Day 14- Firenze, Day 1

On the terrace of the Uffizi with Palazzo Vecchio
in the background

It was raining pretty hard the night we arrived in Firenze. After being asked by at least 10 Africans if we wanted an umbrella, we found the right bus and met this lady from New Zealand who has been living in Firenze for several years. She told us the right stop to get off for the hostel, as well as some tips for sights to see and a good place to have dinner. It was around 9:00 by the time we made it to our bus stop. From the bus stop, we easily found the road leading to the hostel, but spent the next 20-30 minutes hiking uphill before finally finding it. Our hostel was called Villa Camerata and is right on the outskirts of the city, set amongst green fields and vineyards. It was an old, fancy house and had a beautiful courtyard and garden. We checked in and had to do laundry that night; which made it a pretty late night. The next morning, we woke up extra early because we wanted to go to the famous Uffizzi gallery first thing, and didn’t want to wait in line too long. We caught the bus at 7:30 and made it to the gallery before it opened. The best way to go to the gallery is by reserving tickets ahead of time, but this would have cost us an extra 10 euro per ticket, and we wanted to save money so we decided not to. For a few minutes, we stood in the wrong line, but then realized it and got into the line for us horrible people that decided not to reserve a ticket. We met a guy from Texas who was touring Italy with his uncle, a retired priest originally from Italy. It was fun trading stories with him, as he and his uncle have been touring more of the small towns visiting family members.  We stood in this line for about 45 minutes before being let in.
The Uffizi was crowded with people and tour groups, but had some great works of art. This gallery was the private collection of the Medicis (very rich family based out of Firenze). They commissioned many of the pieces and collected art throughout the centuries. It is attached to their palace, but we did not have time to visit this site. It is known primarily for its collection of Renaissance art, and we recognized many of the paintings we saw from when we studied them in art history/civilization classes at BYU. The Uffizi is also very big, and it took us several hours to get through the whole thing. We saw works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and many others. The tour groups moving through the museum pretty constantly made it hard to enjoy fully. The worst part was when I went to the bathroom, and then could not find Austin for several minutes afterward. He had decided to sit down outside the room that we had just visited, and I thought he had continued on through the gallery. He just thought I was taking a really really long time in the bathroom, but really I was walking all around trying to find him.
The outside of the Duomo
After the Uffizi, we walked up the road to the Duomo. We wanted to see the Duomo itself and go up in the dome like we did in Rome. We first went to the Duomo. There was a pretty big line for EVERYTHING in Firenze; the Duomo was no exception. I went to find water while Austin waited in line (they did not believe in water fountains in accessible places, we found). The line started moving really fast and I ran back in order to get back to Austin before he was let inside. The guards at the door who looked at tickets thought that we had both cut in line because Austin had to let a few people pass to wait for me. It took him a few minutes to convince the guards that I wasn’t a 6 months pregnant cutter of lines, and they finally let us in. After the elaborate white, green and red decorative façade on the outside of the Duomo, the inside was very bare. There were few decorative things on the inside, the most prominent being stained glass windows that were way too high to really see and appreciate. My favorite part of the Duomo had to be that a guy was playing the organ while we were there. I’m not sure if he was practicing, or it was his job to randomly play little parts of pieces every few minutes, but it was really cool to hear the organ in action in such a big church.
From the top of the Duomo
After the main part of the Duomo, we waited in line for the Dome. We also found water, which I was really happy about, because I did not want to climb up to the top of the Dome without any water. It is kind of funny how they do things here. The Duomo was free to get in, but to climb 415 steps to the top of the Dome cost 8 euro per person. The views from the top are very worth it, but it is funny that people pay so much to struggle to the top. After a long wait in the sun, we were finally able to start our climb. Always with these climbs they start out with a comfortably wide staircase that spirals, but in a square pattern with turns every 3-4 steps. Then it narrows to a constant spiral, and ends up with these teeny passageways that Austin doesn’t fit in so well. This particular climb let us view the top of the inside of the dome from 2 different levels. Austin appreciated that the dome was painted with the 3 tiers of the Divine Comedy- Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Hell was definitely the most interesting level painted. From the top of the dome, the views were tremendous! Outside of the valley that Firenze sits in, the countryside with green rolling hills, farmhouses, trees and flowers were so gorgeous! It definitely made me want to go out there, and not waste anymore time in the city with all the crappy tourists. Austin and I may do a biking through Tuscany tour someday JFor the first time in Firenze, I realized why many of the great minds of the Renaissance came here to study, live, and be inspired by the amazing landscape. We stayed up at the top for quite awhile, recovered from the long climb, and finally came back down.
The newest additions to Austin’s tie collection
We also decided to visit the museum associated with the Duomo, mostly because we wanted to see the original doors of the baptistery which were supposed to be on display there. The doors are made of bronze and depict man’s gradual ascent from Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden, to Paradise through baptism and other things. We thought this was going to be really cool, but the doors are currently being restored, so they weren’t part of the museum. Instead, there were lots of original statuary pieces from the outside of the Duomo that they have since replaced with copies and brought inside to save them. There was also a really cool silver altar and cross that were just recently restored. The detail on these two pieces was absolutely amazing, and it makes sense why it took 6 years to restore them.
Our villa-hostel
Following that museum, we decided to return to the hostel and get ready for dinner. While wandering around today, Austin found a market cart that had nice ties, 3 for 15 euro. He just HAD to get 3 of them, because that was the deal. So he added to his tie collection, getting a bright yellow one, a blue and orange stripe, and a purple and pink paisley. Once back near our hostel, we went into the restaurant the New Zealand lady had recommended. They weren’t open until 7:15. We hiked way up the road to put our things away, and hiked back down for dinner. When we got there, the restaurant had only been open for a few minutes and was almost completely empty. Even so, the host said that they could not seat us because they were booked up at 8:30, and did not think we would be done with our dinner by then. They said we could wait around and see if someone didn’t show up (at 8:30!!) or take something out. We had our hearts set on sitting down to eat though, so we started on a hike through the outskirts of the city. We walked for about a half hour before we found another eatery. No wonder that other restaurant was so booked up on a Tuesday! We ended up getting a very nice dinner for fairly cheap. Austin ordered pasta with sea crap in it, and enjoyed it very much. I had pasta with ragù, mostly because I wanted to taste what Italian ragù was like compared to Austin’s. It was a lot more tomato-y than Austin’s sauce, but he said that was because it was a “light” ragù, so it wasn’t completely meaty like his sauce is. We had a lovely walk back to the hostel, and called it a night. 
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