With all the climbing I have done this week from hills, trails, bell towers, cathedrals, and plain old stairs it is a wonder my legs have not fallen off. So I figure if this country has not killed me it must be making me stronger and fitter…but the motivation is not what it was at the beginning of the week. In fact there was a hike I did yesterday with a small fortification at the top of only 30 steps. They only put the sign that it will cost 1.50 at the top, because if it was at the bottom I might have said “it was not worth it”, but having already climbed up I wanted some reward and went in. 🙂
I started this week at my friend’s house visiting with him and his family before I took the train to the 5th smallest country in the world, but I am going to wait until Tuesday to tell you all about my amazing time in San Marino (this was one of the three biggest highlights this week).
My next stop was Florence, which is the birthplace of the renaissance, and you can tell by all the statues, artwork, amazing architecture, and culture. The first day I was here I did not get into town until 2pm and after checking into my hotel I only had two hours until everything closed (or so I though). As I walked around the first thing I came to was the cathedral, with the largest dome in the world until the modern era and you should see the painting on the inside of it. I walked through the church (including the lower levels where they have excavated the foundation of 1st-2nd century Roman building) and then climbed the tower to a very impressive view of the city with the dome at eye level. I then realized I had just enough time to climb to the top of the dome. This climb was very cool (and tiring) because the dome has two layers to it and you are walking between them. The inside is the ceiling with the painting, which is on the other side, and the outside wall is the roof itself. As you climb the last bit you going straight up instead of spiraling and you can see and feel the curve of the dome as you go from walking vertically to horizontally. The other great part of this climb is being eye level with the painting on the ceiling. After checking off this masterpiece I figured I would just walk around and get acquainted with the city. So I visited Ponte Vecchio (which literally means old bridge and has shops and building built on it, it is also the only bridge not destroyed during WW2), Piazza Signoria (nice little covered plaza with lots of old statues), and Palazzo Vecchio (which is the old city hall, palace, and has a replica of the famous statue of David where the real one originally stood, the real one is in Accademia Gallery but they don’t allow photos). It turns out Palazzo Vecchio was open until 9pm, so in I went to view this historic palace and art gallery. What a great way to end the day. The next day I got going early because I wanted to be at the 8:15 opening of The Uffizi early to get in quickly (the line can get LONG). This is a very famous art gallery on par with The Louvre and El Prado and established in 1581. There are tons of amazing artwork to view and I spent 3+ hours inside. In the afternoon I visited Santa Croce, which is an old church with the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, and Dante among many, many others. These carved marble tombs are a work of art in and of themselves!
On Friday I got up early and caught a train to Pisa, so I could see the Leaning Tower. Let me tell you that it did not fail to impress me. I though the 18 euro to climb it was expensive, but the experience was worth it, because as you are going up the staircase spiraling along the other wall you feel you center of gravity switch to whichever way the tower is leaning verse where you are. I was not expecting that and it was a surreal feeling!!! The tower was built as part of the cathedral complex, so I visited the church, baptistery, and cemetery. All of these were nice, but it was the cemetery that was the most interesting to me. This was a very long, two story building with an unroofed courtyard. The graves were in the floor with monuments on either end and frescos on the walls. Other than the church there is not a whole lot of terribly interesting things to do, but my train did not leave until 7pm and I had 6 hour to kill and walked around see the lesser sights.
This week I happen to re-read a Travel Channel article I saved called “The 21 Most Mind Blowing Places” and realized I was going to be within 50 miles of one when I stayed at Genoa. So instead of touring the Genoa I caught a train and spent the day hiking Cinque Terre, which is an area of steep hillsides that 5 ancient towns carved out a living. But you will have to come back on Thursday to read all about that adventure! 🙂