Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Arriverderci Venezia - Ciao Firenze!

Saying goodbye to Venice

Our last morning in Venice was very warm and we were all carrying our backpacks which made everything seem even more uncomfortable - yet being in Venice was still magical.  We managed to meander through the piazzas and narrow streets en route to the train station and still find gelato and even more refreshing that morning - fresh fruit smoothies which we leisurely enjoyed in the shade of a several centuries old church.

We had previously purchased tickets that allowed us to use the boat buses and were told it could be used for our train ride back to the main land - but a very cranky train attendant would not accept them  (although the family across from us had the same ones.) The kiosks were not working thus a huge line of travelers were trying to purchase tickets from a couple of manned ticket windows.  Between Michelle and Ryan's perseverance we did manage to make the train and actually had an air conditioned rail car for the journey back.

We emptied ourselves back into Ryan's car and with the help of his GPS found our way back to the highway and on to Firenze (Florence for the non Italians:))

My first trip to Florence was 30 years ago!  We were traveling with our friends the Poole's - both of us novices to Europe and sightseeing.  A lot has changed - no border checkpoints between countries and for the most part, Europe is now using all the same currency.  Now, you have to remember to look for the signs that welcome you to a new country - another hint of course is that the road signs change languages!  On a side note - when Al and I had traveled to Italy, we went through many art museums and even though Al was not excited about the idea  - he loved Florence and the Uffizi gallery was his favorite - it is filled with countless marble statues from the Renaissance period.

Michelle had made reservations for us to visit the Academia and see Michaelangelo's "David"  - the perfect man.  Our first obstacle was trying to find a place to park!  Florence has very limited parking and although Ryan was very adept at maneuvering through the city - the parking lots were full.  Eventually we did find a parkplatz and headed out to find "David."   We were hot, tired and in a hurry as our reservation was at 4:30 and we cutting it a little close - we will blame this on the cranky train attendant.
We waited in the line for those who had reservations (our only proof was the paper Michelle had written the number on) which was considerably shorter than the second line.  We found it interesting when we arrived at the door, the gentleman asked if we had a reservation and then let us pass through to purchase our tickets.  Also, as we paid the woman at the counter charged us for four but only credited the register for two!  Hmmmm

Once inside - looking straight down the marbled hallway you find one of Michaelangelo's finest masterpieces - "David."  It really is hard to describe the majestic qualities of this marble stone statue which towers over us at 17 feet.  Every detail is incredible - the strength of his hands, the softness of his eyes, the curls of his hair all the while appearing strong and courageous just as God had created him to be.  It was truly amazing.

A replica of the original "David" which is erected at the original square outside 

Exiting the academia into the afternoon heat was sweltering - we were thirsty and hungry.  We planned to find a little restaurant for dinner before heading back to the car and finding our "hostel" for the night.
I knew we couldn't be far from the Santo Maria del Fiore - the Duomo cathedral, the doors of which had left an indelible mark on me since my first visit.  I really wanted the kids to see it. I  don't think they had any other real plans for Florence but it was one of my favorite places in Italy (must be the art history minor I have from WSU.)

Our feet were dieing but everyone was gracious and within a few blocks the streets emptied into a plaza filled with the cathedral! This is the tallest building in Florence and when you see pictures of the city - it towers over everything else.  The marble structure is done in panels of green, pink and white and the bronze relief doors of the baptistry depict moments in the life of Mary.  I couldn't imagine how people could just walk by so quickly without stopping in amazement - but then I realized they did get to see them everyday!

Baptistry door

Santa Maria del Fiore - the Duomo Cathedral

We ate outside in a small restaurant across the street from the cathedral and then opted to take a taxi back to our car as all of us were tired and our feet were aching from soooo much walking.  We were staying outside of Florence at a camping resort - which is a whole story on its own.  We finally found it, slept soundly, wandered around the grounds a little and headed out for our next adventure......

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