So. Florence. What can I say about Florence, one of the worst, if not "the" worst day of the trip for me. (How quickly I forget the first day in Paris!) Florence is a beautiful city -- I think (didn't have much chance to actually look). But I was just so uncomfortable all day that it colored everything.
The day started out innocently enough. We left the hotel around 8 and stopped near a Gold/Leather shop where Ian said he could get us a good discount on merchandise. Of course the discount came with demonstrations of everything, and an "impromptu" (put in quotes because I'm sure it was not "impromptu" at all!) fashion show using some of our group.
One saleswoman was quite insistent that she "even" had MY size (elephantine) in a beautiful leather coat and insisted I try it on. Just what you want in 80+ degree weather, to wear leather! Yes, it fit, but didn't look all that great and would "only" cost me 650 Euros after the discount. The saleswoman seemed highly incensed that I wouldn't go for that bargain and later in the day, when I went back to use the facilities (we had been told that was one of our "perks") she glared at me and made some nasty comment about how I had made it clear I hadn't liked her coat.
Most of us did buy something leather. I got Walt a wallet, for example. They offered free stamping with gold initials and when I asked Ian if we had time to do that, he said that of course we did.
Well, of course we didn't. Char had ordered tickets for the Accademia Gallery (where Michaelangelo's "David" is) that had to be picked up at 10:45. By the time we left the leather shop it was so late Ian had to sprint to Accademia. I am not a sprinter. Before we had gone 3 blocks, I was out of breath, had a pounding headache, and couldn't breathe. Jeri, bless her, got me a huge bottle of water and stayed with me while the others disappeared in the distance. We finally caught up with them just in time to enter the museum.
Accademia is a decidedly unassuming looking building!
While we were waiting to enter, Kate McGovern, one of the Morning Stories transcriptionists, who lives on the outskirts of Florence, was there to meet me. We hugged and she said she'd come back in about an hour after we were finished in the museum. We went off to see David. No photos allowed inside, but who hasn't seen "David"? It is truly an impressive sight--and I don't just mean the naughty bits. To capture that much living flesh in stone is amazing. What I found almost more impressive -- because everyone expects David to be impressive -- was that there was a showing of photos by Robert Mapplethorpe on "Perfection in Form." The statue of David was flanked on both sides by Mapplethorpe photos and some of the ones in the exhibit itself were amazing. The description reads, "Twenty years since the artist’s death, the Accademia Gallery celebrates his talent with an exhibition of 91 images, for the first time compared to the most emblematic Renaissance icons." I don't know why I was so moved by that.
Anyway, after we left Accademia, the others went off with Ian, who said he was going to be eating at a certain restaurant at 1 p.m. Kate had earlier said she knew the place and would get me there. While the others went on their way, I waited for Kate to arrive and we had a leisurely stroll to the Duomo and then through back streets to the restaurant. We made one stop at the church Orsanmichele, which had been a grainery in the 13th century and, after a fire, was rebuilt as a church in the 14th century. It's an oddly shaped building, but beautiful and, on this hot, hot day, nicely cool! (This was, for me, the best part of the day, having time to spend leisurely doing anything--and getting to know Kate was a delight.)
Kate and I got to the restaurant about 15 minutes early and I asked if any of our group had arrived. I was told they had not. We stood and waited and waited and eventually the staff let us sit at one of the outside tables.
We're sitting there and I glance at the door to the restaurant and out walk Char, Pat and a couple of others. Turned out they had decided to eat at noon instead of 1, so they were all finished, except Ian, who was finishing his dessert. I went in and was seated at a table all by myself (Kate had another appointment that afternoon). Ian came and sat with me for a few minutes while he finished his tiramisu but then went off and I finished my lunch alone.
Then I decided to visit Vivoli, which Ian had told us was the place where ice cream originated and that "a visit to Vivoli is to pay tribute to ice cream." Now how could I not pay tribute to ice cream! I managed to find the place by myself and enjoyed a lovely strawberry gelato.
As I was finishing, Char, Pat, Jenny and Shirley showed up and got their own gelatos and then we all decided to go to the Duomo. It wasn't that far, but we didn't know exactly how to get there, it was hot and I was grumpy. We finally made it but once again, i was a block behind the group, sweating like a stuck pig and making good use of the cloth napkin Jeri bought for me in Nice to wipe the sweat from my face!
The Duomo is beautiful--somehow smaller than I thought it would be. I wasn't as overwhelmed as I expected it to be, having seen it from the outside.
But it was cool and there were seats around the side, so I sat down to cool off. They had blocked off the altar section, so you couldn't stand directly under the huge dome, but could only get a taste of what it must look like.
Several of the younger set had paid money for the opportunity to climb up the ~400 steps to the dome itself, something Jeri had very much wanted to do and was glad to have done.
The others in my group decided to leave and head back to the church Santa Croce, where we were meeting Ian, but I chose to stay behind for a bit. Good decision. The crowds cleared out and I had a better view of the dome and then when I finally decided to go out into the heat again, I saw four beautiful letters: T A X I. I asked the driver how much it would cost to take me to Santa Croce and he said 5 Euros. I would have paid 10. It was a short ride and fun to be with a driver on those narrow, bending streets. And I made it to Santa Croce in comfort. Another high point of the day!
We picked up our purchases at the Leather dealer and Ian suggested we get a head start walking to the bus. It must have been a mile. Maybe half a mile, but after the day or running around the town in the heat,a it felt like two miles. I could see the group getting farther and farther away. The sweat was dripping down my face. My clothes were drenched. All I wanted was to go home back to my recliner and air conditioner and water cooler and never, ever travel again.
If I ever go back to Florence, I hope it's to spend a much more leisurely time there and actually get to SEE this beautiful city!We had a picnic dinner this night and all turned in early, since we had to leave for the airport at 4 a.m. But I'll save that story for tomorrow.