After our quick trip to Venice, we travelled to Florence by train (did I mention how much I adore trains?). We got into the city in the evening on Sunday, found our way to our hostel, which was conveniently located within 5 minutes of the train station (another excellent lodging choice!).
We got to meet up with Anastasia's boyfriend, Tim (and friends) since they ended up being in Florence at the same time as us. We got some incredible homemade pasta, drank Italian wine, walked up to the best view of Florence, enjoyed great conversation and laughed about the bad Polaroid the waiter took.. It was a lovely start to our time in Florence.
See "true love" below
We all went to our separate hostels and met up in the morning to explore Florence. We traveled to this crypt, which was impressive by itself, but the really impressive portion of this particular building is its current inhabitants.
We saw Galileo's grave, Michaelangelo's, DaVinci's, Machievilli's, Dante's, etc. It was mildly ridiculous. It was as if Paris' Pantheon challenged Florence to a "how many famous people can we fit in one place" contest. (And Florence won.)
On the floor of this building, there were sculptures indicating where other people are buried. I'd bet that these people aren't "nobodies". I'd reckon that they're each famous in their own right, and just cause I don't know who they were doesn't mean that they weren't important and significant. On the one hand, I wish I knew more about each person that was buried there, but there were probably hundreds of influential people. I need to be realistic about some things.
As per usual, the ceilings were beautiful. I have a slight obsession with the beauty of European ceilings. It's so often just the white top of a room in America, and it's so interesting to see the difference between white ceilings and these ornate works of art.
The wooden beams of the ceiling (in the photo below) are decorated with a light pattern comprised of blues, greens, and reds.
When transitioning from the crypt portion of this building, we got to walk through this courtyard, which was made even more beautiful by the steady stream of rain. It's not the kind of rain you'd expect in November. It wasn't particularly chilly or a nuisance. It was simply raining. (And I loved it)
The museum also had a modern art exhibit dedicated to the theme of Christianity. I haven't seen a wide array of religious modern art, but this place found them. They even commissioned a few! It was an interesting environment to go from the pre-Renaissance paintings to these modern art pieces.
The sun eventually came out and graced us with a rain free afternoon and evening. I love the rain, but I think my camera might like sunny days a little bit more than the steady water.
We went on a jaunt up to the location we had been at the night before to see it during the day. The walk there was lovely; the river water was brown. I know people in Pittsburgh (and Paris!) often complain about the ugly water of the river(s), but I think Florence gets to win that contest too.
I realized, while I was standing and looking at this amazing view, that the best things are a lot of work. This was not a small hill. It wasn't a huge mountain either, but it did leave you a little breathy afterwards. You have to work for the best views (or at least walk up a hill).
I thought that the couple pictured above was adorable until I realized about 10 minutes later that they were two gentlemen that appeared to not be romantically involved. They seemed to be business friends more so than the snuggling old couple I thought they were... Opps.
The view was incredible (I think I've mentioned that once or twice) and the colors of the end of fall really added to it. Florence is nestled at the foot of many small mountains, which gives it such a different feel from Paris or Venice.
But the water really makes the Seine look clean, doesn't it? A stark contrast from Venice's blue and green canals
I love how obsessed Europeans are with their art. The French aren't alone in their adoration of masterpieces -- the Italians had a great sense of pride over their pieces. The above photo was taken from a free sculpture garden. I love free art even more than art.
We called it a day after another amazing meal, starting the next morning with a climb up the Bell Tower next to the Duomo.
This was a 414 step trip up the stairs, which I (foolishly) thought would be no problem. After all, I am a collegiate athlete in my early 20s! But after walking almost 10 miles a day for the duration of our fall break and carrying around a hefty camera, it was a little bit more taxing than I would've like to admit.
With the Duomo's Bell Tower completed and checked off the list, Michaelangelo's David was up next. I hadn't prepared myself quite for his size, but it was an impressive statue. The veins, the posture, the marble. Michaelangelo was a master, no doubt, and this is a masterpiece.
I've mentioned European ceilings, but the Baptism Cathedral in Florence takes the cake. We almost didn't get into see it because the outside is undergoing renovations, but we did get to see the spectacular gold mosaic ceiling in person.
My neck hurt afterwards, but it was SO worth it. I should've laid on the ground and just stared for days. It was breath taking. We had no idea that it would be so magnificent. What a pleasant surprise!
Now that I've wrapped up two cities and one incredible fall break in just two blog posts, I want to give the biggest thank you to these two ladies. I am continuously grateful for their friendship; they made this trip wonderful.
Travel companions are a special kind of friend. They've seen you after 15 hours on a train and dealt with you when you're hungry. They've seen you eat pasta in ink sauce, lent you money, and grudgingly put up with your request for one more photo. They've gone into museums with you, laughed about gondola rides, and crammed under an umbrella with you. Not only do they see you at your worst, travel companions get to take on the world with you, and I am so happy I got to take on Italy with these two.