Hello friends! Or should I say "Hello Firenze!" They sound about the same in some accents. It's been a long time and this is going to be a long post. So sit up, pay attention, and have some sort of delicious beverage of choice nearby.
Wake up in the morning feeling like it's very early-because it is. We were planning to take the 7:58am train to Termini (a station in Rome that has a lot of connections). So at about 6, I forced myself to roll out of bed and pretend like it was a doable time of morning. And all I could really think about was, that I'm going to be late to the tournament. Let's face it speechies, we get up early for tournaments. and 6am is not that early. In fact, if you're getting up at 6, you're going to be late. So I did some dishes, packed some stuff, put some clothes on, and put on a thing of coffee. After we were all up (some more excitedly than others) we downed some coffee and ran out the door with bags over shoulders, laughter, and old school rap lyrics being tossed around the sidewalk as we made our way tot he first train station of the day.
Fast forward to post ticket purchasing, we make our way on to the train. For this short ride, we didn't do too much. But once we arrived at Termini, we had to walk down the entire length of the train station until we finally found another counter to purchase our tickets to Firenze. We then waited for a little bit before hopping on the last train of the day. This two hour ride left some sleepy, others well read, and still some others smelling gum. But you know, all in a day's work. Once we made it to Florence, we jumped off the train and dragged our luggage all the way to the hostel we were going to be staying at for the night.
In the process of finding the hostel, we passed through the Piazza del Duomo. Let's talk about this for a moment. So much time is spent giving credit to Brunelleschi for his Duomo, and rightly so (that to be covered later) but the entire square is vibrant and rich in colors, architecture, and Asian tourists. If you don't think that sounds like a winning place to be, then you're no fun. It's stunning. The facade of the entire cathedral is brilliantly patterned and ornate and automatically draws you toward it before you even realize your feet are moving. Fighting against the impulse to run up and hug the entire building, we finally made our way to the hostel, dropped off our bags, asked some questions from the proprietors and decided to grab a snack before attempting the biggest adventure for the day: Climbing the Duomo.
Hostel: Check. Snack: Check. Caffeine: Check.
To the Duomo. Cupola or bust.
Now to get to the top of the Duomo, there are some tasks. The first one is to wait in line and take pictures of other tacky tourists in floral prints and eating gelato. The second is to pay 8 euros for a ticket. Then: the stairs. And there are a lot of them. 463... ish..... So jump on in and get those legs to pumping. At first you're walking along thinking, hey, these are pretty nice stairs. Not a really tight spiral, almost square shaped. Sweet. Dobedobedo. Tralalala-hey look a window! That's cool. Keep going, platform. At this point you being to realize that you really did pay 8 euros to climb 463 steps. All of them. And that some people are not taking that investment seriously. Some people have seen the road less traveled and turned around to go back the way they came. They have a word for those kinds of people, they are called: Wimps. Only the strong survive this.
Eventually you make it all the way to the edge around the actual dome. This part is hard to describe in words. But there's a last ring before you start walking inside the actual dome, like the curved part with the burnt orange roof. Since you are inside the cathedral, you are basically walking along the molding that marks the difference between the wall and the ceiling. The walls have giant stained glass windows that are just out of reach at this point, and the ceiling has an enormous fresco of the Last Judgment. When you are literally standing at the foot of some of these demons, they are unrecognizable, but looking across the way, everything looks well thought out and proportional. It's fantastic.
From this point you actually have to start climbing inside the dome. This involves very VERY narrow passageways that also much double as a two lane road. That part is tricky. There are parts where the only way back down is the way you got there in the first place, and there is still this giant string of people making their way up to the top. So basically if you are at all claustrophobic, it's rough going. I'm now going to have an art history nerd moment. Thanks to Mr. Luce making our class read that "Brunelleschi's Dome" book, I was acutely aware of the herringbone brick pattern and the alternating ring and rib structural supports. And although I was ogling and babbling, there were still stairs to climb-which got progressively steeper. So huffing and puffing we made it all the way to the top to see the most beautiful view you could possibly ask for.
Tangent time. Art history books spend pages upon pages describing the intimate detail of the building, the architecture, the artist, the years and the stylistic points of each thing. But nothing, let me rephrase, NOTHING compares to actually being there. To walk the steps, to feel the walls, to notice the little things like the mortar, the bricks, the dips in the stairs from all of the people walking up and down them for hundreds of years. This is culture. And once you read all of that material (cough, not very exciting Brunelleschi book, cough) everything comes flooding back when you're actually there. So, props Mr. Luce for making me read that entire thing. I remembered a lot more than I thought I would. (Side note for those of you who survived that 2 week discussion with me: THERE'S AN OX HOIST. This is real life.)
So after taking ample pictures at the top of the Duomo, speaking to some British people (if KBG doesn't come back with a British accent, we gonna have some problems) and generally enjoying the view, we made our way back down the 463 steps without breaking anything (either personal or historical). We then made our sweaty way to Santa Croce to a wonderful little restaurant on the piazza. It was absolutely delicious. Pesto Lasagna? Yes please. I think I'll have 7. And 8 slices of cake. Thanks.
After that luxurious lunch we finally worked up the shaky-legged strength to make our leisurely way toward the Accademia. For those of you who don't know why this is such a fantastic place, it's because of The David. Yes, that David. Michelangelo's David. And (probably less famous) several of Michelangelo's later works like "Dying Slave" and the late "Pieta". *shiver* SO GOOD. All of it. There were some other smaller galleries too, very early Renaissance alter pieces, and another sculpture exhibit. Once again, those pretty pictures in art books don't do much justice to the works themselves.
We then shopped our way back to the hostel where we rinsed off (walking up lots of steps takes effort and hydration). Rested for a bit, then got ready to go out to dinner at a Mexican place. Now before you start judging us about going to a Mexican restaurant in Florence, let me just list some facts for you to digest: Fact-Mexican food is delicious. Fact-It's hard to find Mexican food in Italy (and I assume many other parts of Europe). Fact- We've been here for almost a month and haven't had any Mexican, thus going through with drawl. So although it wasn't the best Mexican in the world, it was attempt to fix the fix. Then back to the hostel for some well deserved sleep. Winner.
This is very long. I'm going to consider this part one, and the next one part two. It's like a chapter book.