Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Italy Day 6--An Arrival in Florence

On day 6 we began our first "big move."  This is the first time I had moved luggage and everything to a new city/hotel in Europe without being a part of a bus tour group--and it was really easy!  We had reserved seats on the high speed train in business class (a bit of a splurge, but less concerns with being able to stow our luggage nearby), and it was a nice unstressful trip.

Once we arrived in Florence, it was a short walk to our hotel, Hotel Centrale. 


(Lobby)

(the room)

After dropping off our stuff, we walked the five minutes or so (our hotel was in a terrific location--it really was "central"), to the Duomo. 


(Unfortunately, the Baptistery was under scaffolding, so there wasn't a good view of the piazza)


Construction began on 1296 and completed in 1436.  The fa├žade is simply beautiful, but we first sent around towards the back,


and joined the line to climb to the top of the dome!  This was probably one of the most memorable climbs of the trip, all 463 steps of it (ugh). 

The climb up was pretty easy paced, and at first we had some nice up close view of some of the stained glass windows,


and frescos,

but then the climb into the dome itself got pretty tight,  but we finally made it! 





I led a group back down unfortunately, so I was setting the pace, which made me feel like I had to go pretty fast back down.  The climb back down was really not fun because we had to squeeze by the people going up, and there wasn't a lot of space. 

We then (with really shaky legs for me at least) headed over to a nearby cafe to sit,

and split caprese salad and a selection of cheeses, Italian of course,


with the back of the cathedral as our background.

After lunch we circled back around towards the front of the church so we could go inside. 

(Giotto's Campanile (bell tower)

The outside was lovely, with white, green, and red marble, but is much more recent as it was added in the late 19th century.


 

The inside of the Duomo was a bit of a let down, as austerity is the main theme.



We were also able to tour the crypt, where archeological excavations have uncovered pieces from earlier churches on this spot, including some Roman ruins.



Even though the Baptistery was undergoing renovations, you could still tour the inside, so we headed the couple of steps down from the Duomo and across to the Baptistery of St. John, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in Romanesque style (so fewer and smaller windows).

The bronze doors to the Baptistery are famous, with Michelangelo himself describing the east doors as the gates to paradise.   




The paintings and mosaics inside the Baptistery were beautiful and much more impressive than the Duomo itself.




(See the devils at Jesus's right hand with his thumb down, and heaven to his left with his thumb up?)


We next walked down to another church, Santa Maria Novella, about 5 minutes from the Duomo. 


Construction began on Santa Maria Novella in about 1246 and finished in the mid 14th century.   



(Giotto's Crucifix with the Madonna and John the Baptist)


(Close up of one of the beautiful frescos behind the altar)

We also had a chance to go outside to the cloisters,


The church is still affiliated with nuns famous for perfume and soaps, which they still sell in a nearby shop,


(The sales room, originally one of the monastic chapels)

which also had a small tea room!  We had just eaten so we didn't stop, but it was a very pretty setting.


From here we walked back to the train station, and caught a taxi up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which has beautiful views overlooking Florence landmarks.  Once we arrived, we walked up a few sets of stairs,


until we reached the top, and San Miniato al Monte basilica circa 1018. 


Before heading inside, we looked back over the graveyard and back towards Florence.

The choir is raised up on a platform above a large crypt in this Romanesque church.



(Looking towards the entrance of the church)

(Altar)


We sat for a few minutes and listened to Gregorian chants performed in the crypt below.

We wandered back down towards Piazzale Michelangelo and still had a bit more time until sunset, so perfect time for a gelato break! 

(One of my favorite gelato pictures from this trip...and there were a lot)

Soon the sun started down, and we started snapping pictures:


(Ponte Vecchio)







 We weren't sure what to do for dinner, but ended back at the piazza di Santa Maria Novella, since it had been so pretty and we had seen some places to eat nearby. 


 had dinner at one of Rick's picks near piazza, Trattoria Trebbio.



  I had meatballs with a tomato sauce and mashed potatoes with cheese in them.  Delicious!  

We walked around the Doumo a bit before heading back to our hotel, and listened to some street music.