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Italy 2007 Day 8: Duomo and Science Museum in Florence

Monday, March 26, 2007


The started off with a quick stop for breakfast at the Michelangelo Café a couple of blocks from the villa. Cappuccino in an Italian café is an interesting experience. I don't actually drink coffee (or anything like it), but a place like Michelangelo would be the place to do so if I should ever decide to try. You walk up to the bar, order your cappuccino, espresso or whatever and then you can either stand at the bar to drink it or pay a small (1-2 euro) fee to sit down at a table. Most Italians seem to stop into a place like this a couple of times a day, quickly down an espresso and then continue on with their day. We have started to make this a part of our daily routine as well. As for me, I'll continue to drink hot chocolate or the really good fresh squeezed orange juice these cafes also serve up. The oranges a little more red inside than the ones back home and they are really good. This is a much better way to start my day than something that has that awful (for me) coffee taste!


Our first destination of the day was to climb up the dome at the Duomo. We thought we were getting there just as it opened at 10, but it had already been open for a couple of hours. We were also hoping to meet Rooney and Steve there since they were not out of bed when we left the villa, but there was no sign of them so Aimee, Sheila, Matt and I just went on about our day. The Duomo is an interesting church -- not really all that wonderful on the inside (IMO). I think the best part of the church's interior is the painting of the Last Judgment which you get to see up close as you climb up the dome. There are some rather disturbing images there, especially in the section that represents hell. Almost everyone in hell is naked and engaged in some kind of a struggle. A couple of them have what Matt described as "fire kebabs" sticking out of their behinds. On the contrary, everyone in heaven is fully clothed and looking rather content, almost like royalty. I guess the message is clear: do as the church says or you too will have fire sticking out of your ass!


At the end of the 463 step climb, you find yourself outside on the very top of the dome with some great views of Florence and the surrounding countryside. The weather actually kind of cooperated this morning and we had a little bit of sun peaking through the mostly clouded sky. It was still a little cold, but that did not detract from the scenery. One of the really nice things about this climb: they let you stay on top for however long you wanted. The four of us spent 20-30 minutes up there just soaking it all in before coming down in search of our next adventure.


Since it was getting towards lunch time, we decided to make that part of our plan. The goal was to get some take out, a bottle of wine and eat/drink it while enjoying the Boboli Gardens. We accomplished the first half of the plan at a place on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. Four slices of pizza and a bottle of red wine. They even opened the bottle and provided us with four paper cups. What a different attitude towards alcohol here than the one back home! Unfortunately, the second part of the plan didn't go quite as well. We tried to get into the gardens at the Palazzo Pitti, but couldn't figure out how so we walked all the way to Porta Romano where I saw a sign (in Italian) saying the garden was closed on the first and last Mondays of the month. This prompted Matt to say something along the lines of "so that's what the (same) sign at Palazzo Pitti meant!". Oh well, we found a bench in a little park near the Art Institute where we had our little picnic (and the bottle of wine).


After lunch, we decided to make dinner plans (naturally). Aimee's friend (the "restaurant lady") had recommended Trattoria da Ruggiero on Via Senese right outside Porta Romano. We figured we'd stop by and make a dinner reservation. On the way there, we passed by an instant photo booth and had to try it out. The bottle of wine was probably quite helpful in getting all four of us to fit in there and the picture we ended up with is quite humorous. Matt and I look like Siamese twins in the center of the picture while Aimee and Sheila are barely visible around the edges. Quite funny. After making the reservation, we decided to attempt to see another garden since Giardino Torrigeani was right nearby. Unfortunately, we more or less walked around the entire thing before realizing the entrance was more or less on the opposite side from where we were standing. We gave up. Clearly, we were not meant to see a garden today.


Apparently, we weren't meant to see a church either since our next stop was Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine. Getting in there requires advance registration and the next available spot was 45 minutes away. We passed the time by getting some really good gelato (second only to Vivoli) from Carraia Gelateria near Porte alla Carraia. Once we finished the gelato, the church no longer seemed all that exciting so we headed back across the river to the Science Museum. The museum was pretty neat. Lots of old scientific instruments. Interesting contraptions for illustrating the various laws of science. Ceramic models the human birth process (for training new doctors hundreds of years ago). And the remains of Galileo's middle finger. My only complaint: the English language descriptions they provided via a little brochure were spotty and extremely poorly translated. In spite of this, the museum was still worth checking out.


After the museum, I stopped to check my e-mail at the internet point near the villa. Only one euro for 15 minutes (or 1.25 euro for 30). I am trying to change some reservations I made for my trip to Milan next week. No luck getting a response from the tour company. After a quick espresso stop (for the other three), we went back to the villa where I started a load of laundry. Aimee then led us on a trip to the cheese shop around the corner and we sat down at the villa for some wine and cheese. Somewhere near the start of the second bottle, Rooney and Steve walked in to tell us about their day. It was a good thing they did because the bottle we were starting was the other "grocery store" bottle and it was far worse than the (really bad) first bottle. I'm pretty sure wine is not supposed to have a head on it when you pour it into a glass. This one did. I imagine we know which bottle is going to end up in last place in the little wine taste off we are doing this week!


It was about a 35 minute walk back to the restaurant where we had an amazing meal. I have discovered that I really like Ribbolita, a Tuscan bread soup served in most of the restaurants we've been in. Everything else about our meal was also outstanding and we agreed we would come back here on our last night if this place remained our favorite restaurant of the week. We'll see how that goes. After dinner, we were pretty tired (and a little bit drunk) but it was still a nice walk back to the villa to end our day.



Day 7 Index Day 9

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