Sunday, May 2, 2010

Trams, Taxis, and (superfast) Trains

We were ready to leave Milan. We felt like we’d seen all we wanted to see in Milan and were looking forward to setting out on our Italian Adventure. So woke up and rushed through breakfast, scurrying out the door, down the street and onto the wrong tram in the middle of morning traffic. Of course we didn’t realize we were on the wrong tram until it didn’t stop at the train station. So we hopped off at the next stop, joined the hoards of rushing people, and weaved our way to the Metro making it to the train station just in time to catch our train to Firenze.

So there’s no way I’m adding much to Kitty’s War and Peace novel on the first day of Florence.

Just a word about this train. It was awesome. I think for our first train experience in Europe we may be ruined. It was clean, hi-tech (desks with lap-top plug-ins), and FAST! We felt bad (not really) for all of the cars on the Autostrada we zoomed past. It made it seem like they we only going 30 miles an hour. In reality they were going 75 mph and we were going 186mph! (Quincee, you would love how fast this train is. This is where they make Ferraris too, I guess Italians don’t like to go slow). An easy 105 minutes later and we unloaded into Florence.

There’s a serious graffiti problem in Italy. The graffiti in Florence is much better than in Milan.

We were determined this time to find our hotel using directions and public transportation. We would not be weaklings and use the help of a taxi. So I dragged Ian on a bus, got to our stop, and walked a quick 3 minutes to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata where our hotel was. Then it took us just as long to find the actual door that lead to our hotel, Loggiato dei Serviti.

Getting to our room was the best. For some reason we had a 2 room “suite” in this 600 year old former convent. It was the coolest hotel. Once in the room the bell-hop showed us around then threw open the large double windows and explained our view. “Dat es de David en the Accedemia. You no Michelangelo, no? Es David es dare. Dat es the Conservency of de music of Florence. Dat es de mus beautiful priveet garden in all of Firenze.” It went something like that. The single room in the suite had a window that overlooked the square. And we stayed in the room with the view. (I thought Kitty might make me stay in the single room). After the bell boy left we were giddy with our Loggia, we relaxed on the bed and then this heavenly mixture of music started floating over from the music school. Some classical piano, and then a little flute, and finally a beautiful soprano dueling with a tenor. It was like we were being punked.

We were hungry, so we set out to find some grub. Ate at the recommended Robigilio around the corner while sitting at an outside table to people watch and be approached by begging gypsy teen age girls. At the end of the road was a Duomo. But this was Florence’s Duomo and very different from the Duomo in Milan (except that it was HUGE too.) (That's what she... ) I need to adjust my thinking here, I am learning. I expect these cathedrals to be on large expanses of land were you roam and enjoy the view. This is not the case. The buildings are only divided by a road from all of the surrounding buildings. You walk around a corner and then BAM – a huge cathedral that makes you get vertigo when you look up straining to see the top.

If we thought Milan was busy like San Francisco, Florence is busy like Disneyland during Spring Break. There were hoards of people all over the place. Tour groups from Spain, Japan, China, Germany, Japanese speaking Italian and Italians speaking Dutch. Plus all of the Italian school tour groups with kids from 6-16. And we talked to an American girl who lived in Florence and said “oh- you think it is crowded now. This is nothing. You should see it in the summer.” No Thanks!

So of course we had to climb the Duomo’s domo. (Milan’s Duomo does not have a dome) It was the first ever built on a cathedral and proved to be the blueprint for St. Peters dome in Vatican city. It was and incredible 467 steps to the top. Luckily there were a few places along the way where you had to traverse between staircases so you could give your legs a rest. The coolest part was going from the staircase to very small walkways on the interior of the cathedral about 7 stories up. We were looking down on all these people inside the cathedral looking up at the amazing painting on the inside of the dome. Reaching the top was awesome. A great view of Florence and all of it’s terracotta roofs and hills beyond.

Climbing the Duomo was my favorite part of Florence. The exercise gave me an excuse to double up on gelatos. What they accomplished without modern equipment totally blew me away. The narrow internal passage ways (inside the walls of the dome) and the catwalk inside the top of the cathedral were awesome. No way the lawyers in the US would let all these people play around up here. (Stupid lawyers.) Getting up close to the murals on the ceiling was also fun. It was a bit weird, though. A bunch of naked people and some demons… Demons shoving flaming pokers in people’s bums-seriously… I guess it was meant to deter people from wanting to go to hell.

Going down was easy, except you felt like you were on a Sit-n-Spin with your head down. Dizzy was the word. Back out onto the streets, we were walking with no where to go. Just wanted to wander. The best stuff happens when we have wandered on this trip. Looking down a small lane I saw a large crowd gathered around two stopped cars. This had to be the “someone has to get hit by a car/scooter every day here” I was waiting to see. “Look Ian- an accident.” We looked and tried to make out the scene. Why wasn’t anyone screaming? Oh wait – it’s just gelato. So we turned down the lane and tried the local gelato. We will for sure let you know who has the best gelato by the end of our trip.

Wander, ohh, ahh, lick, wander, lick, ohh, lick, wander…. You get the idea. As we were walking down the main pedestrian road a man passed by us and said, “You must be American’s. You are both wearing flip-flops.” Ian’s decision to wear flip flops proved (once again) that Kitty knows people everywhere (I figured it would happen somewhere along our trip, just not this soon). So we started to talk to this couple and tell them how we weren’t going to wear said shoes because nobody wears such trashy shoes here. Ian struggled with his decision, but because it was a very warm day and we were both wearing shorts, the flops won. So we start talking to this couple, and get into the:
- Where are you from?
- California.
- We are too. What part?
- Auburn – near Sacramento (because who knows where Loomis is?)
- Oh – we know where Auburn is. We are from the Central Valley, near Modesto.
- Yeah, yeah. What a small world.
- We have friends in Auburn. What school do your kids go to?
- Well actually, we live in Loomis. They go to Placer School.
- Oh we know where Loomis is.
- (to each other)I wonder if they’d know Kris and Dawna.?
- What did you just say?
- Kris and Dawna
- HUBERRRRRR oh my gosh! Ahhhhh!! Are you Diane (screaming and hugging commence- again and again!!)

Turns out I had talked to Diane before we left for Italy because my good friend Dawna said she had a friend going to Italy who’s flight had been cancelled due to the volcano. Although I had never met Diane in person, here we were in a foreign city on the other side of the world meeting for the first time because Darryl just had to comment on our flip flops.

Life is amazing!

We made plans to hook up for dinner because we couldn’t just walk away from that and not hang out! But as we did walk away, I was having a weird kind of chemical reaction in my body. I don’t know how to explain it, but the chances of that happening are incredible. And my body was reacting accordingly. I will never forget it.

We then headed to the Accedamia around the corner from our Hotel to see Michaelangelo’s David. Quincee, Taitum and Sutton, close your ears. :-) Nothing like a twenty-foot statue of a naked man for people to sit and gaze upon for hours on end, they balanced it out with some sculptures of nude women as well. I now understand why there are catholic churches everywhere here, it’s because they need lots of confessionals. All they did all day long was paint and sculpt naked bodies. I’m suggesting a quick trip to Florence for all the sixth-grade classes at Placer Elementary instead of sex-education classes.

We wandered some more. Fell in love with Florence the more we got into the back streets and away from the teeming masses, and eventually made it back to our hotel where we proceeded to immediately fall asleep to the sweet music floating through our windows from the school.

We met up with Diane and Darryl for dinner and proceeded to walk for 35 minutes in search of the restaurant that was only a 7 minute walk from their hotel. Once we finally found the small sign pointing the was to the restaurant we had passed at least 5 times, we ate one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. Cantinetta Antinori was delicious and luckily they have 3 other restaurants in locations around the world. So next time you are in Zurich, Vienna, or Moscow, be sure to look them up.

The restaurant served wine or water, nothing else. I think there was a bit of a scowl when we ordered water. No, really, we did order water!!

A leisurely stroll home after conversation on the corner was capped by the perfect ending to the evening. As we arrived at our Piazza we found two younger guys playing the guitar for the enjoyment of their friends and any others who cared to listen. They were so talented! I felt like we were at t private concert of Rodrigo y Gabriella (our girlies know this music well.) I asked them if we could sit closer (I was a little worried that Kitty might run off with them) and we started talking and met some of their friends. Brazil, Italy, America, and Spain were all represented in that small group. Love this world!

I don’t know if I was more tired that night or now, after writing this post! Whew! But our Camden, Quincee, Taitum and Sutton are loving every word and we are loving keeping a record of this amazing trip! (PS- we are writing this on our train from Florence to La Spezia and have the time)

Ciao Ciao

The Loader and the Washer

****see pictures in previous post. with advice from our blog expert molly, we might have text and pictures together. but no promises!


Linda's non-blogging husband said...

Love living a little bit of Italy thru your words. Molto amoretti Rob & Linda

Christian said...

Italy sounds like a fun place, at least in your shoes.../flip-flops. Molly keeps telling me it would be fun to go to Europe but I still have a lot of jungles I want to visit and sicknesses to catch beforehand.