This morning we met the bus at Piazza San Andrea della Valle at like 7 a.m. to leave for our north trip. John and I sat together on the bus and slept most of the way. Our first destination was Florence which was about 3-4 hours away by bus. We stopped at an Autogrill as is customary on these trips. We arrived a little before noon and checked our luggage in at Hotel Castri on Piazza Independenzia before heading out for our Jamie tour of Florence.
Side note: Jamie's first year at Penn State was my freshman year when I had him in architecture. Before he came to State College, he had lived in Florence for about five years teaching in the Syracuse study abroad program. Jamie absolutely loved Florence and regrets leaving and hates State College so he was really sad to be back because it just reminded him how much he missed it. But he knew all the good places so he told us everything we needed to know.
Our first destination was Piazza della Repubblica, and on the way we passed the Duomo.
Then we made it to Piazza della Repubblica where we split up for lunch.
After we met back up we looked at a cute little church that had a sculpture by Donatello on the outside.
Then we went to look at the Ponte Vecchio which is abridge that has shops and houses on it.
During WWII a Nazi General was ordered to blow up a number of bridges along the Tiber to stop enemy troops from advancing, including this one. The general couldn't bring himself to blow up this particular bridge because of its rich history so he leveled all the buildings surrounding the bridge but left the bridge standing.
After the bridge we went to look at the Uffizi followed by Palazzo Vecchio.
Once at the Palazzo we saw a number of sculptures including a replica of Michelangelo's David. David was originally sculpted to go on top of the Duomo, but once he was done it was so amazing they thought it an injustice to put it where no one could see it so Da Vinci recommended it be placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Eventually it was moved for preservation so a replica now stands in its place.
Then Jamie told us about a legend regarding a face chiseled on the corner of the Palazzo Vecchio. Legend has it that when Michelangelo's David was unveiled someone doubted that it was sculpted by such a young man, so to prove his abilities he told the man he would sculpt the man's silhouette with his hands behind his back using a chisel, and it is still there today.
Then we saw a building that was bombed by the mafia in retaliation to the government back in like the 90's, a series of 7 bombs that all went off at the same time. There was a young girl who died in the blast, and outside of the house is an olive tree and a plaque that has a poem she wrote the night she died. Only half of the building fell down and when it was rebuilt they left it so that you could see the scars of the building as a memorial.
We then went back to the Duomo and learned about it, and then went to learn about Palazzo Medici.
After that Jamie ended our walk since it was so hot and everybody was dying. We went and checked in at the hotel and then headed back to the Duomo to climb to the top of the dome. It was such a long climb to the top but it was worth it. We walked up between the two shells of the dome and got to see the ribbed structure which was fascinating. The views from up there were so amazing, you could see all of Florence and beyond.
After the dome I met back up with my friends and we ate at Zaza, where I got lasagna and alfredo. After dinner we went to get some bottles of wine and go hang out on the steps of the Duomo, which is what all the locals have been doing for 400 years according to Jamie. So back in the day Michelangelo and Leonardo probably hung out in the exact spot we were. Most people left for the bars then but Matt, Pat and I stayed on the steps.
Saturday we got up early and did another Jamie walk around Florence. We saw lots of architecture on our walk, but the highlights of which were San Lorenzo and Michelangelo's Laurentian Library,
Alberti's Santa Maria Novella,
and Santa Croce and Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel.
The heat was even worse today than yesterday, and these day long walks are so exhausting. It's really cool to get to see all this great stuff, but a part of me wishes these walks were shorter and we had more time to see the city on our own.
After Jamie let us go we went shopping in the central market and I bought stuff for Caitlyn and Nicki. Didn't find stuff for anybody else yet but I hope to find something good on this trip. After shopping we went to eat at a little Chinese restaurant and I got sweet and sour chicken with peppers and fried rice. Before this trip I was ok with peppers but I've fallen in love with them on this trip. They're so good and I put them in everything I cook now :)