Monday, May 2, 2016

Italy 2016 - Off to Florence

We left Venice by train.  We walked to the train station from the apartment, with suitcases, because it is the only way to get around.  The train wasn't full, and it was very comfortable.  When we arrived in Florence, we again walked with our suitcases.  We should have taken a taxi, but it didn't look far on the map.

The guesthouse in Florence was a short walk from the Duomo.  The streets are noisy and crowded, with more people than can fit on the sidewalks.  Its seems that the streets are pedestrian only, until a car or motorbike comes along. 

We only saw the historic center of Florence, and the train station.  We walked to the Arno River, and crossed the Ponte Vecchio and were shameless tourists.  We were tired and hungry, so we settled on an acceptable tourist trap restaurant in  that area of the city.   The shops were the same as we have in New Jersey, and at Sarah's request we spent some time in H&M.  Then, we took the train to Prato for dinner.  We visited Sarah's dorm, had drinks at a bar on Piazza San Francesco.  Dinner was at Agora Eno Restaurant.  That night we took the last train back to Florence, which was a little creepy.

The next day, Sarah took the train to Florence and we all went to Pisa.  What a wonderful day!  That tower!  We got there in time for coffee at a cafĂ© and to walk around a little before our time to climb the tower.  The steps are very worn from the millions of feet over the years, and combined with the lean it made walking up a challenge.  After that we visited the church and the baptistery.  We had lunch in a university neighborhood and were very glad to have left the tourists behind.  We took the train back to Florence, and then to Prato for dinner.  Sarah's train from Pisa was delayed and she arrived in Prato only a short time before we did.

Our last morning we visited Florence's Duomo.  We climbed Brunelleschi's dome.  Amazing!  I can't imaging being permitted to do this in the U.S. - the steps were worn and narrow, there was no railing, and at the end it was only wide enough for one person going up OR down.  The view was splendid and seeing the dome paintings up close was impressive.  After this, Bill and the kids went to climb the bell tower while I visited the crypt.  Then, we had a nice lunch, picked up our suitcases and took a taxi to the car rental office.

Now for my disappointments.  First, I should have booked three nights in Florence instead of two.  Second, I didn't do my homework on the sites in Florence.  We discovered when walking around on Sunday that the museums are closed on Mondays.  There wasn't enough time to get tickets and visit the Uffizi on Sunday afternoon, so we didn't get to see it.  More planning is needed than I thought, and advance tickets need to be purchased for many sites.

I will need to return to Florence some day to spend more time and try to get the feel for it.  Our time was so short, and because we went to Pisa we didn't really get to explore any of the city.  It was also terribly crowded with tour groups, I can't imagine what it would be like during the tourist season!!