Boarding the plane that would take us out of Egypt and into Rome we knew we were in for a change of pace for this second half of the trip. Our plans were to arrive in Rome and immediately set off on a train to Florence for a two day stop. My sickness reared its ugly head on the plane ride - I started coughing upon descent and didn't stop until we got off the aircraft. I am sure my seatmates loved me. Okay, Rome airport - now where do we go? After a few wrong turns, we ended up at the trains. I wrongly assumed we would be able to take a train straight to Florence from the airport with no issues at all. Somehow we found ourselves in front of a very touristy looking desk that was likely established for those confused folks like us who don't know the next step in the process. A man behind the counter told us he could shuttle us to the main Rome terminal for about $13 each and from there we could catch the express train to Florence.
Was express the most cost effective decision? Probably not, but it was nice to get to Florence by late afternoon instead of later into the evening. On the return trip we did end up saving some dough by taking the train with all of the stops - a four hour ride instead of two.
And what should happen on the train ride? I bit into a peanut M&M and promptly broke a filling! All of a sudden I thought to myself, "wow, either that piece of chocolate coating is wedged in an odd spot or I have half a tooth!" Dreams of gelato, hopes of endless pasta and visions of vino dashed? Thankfully, my tooth did not hurt at all, so I felt confident about being able to enjoy the foods of Italy.
We pulled into Florence and put our map skills to the test, walking from the train station to our Bed and Breakfast. The Hotel Giglio is a quaint little find, great breakfast spread and a collection of DVDs and books to choose from for a night in. And you gotta love the complimentary internet and computer access - I was finally able to send some hello's back to the states via facebook and gmail!
Our first night, we found ourselves at La Giostra, a restaurant recommendation from not one, but two people. With a story that includes being run by Princes, La Giostra's food was incredible - sadly too dark for good photos - the ambiance sweet with twinkly lights stretched across the ceiling. Our American sensibilities told us we were hungry at 7:00 p.m. which was a shame because the entire place was filled with fellow English speakers. We could have easily been in Florida as opposed to Florence. . .should have waited until 9 or later to potentially see some locals!
After appetizers that included proscuitto and bufala mozzerella, I dove into a porcini mushroom pasta while Bob feasted on steak cutlets. Of course, these both had much sexier sounding names than "steak cutlets."
After 5 days of go-go-go in Egypt, we were up for a relaxing night. Back to the room by 9:30pm and asleep in front of a DVD by 10pm.
The next morning we let ourselves sleep in a bit, but then were off to explore the city! First stop, the Boboli Gardens.
This area must be a favorite for the local artist wannabe's.
I call this one "Albert Einstein Doesn't Feel Well."
As if we had not had enough hills to climb, we found ourselves making our way up to the top of the Piazzale Michaelangelo that evening in time for sunset. Amazing views of the city made you recognize the size and scale of the Duomo - more on that in a bit. The tulips around the area reminded me of springtime on Michigan Avenue - always a sight to put a smile on your face. Fun fact: The Piazzale is home to one of the reproductions of David, all three of which we would see that week.
Did someone say Gelato?
The next morning we took to the streets with a recommended Walking Tour. Florence really is quite small when you wrap your head around it, so why not take a few hours for a guided tour? Although I'm not one for large bus-sized tour groups, walking around with a pack of five or six others learning a little more about the church we would have otherwise just walked past and nodded appreciatively at was a nice perk.
How else would we have learned that the back of the head of one Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa in the plaza was actually an obvious portrait of the artist. Do you see it?
The tour started at 10am, so we made ourselves into even earlier birds by first stopping at the Musee Academie which houses the original David. The massive line we caught up with the day before around noon proved that 8am was the time to arrive. With a few more sculptures under our belt and a realization of just how, er, large dear David really is, we headed towards our tour group meeting spot.
Last stop, the Duomo, or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The gothic interiors seemed to go up and up and up to the sky because of the octogonal dome.
After a spaghetti dinner and a day of walking behind us, I popped a couple more tylenol pm, shot up some nasal spray and did my best to fight the cold that just wouldn't die with another good night's sleep.
The next day we found ourselves packing once again and headed to the train that would bring us back to our last stop on the whirlwind vacation: Roma.