Thursday, September 24, 2009

Florence to Vicenza

Today was a very busy day for us. We had to get up early and be on a train to Florence first thing. In Florence we stopped by the church of Santa Maria Novella for a bit, then went to have lunch before going to the Galleria dell'Accademia. We checked out the Central Market to maybe get some food, but it was kind of scary to me. So many different vendors with fish, meats, cheese, was a little overwhelming. We ended up getting a couple slices of Pizza at a little shop close to the Accademia.

The Galleria dell'Accademia is the home of Michelangelo's David. We had reservations so as not to have to wait in the long ticket line...but we still had to wait in a short reservation line to get in for some reason. Anyway, the statue is pretty amazing. Kev got a snapshot of it before he was told no pictures...oops! Here we also saw Michelangelo's Prisoners which are unfinished statues emerging from the stone.

Next, we were back on the train to the town of Lucca. We walked through the town and climbed the Guinigi Tower to get some nice views. Next was my favorite part of the riding! The town of Lucca is surrounded by walls and there are shops where you can rent bikes by the hour and ride around atop the walls. We rented our bikes and rode around twice because it was so fun. We probably rode aprox 5 miles, I'm sure we'll be sore tomorrow, but it was worth it!
We then took a train from Lucca to Pisa where we walked through the city, with our gelato, to the Field of Miracles. This is where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is, along with the Duomo, Baptistery and Cemetary. From the way we walked to the Tower, it didn't appear to be leaning at all... and then we saw it from the side. It's pretty crazy! Multiple attempts have been made to correct or stop the leaning, but nothing seems to work for long. You can climb the tower here but we opted not to do this one. We did visit the Duomo and Baptistery. The Baptistery was really cool because it was very empty when we went...and we were there just in time to hear the guard sing (which they do every half hour) to demonstrate the amazing acoustics here. The echo of a sound lasts about 10 seconds allowing the person who is singing to create harmonic chords with their voice alone. It's pretty amazing to hear.

We caught a bus back to the train station and headed back to Siena. We had a nice dinner in the main square tonight, Kev had Pici pasta and I had Penne with sausage, very tasty! We just finished packing up our room to move to Florence for a night tomorrow.


This morning we gathered our things and took the train back to Florence. We checked into our hotel and headed off to see the Bargello Museum, which holds Donatello's David statue. We grabbed lunch at I Fratellini which is litterally a hole in the wall...with great paninis! We had lunch out on the street before taking a little break back in our room while waiting for our reservation time at the Uffizi Gallery.

We had our audio guide for the Uffizi Gallery. We saw works by all the Ninja Turtles today as Kev just put it...Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello. One of my favorites was the Birth of Venus painting by Botticelli.

Next we went to the Palazzo Pitti where we walked through the beautiful Boboli Gardens. The plan was to see the Gallery here too, but the 2 tickets were sold with different packages and were very expensive to do both. Since we just went to Uffizi, we opted for the outdoor gardens. It was a pretty clear and hot day today, so we welcomed the shady areas of the garden.
Then we went to the Church of Santa Croce. There was a lot of renovation going on here, so we weren't able to get the full effect, but it was still nice. Here we saw the tombs of Galileo, Michaelangelo, and other noteworthy Florentines. From there we took a bus to the Church of San Miniato. When we got there, the Gregorian Chanting was in progress, so we got to listen to that for awhile before heading out to the main square. The church and square are up high on a hill overlooking Florence, so we got some nice views of the city from there. We got a Nutella Crepe snack (so yummy!!) and sat out on the steps of the square overlooking Florence.
Our dinner reservations were for the Golden View Open Bar on the waterfront just off of the Ponte Vecchio. We shared a Florentine steak here and it was worth every cent. Kev didn't want it to end because it was so good! We each got a free glass of Proseco when we arrived and free limoncello before we left too! On our walk back to the hotel we stopped for our nightly gelato at a great very fresh place just across the bridge. There is a lot going on out on the streets tonight, everyone is out enjoying the beautiful night. We walked by a little opera performance on the way back, which was really fun.


This morning we got our workout early on, climbing the Dome at Santa Maria del Fiore. It was a grueling 450+ steps to the top, but we were smart enough to do it while it was still pretty cool outside. It was good timing too because it wasn't too crowded. After we climbed back down and cooled off a bit, we were stopped just outside the Cathedral checking out our guide book when this guy dressed like some kind of mime with a white sheet and white facepaint came out of nowhere and scared the heck out of me! Apparently Kev had kinda seen him coming out of the corner of his eye, but I didn't see him at all...and I guess I kinda screamed a little, I dont really remember... but the guy was like laughing at me, and Kev gave him some money because he thought it was great that the guy scared me! We have been laughing about it for the rest of the day...

We stopped in the Medici Chapels after that. Michelangelo lived with the Medici family as a teenager and was brought here by them to build this tomb. When we finished here we said goodbye to Florence and boarded our train to Bologna.

It was a quick stop in Bologna for us, but we had to get lunch here because Bologna is like the food capital of Italy. We went to a lively restaurant here and ordered the pasta of the day which was excellent. (Spaghetti with tomato sauce and some eggplant) Then we walked through the town a bit before heading back to the train station.

Next stop, Padua. We were here for about 4 hours, almost had to carry our bags with us through the town, but luckily the guy at the baggage drop was nice enough to say he would stay late so we could pick up our bags before catching our next train. We took the tram up to see the Basilica of St. Anthony which we enjoyed. There was mass going on while we were there. St. Anthony is believed to be a miracle worker by many Catholics and there are lots of pictures and letters of thanks to St. Anthony for miracles he has performed for them. On display here are his lower jaw, tongue and vocal chords which remained intact long after his body had decayed to dust.
We visited the Botanical Garden in Padua next, then walked through the town to see the main squares. There is a beautiful large square here with nice fountains and bridges. We had our gelato while we walked through Padua. Our last stop here was the Scrovegni Chapel.

The Scrovegni Chapel requires a reservation to get into and your visit here is timed very carefully. You watch a video for about 15min and then get about 15min inside the chapel to view the beautiful works of Giotto. The entrance to the chapel is state of the art with humidity control... pretty crazy! Anyway, the frescoes show the life of Mary and Jesus in panels that circle the room, ending with the last judgement. It's pretty amazing, and very well preserved.
We grabbed our bags and profusely thanked the baggage guy for keeping them for us, and took our next train to Vicenza where we are staying for the night. We checked into our hotel here and had a great pizza dinner at a restuarant close by. Artichoke pizza and salami pizza, yum!

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