Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Florence and Pisa

Three hours after leaving Bevagna, we arrived in Firenze, a city I actually didn’t have very high hopes for, especially after spending five days in beautiful rural areas- I was in for a pleasant surprise. We started the day off with a tour of the Accademia, where I ran into my best from middle school’s older brother on his honeymoon in Italy… what a small world. Walking over we got our first teasing glances of Florence’s most famous landmark, the Duomo (more on that soon…)

The Accademia was interesting, but I’m not a huge religious art fan. Michelangelo’s David was certainly impressive, although his hands are a little freakishly large. Alas, there were no photos aloud, so you’ll have to Google my namesake. After the museum we had a walking tour of Florence, taking in all the sites: the Duomo, Palazzo Vechio, and the famous Ponte Vechio.

After dinner I was lucky to just catch sunset on the Arno River. Beautiful.

The next morning started with a private tour of the Baptistery and Cathedral (the Duomo), given by one of the Stanford in Florence professors. The tour was one of the highlights- learning the history of the monuments was awesome, ranging from the symbolism in the ceiling of the baptistery to the attempted assassination of one of the powerful Medici brothers in the Cathedral. Did I mention the Duomo is also pretty impressive, at 105 meters from floor to the top? Below are two shots of the baptistery (the building in front of the cathedral) and two of the inside of the Duomo.

As I mentioned above, during the Medici assassination attempt, the boy was rushed in the sancrimosy (the Priest’s room) off of the main chapel, a place we had access to because of our Stanford tour guide. Pretty cool.

After the tour a group of us climbed the bell tower, which we chose over the Duomo because there was no line, and it’s better to be looking at the Duomo than on top of it (like waterfalls). Florence is pretty impressive from above…

Since we had the afternoon free (and all the museums are closed on Monday) a group of us decided to ride the train to Pisa, about an hour west on the Arno River.

Aside: the speed, frequency, and reach of the Italian train system is really impressive.

Pisa is a pretty one-horse town, and I think everyone knows what the horse is:

The amount of leaning at the base is superbly impressive, as is the subtle curve toward the top as they tried to realign the tower during construction. And no, I didn’t get that obligatory shot of me holding up the tower. I got some other good shots though:

We also took a quick tour of the cathedral, which wasn’t as nearly as cool as Florence’s, but did have a beautiful gold leaf ceiling:

We left Pisa and got back to Firenze about 8, where we went out for the most authentic Tuscan meal we could find, including Minestrone, Tuscan sausage, and of course, Vino (some Chianti in fact). The next morning, we were again up early, off to Brescia in the north, via Cremona (home of Stradivarius). Thanks Firenze!

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