Part 2 of our journey found us in Florence, after an early-morning train ride from Venice during which Traveling Companion taught me to play gin rummy. He then proceeded to kick my ass at it for the next four train rides (final scores will be revealed in the Paris blog entry!).
I would say that Florence was amazing, but I already used that for Venice. Florence, rather, was unexpected.
After two relatively tranquil and absolutely gorgeous days in Venice, where there are no cars and enjoying life seems to be the priority of everyone you meet, I was expecting Florence to be more of the same. To sweep me off my feet with its romantic grandeur. To escort me up cobblestoned lined streets. To show me beautiful old churches with bells pealing above. In short, I've seen "Under The Tuscan Sun" way too many times, and since Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, I wanted to be Diane-freaking-Lane, and while I was at it, I wanted my hair to look as good as hers did in that movie despite the heat, humidity, and low water pressure.
The jackhammers drilling down into the street in the construction zone outside the train station weren't part of my grand vision.
As we made our way down the grit-encrusted asphalt under the chain link construction barriers to our hotel, the taste of dust on our tongues, hungry and tired after getting up at 4 AM to catch our train, I really wanted to go back to Venice.....and possibly never leave again.
Luckily, the boys, recognizing my despair and dropping blood sugar, graciously escorted me to the nearest cafe where we enjoyed a most delicious lunch and I made a full recovery as we planned our next two days.
Well, that's kind of the way it happened, anyway. I certainly didn't do anything like announce that if I didn't get fed I was going to kill someone in the middle of the square outside the Duomo.
Regardless, we ate. And it helped me like Florence more.
In our two days in Venice, we visited Santa Maria Novella, the Duomo (photo, above left), Palazzo Medici and the Medici Museum, San Lorenzo, Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Davonzati, Palazzo Vecchio, where the mayor of Florence lives, and watched an extremely bizarre movie about voodoo that featured Billy Zane and was inexplicably show in German dubbed over English (and that was all Day 1).
On Day 2, we went to Piazza de Pitti and visited the Boboli Gardens (right), where we saw tons of amazing statues. Despite there being some serious inclines, Boboli Gardens was one of my favorite places in Florence and I'd recommend that you visit, when you make the trip. We also went to the Galleria d'Accadamia where we saw the David, and where we first made the acquaintance of Brown Cow and Gray Donkey (for more on this infamous twosome, check out their posting later). We finished Day 2 with Piazza della Liberta and Palazzo della Mostre, where we discovered a lovely little fountain that didn't actively forbid wading (pictured left), and later, a small park where it is actually legal (as it is most places in Europe) to drink in public. Later we ventured back to Palazzo Vecchio with a picnic dinner to watch the street musicians that perform nightly there.
In a seemingly unrelated aside that proceeded to take on a life of its own, we also discovered that Younger Brother is not a fan of U2. Specifically, he is not a fan of anything that U2 did after 1991 and, more specifically.....well, I'll leave that for it's own post.
On Day 3, before we had to head to Milan to catch our overnight train to Barcelona, we visited the Uffizi Gallery, where (in addition to Brown Cow and Gray Donkey), we saw a guy wearing a shirt that said "Advertising Helps Me Decide." If that's not a bigger plug for half my friends' professions, I don't know what is.
Florence is different from Venice in just about every regard, but it wound up being a wonderful place to spend two days, and I'd definitely return. Next up- Milan!