On June 27th, our party of Euro travelers had an early wake up to get to the ferry from Venice to the mainland of Italy in order to get to Florence by the early afternoon.
To offset the effects of our early rising, I ordered the large coffee to go from the place across the street from the hotel.
Energized by six ounces of coffee, we boarded the ferry, and the ferry ride gave us one last chance to see Venice from the water.
Right around noon, we reached Florence and stopped at the Piazzale Michelangelo, which has amazing views overlooking the city. This gave us our first look at Florence’s famous Duomo.
The views were so spectacular that there was a moral obligation to take profound profile pictures.
As in Venice, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and then headed to the city center, which was a little less than a mile away. There we began our walking tour of the city, led by a local guide.
Our guide provided many good pointers, such as that crosswalks in Florence were mostly “for decoration,” and we quickly reached the Duomo, which is spectacular from the outside.
So far, so good on the tour, but there was a growing problem…
By the time we were in sight of the famous Ponte Vecchio, water bottle reserves had reached a critical level.
Fortunately, we were able to rally and enjoy the views from the bridge.
The bridge did have a water fountain, which we used to replenish our supplies, but one traveler, Sean, had reached such a hallucinatory state that he announced, “You can catch flies with honey, but you can catch more honeys being fly.” Pushing through this heat-induced psychosis, we continued the tour, moving on from the bridge. Even the resupply of water wasn’t enough to counterbalance the heat for everyone at this point, as one of the ladies from the other group touring with us dropped out, but our tour guide pressed on.
Around this time, my Apple Watch asked me, “Are you working out?” Coming out of nowhere, the message sounded accusatory, reading more like, “Are you dying?” Or “Has this watch been stolen?” Finally, we completed our “workout” and made it to Florence’s main square, the Plaza Della Signori.
We were able to check into the hotel around 4pm, and everyone retreated to the comfort of air conditioning for a few hours, only emerging when it was time for dinner and the temperature had dipped to a more manageable 95 degrees. The day had taught us all the value of the traditional afternoon siesta in the Mediterranean. By the time we finished dinner, the sun had set and we could tour the city without the imminent, ongoing threat of dehydration.
The next day, we returned to the Plaza Della Signori for lessons on fresco painting at the Palazzo Vecchio. After a lady at the museum gave us a short tutorial on how to mix the paints and paint on wet plaster, we were given our own block covered with plaster and allowed to choose whether to use one of the museum’s templates or to select another subject to paint. Then creativity ensued.
The result was eclectic blend of impressionist depictions of nature, traditional Florentine motifs, socialist realism, and Cosby High School couture.
We left our masterpieces to dry while we took care of some important business.
Just as Venice is known for glass and lace handicrafts, Florence is known for its production of leather and gold goods. This fact, and possibly the air conditioning in one such leather and gold shop, led several travelers to engage in what our tour manager referred to as “retail therapy.”
Shopping in air conditioned stores was highly appealing on this day because outside of the shops…
Later in the day, we would be able to escape the heat for a bit during a tour of the Academia, the museum where the statue of David had been moved from its original spot in the Plaza Della Signori to protect it from the elements. Today, there is only a replica of the David in the square. I had only seen the replica on a previous trip to Florence, so for everyone in our group, the tour of the Academia would be a first.
We arrived at the Academia at 5pm ready to see the famous statue, only to find out that the workers in the museum had called a snap strike, closing the museum without warning at 5pm. Apparently, I had been fated to only see Replica David.
On a more positive note, our tour company had provided restaurant vouchers for this night, allowing to pick from about a dozen restaurants. Most of us went to a steakhouse, the Finisterrae, where several travelers ordered the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a massive steak weighing over two pounds.
Our tour manager, Ian, gave us good news that evening – he had been able to reschedule our tour of the Academia for 8am the next day. That meant an earlier start to the day, particularly since the plan was to try to squeeze in seeing Michelangelo’s David in such a short period of time that we would still be able to visit the medieval town of Orvieto on the way to Sorrento. In spite of the fact that we had to wake up early the next day, everyone went out to see Florence at night one more time.
In the morning, we packed up and assembled our luggage for the bus we would take to Sorrento.
Then we walked the ten minutes to the Academia for our 8am appointment. With the urgency characteristic of the Italians, the tour of the Academia began at 8:15.
Along the corridor leading to the David were some of Michelangelo’s other works, which illustrated how he “revealed” the figures that were “in” the marble.
We were the very first tour allowed in the museum, and it was surreal being able to walk right up to the David, with no crowds to fight through.
The guide from our walking tour of Florence had claimed that the statue of David in the Academia appeared to be larger than the statue in the Plaza Della Signori even though the two were identical in dimension, and we found this to be true as well. Standing alone in the center of a room, David looked massive.
Because we were on a tight schedule, we had to hurry through the museum and catch the highlights.
We had just enough time to swing by the museum’s collection of some of the very first pianos, violins, and horns.
And then we were off once again – next stop: Sorrento and Capri!