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Jill McCracken’s Travel Diary

Friday, 18 Feb 2011

Location: Firenze, Italy


Our train was an hour later than expected departing from Paris-Bercy but we entertained ourselves with late night people watching. Emily forgot her train ticket but we easily purchased another one and she will get refunded when she does the paperwork. In general, the train to Florence was "value for the money"!! The sleeping cars were supposed to seat six but we were pretty squished with 4. We explored the dining car for dinner but were limited in choice so we were thankful we had packed lots of food from Paris. We were exhausted by about 10pm so we closed our eyes on the very shaky ride. At about midnight we woke up to look out our window: we were cruising through the Alps. Everything was this very eerie blue, it looked like I was entering a fairy-tale land. What a sight though! For someone who has only seen Quebec mountains, it almost made me want to take up skiing. But we all know that's not going to happen. They were absolutely breathtaking! We realized that we needed sleep so we all slept until we reached Parma. We took the "sandwich" route to Italy, passing through Dijon, Bologna and Parma.

Arriving at the train station in Firenze was simple and we found our hotel without a problem because it was only a block away from the train station! The concierge seemed genuinely happy to see us and was impressed with the bit of Italian I had taught myself on the train. I officially am in the camp of "learn a bit of the local language to go a long way"... We started wandering around in attempt to reach the Galleria Accademia to see the real David statue. A shout-out to home, we turned down Via Guelfa on our way to the gallery. On our way to the gallery we found a leather factory warehouse sale and I bartered down a 400 euro leather jacket to 100 euros. A little bit of Italian and blonde hair goes a long way! (We saw the same jacket in another store later on the trip and it was 500 euros so I was ecstatic with my near-robbery bartering). We discovered the gallery (which is actually quite small) and explored. David is HUGE, much larger and more impressive than when I saw the Mona Lisa in Paris. Contrary to his famous proportioning, I think Michelangelo took a bit of liberties with the size of David's head and hands...they looked to be too large for his body.

We continued down Via Ricasoli to the Piazza Duomo, which I have included pictures of for you. The Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral was the most magnificent building I have been outside, or inside for that matter. It was humongous and Brunelleschi's dome is exquisitely detailed with its frescoes. We sat outside on the steps of the cathedral and soaked up some sunlight that we had been missing in Paris. Gosh, it must have been about 15 degrees that day. Continuing to wander we found many more souvenir shops and leather vendors. We stopped for lunch and had our first Italian fresh-pasta and it was to die for (cheese ravioli)! Then we needed a break so we walked back to the hotel, unpacked, wrote postcards, and napped. We Guelph girls enjoy our naps.

In the evening we tried a little family pizzeria and had our first gelato while we wandered around the city and saw the Medici Chapels on our way home. So far I have found that people in Italy are so kind and just enjoy their simple way of life. I have found it easier to pick up Italian than I have been able to learn French [isn't that weird?] but already I find myself mixing up the languages and constructing sentences with a bit of French, a bit of Italiano and a bit of English...hopefully I get better! The girls and I laughed about how the men in Italy don't come up to you as much as French guys do. A bit more gentlemanly conduct is welcomed. A great first day in Italy!!