My, it's been awhile since I wrote, hasn't it? Let's get caught up! We'll just catch the 10:24 train to Florence. . .
The trains in Italy are pretty easy to navigate. But. They can be a little intimidating! The stations are full of people offering to "help" you as you figure out the ticket kiosks -- but they are not official; they are would-be scammers on the make. Plus . . . there's the language barrier. And the cultural barrier. Because things are very flexible in Italy. (Do you need to validate your ticket? Maybe. But it's probably Not a Problem if you don't.)
Anyway. After our first rather-stressful-but-somewhat-hilarious (Rome to Tuscany) train trip, we decided to have Pino help us with the trip from our little Tuscan train station to Florence. (But still there was confusion. But mostly between the station attendant and Pino. And we managed!)
Pino and our travel books had warned us about the pickpockets (gypsies, tramps, and thieves. . . ) in Florence near the train station, so we were on High Alert. When we emerged from the station, we were supposed to look for a taxi to take us to our hotel. But it was so crowded with people, and there was a long line for taxis, and . . . really . . . it didn't look that far on the map. So we decided to walk to our hotel.*
And it wasn't that far.
It was hot. (Really hot.)
It was crowded. (Like beyond Disney World crowded).
The streets were cobblestone. (And we were pulling our bags.)
And we got a little bit lost. (And possibly sidetracked by sights and art and leather vendors.)
So when we stumbled onto our hotel (just outside the doors of the Uffizi), it was with great relief! Also, great joy. Because THIS was the view from our hotel window!
Yes, the Ponte Vecchio bridge -- and it was right there, outside our hotel!
Overwhelmed by the crowds (Really. Overwhelmed!), we did what we often do for an escape -- we headed for a garden! This time, to the Boboli Gardens on the grounds of the Pitti Palace.
Now, these were not the most well-maintained gardens I've ever visited, but they were calm, peaceful, quiet -- and free of crowds!
We got some much-needed exercise, spent time with some lovely landscape, and regained our stamina.
(The panorama view from the top of the hill was pretty awesome, too!)
We were much more relaxed after our time in the gardens, and we enjoyed wandering the streets of Florence,
taking in the art. . .
(Not the real David. But just like the real David. This replica was placed here, at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, in 1910 to protect the original David, now residing in the Accademia.)
(Cellini's Perseus, my favorite sculpture in the Loggia dei Lanzi, an outdoor gallery in the corner of the Piazza della Signoria at the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery.)
people-watching (especially with a little glass of wine) . . .
sampling gelato. . .
doing a little shopping. . .
and enjoying what might have been our favoite meal of the trip (especially given the complications it took to get it, which is a story for another day)!
Florence . . . such a lovely city!
* This is where we saw the sight that will forever make us weep with laughter . . . the man with two-functioniong-legs who sat down on his chair at the side of the busiest road in Florence, take out a set of fake-amputee-legs (with bonus bloody stumps!) and proceed to strap them on. I would've taken a photo, but I just . . . couldn't.