in the States. I wish I could have spent more time hanging out with everyone but they had papers to finish and I had a train ticket to Venice. A couple of them are planning on coming to the UK later this year some hopefully we'll get to meet up again.

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