Day 7

We left Venice via water taxis before the vaporettos even started operation.

Back on the bus, we headed for Florence.

As we arrived in Florence, Sarah played Hotel California because guess the name of our hotel… Our rooms weren’t quite ready, so we dropped bags and went for a walk. Tara (another tour member and Dolomites hike survivor) studied abroad in Florence so she became mom’s and my temporary tour guide. We circled the Duomo and baptistery, and then headed for the mercato centrale to grab a small lunch.

We met the group outside the hotel and headed off back towards the Duomo with Sarah in the lead, talking through our earbuds as we went. Quite a nifty tool that guides use. The guide can speak fairly softly into the mike, but everyone in the group can hear her just fine as long as they don’t lag too far behind.

The cathedral here in Florence is famous for Brunelleschi’s dome, a huge dome built with no scaffolding before the days of architects and engineers. It is possible to climb up into the dome, but it’s such a popular thing to do, tickets were sold out. Definitely buy these in advance if it’s something you want to do!

From the duomo we walked to Piazza della Signoria, passing through Piazza della Republica on the way. The Palazzo Vecchio is still the city’s courthouse. The main entryway is guarded by a copy of Michelangelo’s David.

With that, we headed back in the direction of the hotel to the Accademia Gallery to see the real David!

We were released to spend as long as we wanted in the Accademia, and then met up again for dinner a couple hours later.

Florence is known for this particular way of preparing beef which is quite rare. We had a pasta dish of course, and then this beef dish. So delicious. And quite the show beforehand!

After dinner, Tara, Norm, Mariellyn, Mom, and I took a long stroll around the Duomo. Tara and I spotted this bar that said it was also a record store… interesting? We popped in for a minute just to see what it was all about. Bar downstairs and super cool record shop upstairs. The register desk even had a turntable!

The cities are so much quieter at night and with all the lights on you can still see the great sights.

Day 8

First on the agenda today was the Uffizi Gallery however these plans had been up in the air due to a planned strike. Planned strikes are common in Europe and just something you have to work around. They’re usually posted in advance but they still might mess up plans. We were incredibly luckily that this particular strike was cancelled last minute and we were able to visit the Uffizi!

Sarah split the group in two and each group got a great docent who really went in depth on a few particular pieces, explaining details that to the casual looker wouldn’t mean anything. A few of the big names here include Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. This was definitely a highlight for Mom since she’d studied many of these artists in college.

We had the rest of the day free and about a million options of what to do. We joined Tara and wandered from the Uffizi over to see Santa Croce, another beautiful church which also houses the Florence School of Leather.

We found a cute little restaurant that Tara used to frequent when she was here for lunch. Pasta, caprese, and small mixed salad. Perfecto!

After lunch we wanted to get uphill of the city to get a good view so we set off towards the river and up, up, up. On our way, we stopped by Palazzo Vecchio and poked our heads in the door. Such an ornate building. And still in use today as the city hall.

We crossed the river and headed steeply uphill to an old fort from which we got great views of the city. Unfortunately there wasn’t a ton of historical information about the fort.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the hotel. Without planning it, a bunch of the group ended up hanging out on the hotels balcony enjoying the evening sounds of the city.

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