Florence: Where the Renaissance was Born
(originally posted Sept. 25, 2009)
Our Grand Tour of Italy, Part 3
We traveled from Roma to Firenze (to use the Italian) by train. Our coach seemed to have many Italian businessmen in suits (well-tailored, of course), talking on their cell phones. I didn’t mind hearing them talk, it sounded so lyrical. They could’ve been discussing the most mundane subject and I could’ve listened for hours.
Random Italy observation: Italians like to answer their phones by saying, “Pronto.” They end their conversations with, “Ciao, ciao, ciao.” Three times, in rapid succession. Really.
Our first night in Florence, we ate at a restaurant where you could get a three-course meal with a jug of wine and bottle of water for 12 Euro — very reasonable! Water always came in bottles and you had to specify “no gas” (i.e., not carbonated or naturale).
Another random observation: Italians never serve drinks with ice. All drinks come to you sans ice. Didn’t bother me, to tell you the truth. My husband — well, he got used to it.
We only had a couple of days in Florence, but we got to see the Duomo and the Santa Croce Church. The Duomo was memorable in that we climbed to the top of the dome — all 463 steps, no lift (as the signs warn you as you wait in line to get in) — and paid for the privilege, no less.
I’m happy to say I made it (though I was huffing a bit after the first hundred or so steps). My husband, a retired fireman, was hardly phased — all that training he went through (man, they really did train him hard!) more than prepared him for it. Bottom line, I recovered my wind and finished the climb (even though those last few flights were so much steeper than the rest — real killers!).
Inside, you get an up-close view of the dome’s amazing painting of Last Judgment (those Renaissance guys really got into the whole heaven and hell thing) by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. And the view from the top — well, here are some pictures.
We didn’t get to the Accademia or the Uffizi (I know, I know . . .an extra day would’ve really helped), but we did walk by the Ponte Vecchio. Despite its smaller size, Florence seemed harder to navigate than Rome. All those skinny streets. Too many to fit them all on a map (or fit all the names in legibly, anyway). So it was easy to get turned around, hard to find the street you were seeking sometimes.
Another random observation: Did you know that most street signs in Italian cities are etched on the sides of buildings? I recall only one or two that were on freestanding posts. That made it tricky to find your way around, at first. That and the way the street names could change from block to block. Very tricky. And they were long names full of vowels. Hard to pronounce or remember.
But – hey — you get used to it. You learn the landmarks. Next thing you know, you could be a friggin’ tour guide. We spent so much time walking around Rome, I got to feeling that way. And Florence was so much smaller that I felt I got to know it even faster.
Our hotel, a Novotel, was awesome. Free Internet access — a rare treat.
Another random observation: Did you know Italian keyboards differ from those in the U.S.? I noticed that in Sicily, actually. The @ was on a key with two other characters (you had to hit Alt to type it, I think). The first time I used it, I was so jet-lagged, I couldn’t find the apostrophe to save my life. All my emails were written without contractions. I sounded like Data on Star Trek. Weird.
We realized the difference when we hit an Internet cafe in Venice — our next stop on the fabulous grand tour of Italy. And the subject of my next post.