Alright, so time to catch up on this blog as it is May 20th and I am writing about March 13th!!!
So the eight of us, as I mentioned in the Bologna post, took a train to Florence on March 13th where we would stay until Sunday, the 14th. The train we took was the coolest thing ever. There were "cabins" of 6 seats with a door and blinds for complete privacy. It was awesome because we just sat down, closed the blinds, and slept until we reached our destination.
We got there later than we arranged our hostel. To sum up a long, unnecessary story we basically were led to a different building since they gave away our reservation. We followed this really sketchy woman who spoke a lick of english. I have never been so ready to get mugged than I was at this time as she led us through alleyways and around dark corners. Keep in mind there were 8 of us and we booked it for 5 to try to save some money. We finally get to the hostel and she brings us to the front desk. She keeps telling us to pay 40 Rubies which in her own little world apparently implies 40 Euros. We were asking to see the room since we were relocated. She did not understand and kept yelling at us for no reason. "40 Woobies, 40 Woobies"
she would say with her slight lisp counteracting with her italian accent. Eventually she called her boss and Luke spoke to him on the phone. During all of this, the 4 with me were rather calm and patient while I was going ballistic. I have no patience for stuff like this as most of you know and I had to sit down so I didn't strangle this woman. Meanwhile, Isa, Juri, and Sarita waited
outside. Finally we paid and went to the room. The room had two twin-size beds individually and then three twin size beds pushed together to make 1.5 King-sized beds. Instantly Nick claimed one because he booked the hostel and I claimed the other because I paid and am the biggest. As a side note, we are all obsessed with these stupid gummy peach rings. Nick threw one in the air and I dove onto my bed to catch it in my mouth. Instantly the aluminum (literally) bed frame collapsed, awesome huh? So I put that to the side and put my mattress on the floor. We set out stuff down in the hostel and went to explore. Eventually we snuck everyone in to the room and left the hostel by twos. The woman clearly couldn't count as 4 groups of 2 walked past her when the room was booked for 5! ha --> So much for summing the story up.
The only real thing worthy of mentioning for that night was the dinner and post-dinner. We walked around forever trying to find a good menu for good prices. We finally found one and sat down. I wish I remembered the name because at the time of the trip, not the time I am writing this, it was the best meal I have had. I was feeling very greedy and ordered garlic bread with oil to split with Nick and ordered a plate of Lasagna and a plate of Tortellini with Ham and Cream. It was AMAZING! A couple people ordered famous Florentine Steaks and they were massive. We were all laughing because Lenny was joking about how they just ate an entire cow. Everyone really enjoyed their meals although the portions still werent completely satisfying but for once I will take quality of quantity. Some of my friends' meals came with dessert. They could choose cheesecake or a bowl of fruit. I ate my friend Simone's apple who we met a little earlier before dinner. I hate to say it but that apple might have been the best part of the meal. It was soooo good I couldn't believe it. The waiters could see how much I loved it so they gave me another apple free of charge (we literally had three waiters because of the massive amounts of food the nine of us ate)!! I was raving about this stupid little apple while everyone else was raving about their entree. We left there after many thanks to the waiters and went to a bar for a little bit. There was nobody in there so we had the entire thing to ourself. After a little while we went back to the hostel because it was now like 1130pm. We saw a Merry-Go-Round (carousel) so we all went on it. We all bought a ticket except Lenny and after a couple minutes the guy tried to catch up to Lenny to get him off but he jumped off and ran away haha. The guy operating the carousel stopped the ride a minute later and we went back to the hostel. We ate some pizza, joked around, and somehow ended up making a hog pile on one of the tiny beds. Of course I was stuck on the bottom but as you can see we enjoyed it.
The next day we walked around and did all the touristy stuff in Florence. The picture below shows the Bronze Doors of the Battistero (Baptistry) of San Giovanni. It is directly across from the Duomo. The bronze doors took six years and 20 of the 28 panels describe events in the life of St. John the Baptist. More popularly they are known as the "Gates of Paradise". If you literally turn around, this is the image you see. The famous florence Duomo. I will further explain the Duomo later on in the blog.
Down below you will see my favorite part of Florence. As a kid I read the entire Children's Beginner Bible (600+ pages with pictures) in less than a day. My favorite story was David vs. Goliath. We went to the Galleria dell'Accademia where the Statue of David resides. You walk through the security, buy your ticket, and enter the museum in a big room of art portraits. I briefly looked at them but quite honestly could care less about them. I booked it straight out of the room and turned the corner to the next room. As I turn the corner and I look up and see a direct path between my current position and the 17 foot statue. I was in awe because I have been waiting to see this ever since I learned I was coming to Italy. You hear about Michelangelo's statue in classes and on the internet, you learn about David in church and religion classes, and I finally found myself face to face with him/it. I instantly noticed the head and hands were much larger in proportion to the rest of the body. This was because it used to sit on top of the Duomo and looks proportional from a distance. In addition, it was surrounded by an approximately eight foot high plexiglass wall because some asshole a while back took a chisel to the statues toes. My friend snapped a picture and got yelled at instantly by security. I HAD to have a picture so I hid behind a pillar and had my Australian friend Luke look out for the security guard while I kept my eye on the other 2. I turned my flash off, saw my two guards were not looking, and my mate Luke gave me the OK to snap one. VOILA! Be sure to click on it for a larger view.
We left and decided to get a view of Florence so we decided to climb Giotto's Campanile which is literally 20 feet from the Duomo. It is 277 feet tall as you can picture below. We were blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather so it was probably 70 degrees. I was wearing Jeans so I honestly almost died climbing this tower.
You can see that we were above the rest of the Duomo and this was not even the highest point yet.
This is a view from the top. Here you can see another church in Florence; not sure what the name of it is though.
In this picture above you can see Piazza della Repubblica. The arch is known as Arcone and you can also see the Carousel we were on the night before!!
Here you see the Palazza Vecchio which is the town hall of Florence. It sits above Palazza della Signoria where the replication of the David sits in addition to a couple of badass statues and very cool fountain you will see very soon. I really do not have much to say about this besides it was an extremely impressive structure. It reminded me of the famous bell towers you see in a place like Siena.
Below you see the coolest fountain I have seen (until I saw the Trevi in Rome). This is called the Fountain of Neptune. It originally was just the statue resembling Cosimo de'Medici in an octagonal foundation but the Florentines hated it. Added were the bronze river gods, laughing satyrs, and marble sea-horses. We continued to walk around the plaza looking at the statues. I would post the replica of David but you already saw the real one so there is no need! If you do want to see the replica feel free to email me and I will send the picture (or you can good Palazza della Signoria).
Pictured below is the badass statue I mentioned above. You may not like it but this lion looks ferocious and anytime I look at it quickly for some reason I think the ball in his paw is a head of a human.
It really is amazing how symbolic the lion is over here in Europe. They clearly have a strong, noble symbolic meaning because I have seen these similar statues in Florence, Rome, Vienna, and etc. Europeans clearly like the Lion icon as it not only represents strength and nobility but courage, bravery, power, and royalty at the same time.
We walked from there to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge that some of you I know have been waiting for. On the way I saw many statues by Michelangelo, Donatello, DaVinci, Bernini, and many other famous sculptors of the time. You see the Ponte Vecchio bridge crossing the beautiful and clean Arno River hahaha. You can see the individual shops built into the bridge similar to the houses of Cinque Terre are built into the cliffs. This bridge was covered with jewelry stores, vendors, butcher shops, and much more. I have never seen anything like it as it is approximately 175 feet long. So we crossed this bridge slowly as we gazed at the shops and products they have to offer. We all stopped to take a few pictures. Here is a picture with my good friends Isa and Sara.
Food is a little pricy over in Firenze so we went to a market and bought bread sandwich meat, cheese, and condiments for some cheap sandwiches. We utilized the great weather and ate our sandwiches on the steps leading up to the Pitti Palace. We ended up just laying there for an hour or so; a couple of passed out including myself. We then headed back to the Duomo and went inside. Right outside though the girl I met from Cinque Terre saw me. Mary Hester saw me and introduced me to her family. It was unbelievable how small this world is when I met a girl in Cinque Terre and she happens to spot me out of the thousands of people in all of Florence. The inside was very beautiful and I got some descent shots once I turned the flash off.
Here you can see the mosaic ceiling in the Duomo. I like this Duomo a lot but it is very similar inside to all of the others. The Duomo in Milan is still my favorite which I definitely will put up pictures of soon!!
On the train home Lenny, Nick, and I sat in a cabin by ourselves because we all ended up getting split up. The girls wanted to shop and we knew they would be late. We ended up at different train stations and got there 5 minutes before the train departed. So the three of us met an Italian named Angelo. He is from Sicily and works in Milan. He was probably the coolest italian I have met. He was very down to earth and very personable. We had some great conversations and the highlight was Scopa. Scopa is an italian card game; basically THE national card game here. It was very difficult to learn but he taught well and picked up rather fast. He was my partner and the two of us beat Nick and Lenny 2 games to 1. Each game is to 11 points so it took most of the 3 hour trip back home. Since this train ride we have actually invited him to Arco and have gone out to a few bars with him. That about sums this trip up. Florence was nice for a day or two but did not live to my expectations. It was VERY touristy and too similar to other places I have been. It didn't live up to the hype in my mind, but I did have a great weekend. Sorry it was not too entertaining with humor but not a ton of funny content was worth writing about.
I will try to write my Prague blog next but that will be a long one since I was there for 5 days. Please email me with any questions or comments, I love to read them and reply when I get a chance!!! Also shoot me an email if anyone wants to see the entire album of pictures.