On the train to Florence.
Wife: “Do you want some maltesers?”
Me: “No, I only like Kitkat amongst chocolates.”
Wife: “Kitkat is like the junk food of chocolate.”
Me: “Junk food is highly underrated.”
1.35 pm. I am going to rant on my Italian friend who recommended this “hotel” to me. I should have realized it when the price was so low as per Florence standards. When you book brand name you pay the price for a reason. So far all our stays have been in 4 star places and an international brand name, except the hotel in Venice which was again a 4 star but not a chain. This Florence one was advertised as ‘5 minutes from the station’. We reached it in 15.
It turned out to be a dump, not at all like their website. However, VERY luckily, they themselves had some problems in the room so they booked us at another hotel nearby, same price, but much better room and ambience. For that I give them credit. However, once the door was shut, had to listen to wife’s tirade for booking at a place even single guys wouldn’t stay.
2 pm. We. Are. Lost.
I thought you were supposed to see the Duomo from anywhere in Florence? The sidewalks in Florence are quite narrow and the place is filled with tourists.
The Duomo! It’s actually more impressive from outside than inside. Outside each part of the wall is painted or sculpted very artistically with Christian/Greek/Italian themes. Inside it’s just a big hall.
However, the inside of the Duomo is painted all the way up to the center (they call this the Cuopolo). The whole cathedral is called Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori. Whoever this Santa Maria is, she is big in Florence. Even the main train station is named after her.
Just opposite to the Duomo is the Baptistry of John the Baptist. The main attraction here are the Gates of Paradise.
5 pm. Piazza della Repubblica.
The Column of Abundance.
Mandatory taking of pictures. You know you are missing Facebook when as you take pictures you mentally compose the Facebook caption for those pictures.
5.15 pm. Quite nice, brand name shops all the way to the Piazza della Repubblica and beyond. The whole thing seems to be a pedestrian walkway (lot of those in Europe). Full of gelato shops. Every one seems so fashionably dressed in Italy. Even old ladies are carrying Lui Vuitton bags.
On the way to Piazza della Signoria
5.40 pm. Piazza della Signoria. This is fantastic.
Not only do you have a copy of the David placed at the same spot where the original David once stood before being taken inside the Accademia, but also original art works by many of the Italian masters in public, on the street, free of charge for anyone to see (or for pigeons to poop on).
Even a not-that-much-interested-in-art person like me can see how intricate and detailed some of these art works were.
Again, I am struck by how, er, nude these sculptures were. I doubt David (Dawud peace be upon him) was naked (astakfirullah!) when he slew the Goliath, or the whoever the other statues are supposed to represent, but the artists in Florence seem to have a particular attraction to the male anatomy.
The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.
6.00 pm. We ask a policeman for directions to Piazzale Michelangelo. He suggests we take the bus as its quite far (actually started to laugh when we said yes, we wanted to walk).
Kindly tells us which bus to take and where to buy the tickets from. We do so, then walk to the bus stop (which itself is 10 minutes walk away).
Board the bus from the rear. No one seems to check for tickets on the buses here. After 10 minutes the bus arrives.
6.30 pm. Florence is just BEAUTIFUL.
The Piazzale Michelangelo offers great, great views of the city, along with its skyline and the Doumo, with the famous rolling hills of Tuscany at the back. The weather is just amazing (and they tell me this is as hot as it gets, and most of the year the weather is similar and nice).
Another statue of David on Piazzale Michelangelo. This plaza was built to honor him (Michelangelo, not David), so has a copy of his major works.
7 pm. I think we are done for the day. There’s a couple of bascilicas in Florence to see, along with the real David (still have to make up our mind if we want to see yet another naked statue), but we have seen all Florence had to offer for us. There are thousands of museums here for art people, and I see lot of students on the street painting (mostly the Duomo) and they are painted really well. This city is probably on a must visit list for arts students.
8 pm. Ask the hotel receptionist where the nearest McDonalds is. Again the sneer. You tourists! He seems to say, you come to Italia and instead of our magnificent food you want McDonalds! Still he kindly gives us the directions. Hope this one serves Filet-o-fish.
8.15 pm. Allah Akbar! We found a Halal place on the way to McDonalds! Doner kabab, biryani etc and all very affordable too.
The Pakistani guy even charged us less once we spoke to him in Urdu. Once again we had taken a wrong turn and found a halal place. At this rate we should take wrong turns everywhere.
Tomorrow - Pisa.