Posts Tagged ‘Florence’

Italian Adventure–Part II, Florence and Pisa

On Saturday morning we headed out, once again, into the streets of Florence.  Our goal was to get to the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge.  The Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River in Florence and is best known for having shops built on the bridge.   Ok, literally, at some points, The shops are hanging over the edges of the bridge.  Let me show you what I mean.

Ponte Vecchio

And one of me

The Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence

And at a closer look...

Ye Gads!

Not so sure I’d want my store hanging over the edges of the bridge like that, but seeing as it was built in Roman times I’m sure it’s okay…right?  As Russ says, “Just don’t send your fat cousin back into the storage room to get something.”  Haha right, Russ.

Anyway, it’s kind of cool to think of going to the bridge to shop.  The stores used to be for things like butcher shops, but now they’re primarily for jewelry sellers.

Russ and the Ponte Vecchio

We spent some more time just tramping around Florence, exploring several markets (leather and cooking goods) and enjoying the views of the narrow streets opening up into expansive piazzas.

Houses along the Arno River

We enjoyed the proliferance of the national flag, something you just don't see much of in Germany

Florence

Leather Goods

Olive Oil and Wine Market on the Right

Before we said “goodbye” to the capital city of Tuscany, we headed up to Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks the entire city.  The view really shows how massive the Duomo is!

The Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo

Looking over Florence

The Hills Surrounding Florence

One last look--bye Florence!

Us

We hopped in the car(Fiat Panda for all of you who are wondering, aka Russ’s uncles) and started toward Pisa. Pisa was, by far, the most touristy destination in our travels.  It’s not that there were so many people there, in fact, Russ was amazed at how few people there were.  It was the market there; touristy shirts, aprons, buttons, pins…you name it, they were trying to shove it in your face.  People approaching left and right, pushing fake sunglasses and purses.  “Hey Lady, you like Prada?”  Ugh!  Needless to say, we were annoyed by having to walk the gauntlet to even get to the tower.  But it was worth it.

Pisa's Leaning Tower

Cool!

Yep, to Russ's chagrin, I made him take the typical cheesy tourist perspective photo

And because no one in the world is allowed to touch Russ's camera, we only have pictures like this

For those of you who don’t know, the Tower of Pisa leans because it actually started sinking after it was built.  It was started on soil that just wasn’t stable enough, and it would definitely have come crashing down had Pisa not had a convenient, almost-Century-long break on building due to battles with surrounding cities.  The break allowed the soil to settle, and when the builders resumed, they started building one side longer than the other in order to compensate.  The tower is actually the bell-tower of the nearby cathedral.

Pisa's Cathedral

Piazza del Duomo

Baptistry

The tower peeks out from behind the cathedral

From Pisa we headed to a place we’d be staying for a few days, a place that is very special to Russ’s family.  Gargonza, a castle complex that has been converted into apartments and hotel rooms, is special enough to warrant it’s own post.  Stay tuned; we’ll enjoy some present day and historical looks at Castello di Gargonza. 🙂

Italian Adventures–Part I

Since we’ve been living in Germay, Russ and I have really been looking forward to making our way towards Italy.  Russ’s family has visited Italy on several occasions, and his family origins lead back to the island of Sicily.  For me, Italy has always seemed…I don’t know, fantastical.  Beautiful countryside, legendary cuisine, boisterous people who celebrate living.  Not to mention all the history and culture.  This time (yes, this time, meaning there will be another trip in the future!) we hopped a plane to Florence; toured through the Tuscan countryside visiting Pisa, Sienna, and Orvieto; and ended our 6 days in Rome.

First, though, how about a little flight over the Swiss Alps.  Breathtaking!

Flying over the Alps

I was stunned to see people on the plane NOT looking out of their windows!

Russ enjoyed envisioning driving on those roads; I did not partake in that fantasy

We arrived in  Florence in the afternoon, picked up our rental car, and nervously made our way through the city to our hotel.  One thing is for certain; driving in Italy is nothing like driving in Germany!!  Lanes seem to be optional as everyone just inches forward to get the closest position; traffic circles are chaos; and drivers on scooters are EVERYWHERE, dodging in between cars and lanes.

Nevertheless, we made it and soon headed out into the city.  We traveled first to the city’s largest landmark–the Duomo.  Just to be clear, Duomos in Italy are large cathedrals.  They are deemed, “Duomo” because of the large dome on the top.  The Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence, the city of the Italian Renaissance, was originally built with a big gaping hole where the dome would eventually be.  They didn’t even have the technology to complete a dome, but they held faith that they eventually would!  Hence, the Duomo in Florence was the first dome of the Renaissance.

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral

Santa Maria del Fiore

The Dome

Intricacies of Tuscan Marble Design

Most of the Duomos in the region follow this same color scheme; pink, white and green marble that comes directly from the Tuscany region.  (Mom–anytime Uncle D makes fun of your color scheme in the living room, you just need to tell him that you modeled it after Tuscan marble ;)).

Tuscan Marble Color Scheme

The inside of the Duomo was underwhelming.  Its vastness was apparent, and it felt downright empty.  (Rightly so, as there were no seats or pews at all and the majority of the artwork had been removed and placed in museums).  The beauty of the outside completely made up for it.

The rest of the afternoon we wandered around Florence, venturing down narrow streets and wandering into Piazzas.

The Streets of Florence

Russ enjoys the streets of Florence

Oh yeah, and we ate gelato.  I’m pretty sure twice in one day.

Yum!

When we weren’t eating ice cream, we were visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia, the home of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, David.  The David was amazing.  You just cannot fathom how large it is until you are standing under it, gazing upwards at all the human features, sinewy muscles, and veins that were carved in stone.  No pictures allowed, and so we have none.  Sorry!

Our last stop of the evening was once again back at the Duomo.  Florence really seems to be the most beautiful when hit with the rays of early evening light.  The orange light cast an ethereal glow on the sides of the Duomo and it was relaxing watching the rays hit the buildings in the narrow side streets of Florence.  I felt like exhaling, “Ahhh, now this is Florence!”  Ok, I may have actually said that.

Florence

The Duomo

Duomo

Duomo

Duomo

Ahh, Florence!

Please check back in for more from Florence and the rest of our Italian excursion! 🙂