Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fabulous Florence!

Saturday morning came pretty early for the Travelin' Lundburys--we were all packed and ready to check out of our apartment.  The landlord was right on time, so we lugged our luggage to the vaporetto stop.  One last ride down that beautiful Grand Canal to the train station--ahhhh Venice!  We loved you, but it's time to leave you, we are soooo tired of being lost!

Of course it took us much less time to get to the station that on our "dry run" day, so we had 1 1/2 hours to kill.  Hmmmmm what to do?  Well, an espresso is always a great idea, here's David having an espresso the Italian way, standing at a little table:
And here's the very busy, no nonsense Italian baristas (or is that baristos??) They are VERY serious about their coffee here in Italy:
Did we have a pastry to go with that espresso?  Of course we did--a delicious brioche marmelleta, only 1 Euro!  By the way--the pastry lady was pretty serious, too!
The train was right on time, and when it pulls in to the station, you don't want to dilly dally around!  There is a big rush to board, with lots of jockeying with those annoying rolling suitcases and back packs, ours included.  We found our seats without any problems, and safely stowed our suitcases in the overhead luggage rack--seemed to be much better than on a plane.  Here I am relaxing, reading my Nook.  It was hard to see much of the countryside on this ride, so we just relaxed and read!
  We pulled into Florence right on time, and again the BIG rush to get off the train with all that luggage.  It certainly didn't help any that people were trying to get ON the train before all the passengers got off!
We found our way to the taxi line, and we were soon off to our apartment.  It was a short ride across the river, through some very narrow winding streets.  At two corners, our driver had to back up and re-negotiate those very tight spots.  I was afraid he was going to scrape the sides of his taxi, but I'm sure he's used to it!

Our apartment is in the old town part of Florence, just across the river Arno from all the tourist hustle and bustle, which suits us just fine.  It's on a v-e-r-y narrow lane.  We rang the bell to be let in, and were greeted by our very friendly host.  She showed us to our apartment, and we were welcomed with a lovely fruit bowl,  and pastries and yogurt for breakfast.   She kindly gave us directions to the best cafe, espresso shop and grocery store.  How nice!

WOW!  Another great apartment.  This one is smaller, but very charming.  It's in a very old building (duh!) and has a wonderful courtyard with little tables, and even some "sun" chairs! Here are a few pictures of this pretty little garden:

 That's our apartment kitchen window in this picture:
And here we are, having an "end of the day, glad to be in Florence drink" (and smooch--I guess David has forgotten all about that squid ink stuff......)
We quickly unpacked a bit, and hit the streets.  We were excited to explore Florence!
We very carefully noted the cross streets and landmarks on our way out of our neighborhood--we might be a bit "gun shy" after being lost so often in Venice!  But no problems here--our map actually seems to be accurate, unlike in Venice.

We explored our immediate neighborhood a bit, it's kid of sleepy and quiet--a nice change from Venice!
We came across a beautiful church,  The Santa Maria Novella.  We went in to look around, it was beautiful!  No pictures allowed, again.  But here's the exterior:
 There was also a gelato shop right in the piazza, and it was definitely gelato time! Flavor of the day: green apple and peach--very good.

We crossed the river Arno on the Amerigo Vespucci bridge, and turned down a likely looking little side street.  It was past time for some lunch, so we chose a little cafe and shared a pizza and beer.  We noticed  a young man next to us eating a big pot of mussels--yum!  Maybe we can remember where that cafe is for dinner one night!

We turned down another likely looking street, and there it was-- Il Duomo!  The dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.

This church was started in 1296, with work on the dome starting in 1420.  It took 16 years to finish the dome!   It was engineered by Felippo Brunelleschi, and is architecturally significant in it's design.  At that time it was the largest brick dome ever built, the interior of the dome is constructed in a herringbone brick pattern.  It is one of the largest churches in Italy.
The exterior of the church is very ornate, inlaid marble in white, pink, green and black.  It is beautiful!
(And very hard to get a good picture of, as there are buildings all around)

Here is the beautiful bell tower:
And the church:

We walked around the outside, admiring the amazing marble work.  We realized the line to get into the church was really not very long, and even though it was close to closing time, we decided we just couldn't wait to see the interior.  With the exterior being this magnificent, the inside had to be the best yet.....

 We walked in the door,  our eyes slowly adjusting to the low light.  We were stunned!  It was very plain.  Very, very plain.  Now, I'm not saying it's not beautiful in it's own way, but our expectations were high after seeing the outside.

There is very little interior decoration.  The vault is quite plain, but stately:
The columns are huge, here's a picture of David beside one of them:
The main chapel does have a beautiful frescoed ceiling:
The floors are inlaid marble, beautifully done in several different patterns.  The floors were my favorite design element of this church:

We spent about an hour inside the church, and felt that we had seen all  we wanted to see.  We did enjoy it's simple beauty, we had just been very surprised by it's simplicity.

Back out onto the street, we  decided to make our way back across the river towards "home".  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll back, just look at this view from the bridge.  I have been thinking about my sister in law Cheryl today--she would love this! 

We stopped along the way to pick up a couple of sandwiches for dinner, and at a small grocery store for a few important supplies--like wine! 

Much to our relief, we are finding that navigating around Florence is MUCH easier than Venice, whew!
We found our apartment without any problem, and settled in for a nice evening.  A lovely, relaxing drink in the garden, then a simple supper.  Early to bed for the Lunds--it's been a loooong day!

Tomorrow:  a train trip to Pisa!


  1. Just checked before I go to be to be sure you arrived there safely...will come back in am to comment on cute courtyard & smooches!!!!

  2. Oh I am enjoying Florence already. Church was beautiful and the view crossing the bridge going home...spectacular. How about that kiss in the garden...David did forget about the squid ink..ha ha. Looking forward to the leaning tower of Pisa. Eat some gelato for me today! Take care...Love

  3. Florence is lovely. Your apartment and the courtyard look perfect. I can just imagine sitting there in the evening and enjoying a glass of wine.

    You both look great and I really love the smooch in Florence.

    The view from the bridge is all that I imagined and I really hope to see it myself--I know that Dan and I will have a trip to Italy some day.