6/1/15 - 6/3/15
The Florence portion of our trip was quite the whirlwind. Colin learned that maybe there is such a thing as too many museums in a day, and Madi learned that it isn't quite so bad to walk up the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo (especially if there are a ton of tourists making it a very, very slow walk). Thankfully our next stop is the agriturismo, so we actually have the time to write and share with you everything we got to do packed into the 3 days. However, we started with a very ambitious itinerary. We actually cut out one museum and three churches and rearranged our schedule as we went, because our bodies were much more tired from walking and standing and reading plaques and...and... than we thought we would be. This doesn't mean that we didn't get a ton done, though.
We started this part of the trip by taking a "layover" at Lucca. Lucca has walls 40 feet high and 60 feet wide and about 2 and a half miles long surrounding the city. The first walls were built around 200 CE and rebuilt various times with the current walls dating to about the late 16th century. The top of the walls were made into a promenade lined with trees. Now people use it to walk and bike around the city, tourists and locals alike. There are bike rental places near all of the ramps onto the walls. We decided that for our ride we wanted to get a tandem bike. Neither of us had ever used a tandem bike, so we thought it could be fun for the hour rental. Well, it was, and it was a lot more difficult than we expected it to be! Madi took the back seat so she could shoot pictures as we went around and Colin steered up front. Who knew that steering would be so difficult and not being able to steer would be so stressful? Madi made an interesting discovery during that experience however. In order to successfully pedal and steer the bike, there needs to be an incredible amount of communication between riders - especially from the front. She had the thought that riding a tandem bike could be a fun way to practice communication skills between partners. Anyway, Madi also got a chance up front with Colin in back. She got to experience the extreme difficulty in steering and he got to experience the fear of not being able to. We learned though, that these bikes are definitely made with a male-female partnership in mind (and if we're being kind, the taller person up front with the shorter person in back). Madi could not only barely touch the ground, but she had a hard time even getting onto the front seat while Colin was squished in the back...it would have been pretty awesome to have a picture of that...Anyway, it was a fun experience. After we rode along the wall, we went into town to explore some of the churches and get lunch. It was a beautiful town and a perfect start to our Florence adventure.
When we arrived in Firenze, we just walked around and explored a little. We got tickets to climb up the infamous Duomo and popped into Orsanmichele church, and then we ended our exhausting day with a gorgeous sunset over the Arno river. We had planned on climbing the Duomo on that first day, but even climbing up the stairs in Orsanmichele (which, to our credit, was a very tall church) was taxing. Apparently all of the hills and hiking from the Cinque Terre got the better of us.
The next day we got up bright and early for our reservations at the Uffizi Gallery. So much art and so many statues. No, it was beautiful. We got to see Botticcelli's Birth of Venus.
Among other fantastic paintings and statues.
Once we finished with the Uffizi, we went next door to the Galileo museum. Now, this is one of the museums Colin probably could have lived without, but Madi really wanted to do this one. There were all sorts of telescopes, globes, machines to observe physics, early medical equipment, etc. It seemed the entire walk through the museum Madi kept thinking how this is the museum that her dad could just live in. She is certain that he would love it there, so she took so many pictures. Although Madi did nearly nothing else but take pictures of the cool stuff she saw, there are only the especially neat ones here.
Our first stop after lunch was the Accademia museum which houses the famous David.
It was mostly statues there, but there were also some slightly different interesting objects like Dante's work.
That late afternoon we finally decided to tackle the Duomo -- meaning, of course, that Madi finally said that it was time; Colin was ready the entire time. The first 1/3 or so was just straight up going around and around and around the little staircase. We came to a landing and Madi needed a break to use her inhaler. Ironically enough, as soon as they started the next section of stairs we hit a line. We suddenly came to a stop and went up a stair or two at a time - basically the rest of the way up. Maybe one of the only times Madi was thinking, "thank God for tourists." Colin was, shall we say, less happy about the slow climb. Part of the climb led us to the base of the dome via a walkway overlooking the chapel.
We then entered into the "dome within a dome" part.
And we were finally to the top!! Overlooking Florence in all its beauty and glory - with Madi backed up against the wall as they walked around the circumference of the dome. She did venture out near the edge for one picture though.
The Santa Maria Novella church and famous pharmacy are right near the train station, but it wasn't until that afternoon that we went and saw the huge church. Madi was apparently tired of taking pictures, because we don't have any of the church. It was beautiful and extravagant all the same. Seeing the old pharmacy run by the sisters was pretty neat too.
We finished the day off with some gelato and watching the sunset.
For our last morning in Florence, we visited Pitti Palace. The palace is the grand estate in which the Medici family lived during their influence over Florence. Now it is a museum housing the family's collection of art as well as examples of their lifestyles.
After our walk through the palace, we headed off to the agriturismo to relax and explore the Tuscan hillsides.