Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Travelogue – on to Florence

Sunday, July 15

I'm in Florence now. I rode the high-speed train from Rome. It actually pulled into the station about 15 minutes early.

This replacement hotel is definitely not as nice as what I first reserved and not as nice as the one in Rome. They do have internet – but only in the lobby. And also not tonight – the gizmo that creates passwords isn't working. So sometime – soon! – I'm going to spend a chunk of time in the lobby and post all my daily descriptions. When I do, this will feel like old news.

This was another wander-the-city day. It is good the temperature is a pleasantly warm rather than the hot of Rome. No idea what the weather report is. I came across vendor stalls in the streets near the Medici Chapel with lots of booths selling things the city is famous for: leather goods (coats, wallets, briefcases, purses) and scarves, plus lots of the usual touristy stuff, like t-shirts.

I bought a large plastic cup full of watermelon chunks as a nice afternoon snack. After I was done it took a while to find a place to dispose of it. I found a trash container near outdoor seating for a restaurant. A waiter called me back and said something like this (in English), “What did you put in there? Take it out! I'm the one who has to empty that thing several times a day. Put your trash somewhere else, not here.” I apologized, said I didn't know it wasn't a public trash bin and asked where I might dispose my cup. He pointed to another bin – which was already overflowing.

I walked past the Duomo (cathedral) a couple times, but it isn't open to tourists today.

On to the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge over the river that's lined with shops. This bridge, when built in the 1300s, was where the butchers and fishmongers had their shops. I can understand why – they could easily push their waste out the back door and into the river. But a century or two later the Medici family built their palace on one side of the river and worked in government offices on the other. They built a private passageway from one to the other, including over the shops on one side of the bridge. The smell of butchers down below didn't smell so sweet, so the family force them out and invited jewelry stores to move in. If you need jewelry in Florence, you know where to find it.

My guidebook suggested a walking tour through the lower class Oltrarno district south of the river. Once done, I decided it wasn't all that great, especially on a Sunday afternoon when the craftsman workshops are closed. I did see this small piece of art (noted in the guide book). It is a niche in a wall and is of a woman holding her nose. Trash cans are usually stored below her. I don't know which came first.

I stayed south of the river and walked over, then up, to Piazzale Michelangelo. It has a stunning view of the city. The Duomo and other landmarks easily rise above everything else. This photo is of the Duomo.

Tonight's dinner featured beef. The description said peppercorns, but the taste was, alas, more of onion. I managed dinner for $25 rather than the $30 of Rome.

I was able to go to a concert tonight. It looks like I'll be able to do that every evening in Florence, if I want to. I was at first surprised that concerts start at 9:15 at night. But when one considers Italians usually don't start dinner until 8:00, it makes sense. Tonight's concert was piano music of Beethoven and Chopin, with a Scarlatti encore. It lasted about an hour. Alas, the stone church that hosted the concert was a bit too acoustically live to hear all the intricacies of the music. After the concert the air temperature was actually cool.

It appears there is a large tour group of teenagers staying in this hotel. They're out somewhere now, even though it is 11:30. When they're here they have no concept of how thin the walls hare and how far sound carries. It could get interesting.

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