Luckily, the train strike that was scheduled for this day, didn’t happen, so we were able to get train tickets to Florence. This time we didn’t ride first class, which isn’t so bad, but first class is just that much nicer. We never could figure out the seating plans so we never had all 4 seats together. But there are lots of nice people riding on the train, so they traded seats with us so that we could all sit together.
The train ride was uneventful, then after our usual getting lost on the way to the hotel, we arrived at Hotel Basilea. Another nice hotel with another small elevator and a winding trip down many hallways to get to our room. I thought about leaving bread crumbs, but I caught on. But any misgivings were forgotten when we looked out our window, and saw this view.
Then we stepped out onto our small balcony to see the view even better. The red tile rooftops staggered a path to the Duomo, which can be viewed from probably every where in Florence. One day, I saw cats walking along the roof tops, and I knew I was truly in Italy.
The breakfast at Hotel Basilea was a in a sunny room on the second floor. They offered a variety of rolls, fruit, juices, and coffees, making the coffee fresh and bringing it to us. It was a nice start to each day.
Also through our hotel, we made reservations for a bus tour of Tuscany. We really wanted to see Sienna, Pisa, and the countryside, but by this point I was so tired of thinking all the time that it was nice not to have to figure out trains and busses and just let someone else take me where I wanted to go. Our friend K was a little wary because he’s the type of person who thinks that any kind of schedule or planning takes away from the experience of travel and discovery, but he was just going to have to lump it if he wanted to see these other towns. Luckily, the tour offered a lot of free time to explore on your own, so he relented.
We headed out and started looking around. We walked single file on narrow sidewalks, and I whistled either the theme to Bridge on the River Kwai or “Whistle While You Work” to myself. Thank goodness for M because she had been here many times and remembered how to get to the major sights. Well, it’s not like much had changed in the last 20 years. And yet, we still got lost.
We were looking for Michelangelo’s home and museum. Along the way, we did find the cathedral where Dante is buried and a statue for him. That was pretty cool, even though as an English major you’d think I could keep it straight that Dante wrote The Inferno and Milton wrote Paradise Lost, but I don’t.
We did finally find the museum, a nondescript door in the middle of a row of doors with a brass plaque giving the hours, which is where we learned that they were closed. We had gotten there about 30 minutes too late. Oh well. It’s not like there’s nothing else to see.
We headed back to the Duomo, which seems to be the center of everything. No matter where you walk, you always seem to walk by it. The Duomo is actually the dome of the cathedral and you have over 700 stairs to climb if you want to see it up close and personal. And I would have if I was only with people who knew me and why I was taking my time, but that’s not the case. There would be over 100 people behind me, sweating in the 90-degree weather with people who forgot their deodorant, wondering what the hell is slowing them down, which would be me, and I can’t live with that pressure. So, I stayed on the ground level, looked up, and enjoyed it from a far. The line to get into the cathedral was even longer than the line to scale the path to the dome, so we decided to go in later. I'll talk about it a lot more later, but here's some pictures that Al took that day.
The Bell Tower
On the way back to the hotel we found this lovely little shop of hand-painted pottery. We spent quite awhile in there picking out pieces to be shipped home.
The artist was very nice, but she had a cranky Yorkshire Terrier
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. The clerk at the hotel offered to make dinner reservations for us, but we decided to chance it. We’ve been eating earlier than most Europeans, meaning we head out to eat around 6:30, so we don’t usually have trouble getting a table.
This night we found one of our favorite restaurants, Il Messere. We liked it so much, we ate there twice, and we didn’t eat anywhere twice. M had the famous and delicious Florentine steak, this one bathed in a cream and tarragon sauce. The gorgonzola gnocchi was just as delicious, and I had to stop myself from licking the plate. Instead, I embarrassed everyone with the scraping sound of my fork over the empty plate to get the last of the sauce. Guess bread would have been less obvious.
Our first day in Florence was wonderful and full of so many things to see. And we hadn’t even scratched the service.