Day 9: Pisa/Lucca/Florence
Today was the beginning of a three day trip to several major Italian tourist sites. Our plans: train travel to Pisa, Lucca, Florence, and Rome. We would spend two nights away from our apartments in Genoa, and stay at hotels.
I was so incredibly excited, that I had a hard time sleeping the night before. I’ve previously visited Rome, but had never gone to the other cities.
In Pisa, we took the obligatory photos with the tower, but the most incredible part were the other buildings nearby – the church, baptistery, and cemetery. I highly recommend spending the majority of your time there, and enjoying these lesser appreciated sites.
Our second stop of the day was Lucca, a town with medieval walls that can be walked or biked. The students split up into various groups, each with their own agenda, or lack thereof. Another girl and I decided to stick together, and had a leisurely great meal of risotto and pizza in the main town square, a circle-shaped former Roman-era amphitheater. It was wonderful to get off of our feet and to relax a bit. Later we climbed a tower and enjoyed an incredible view of not only the city and the walls, but also the green hills surrounding Lucca, and beyond that – stunning mountains.
Back onto the train, we packed into seats and made our way to Florence. This was the city I was most excited about! After quickly checking into our hotel, and getting ready for dinner, we would go onto have a traditional Florentine meal. I had an asparagus cream soup, and the beef steak, which I was told should be ordered rare. It was charred on the outside, and soft on the inside. Very good. Our meal lasted for 3 1/2 hours! Finally, tired and full, we made our way back to the hotel for a great night’s sleep.
Day 10: Florence
The weather was not cooperating with my plans. I’d envisioned a sunny day in Florence, perfect for looking up and appreciating the famous cathedral and other buildings. Yet, it started to rain, and was quite cold.
After a nice hotel breakfast, we did an orientation tour of the city’s main buildings and piazzas. During free time, I took off on my own. I visited the Santa Croce church, which was an impressive structure, with a chapel and outdoor cloisters and garden space. The church housed the remains of the poet/philosopher Dante, the scientist Galileo, and Niccolo Machiavelli – the infamous political influencer of the Renaissance. The tomb of Michelangelo is there, but is supposedly not where his bones actually lie. I enjoyed a side chapel painted by Giotto, and paintings by Donatello. It was magnificent!
Then I visited a leather school, which actually created their own leather products by hand in a small school behind a beautiful church. I was able to watch some adjustments being made for clients, and purchased a nice leather wallet as a gift, with initials embossed with gold foil. One of the leather workers told me he had worked there for 21 years, and was trained by the original owner, who is now passed away. It is nice to support a local business like his, and to know that this is not a fake product from China.
I wanted past the Galileo museum, the river Argo and the famous bridge, past the Ufizzi (I didn’t pre-buy tickets) and to Palazzo Vecchio. I didn’t pay to tour the entire building, but did enjoy the open access courtyard and atrium, which stunning architecture and paintings from the reign of the Hapsburg, who deposed the reign of the Medici. This city is an outdoor museum, really. Thankfully, the rain had dissipated and it was easier to appreciate what I was seeing. I did a lot of wandering, appreciated the Duomo and Baptistry from outside, and toured a beautiful perfumery that dates back to the 1200s (Franciscan monks, who practiced apothecary).
Finally, after grabbing some food and drinks at a shop, and eating in a piazza, I went to go see David. Tickets are incredibly hard to get, so I paid extra for a guided tour. It was worth it! So may people crowded into the Academia, but turning the corner and catching my first glimpse of David practically took my breath away. I won’t spoil it for the readers here by explaining too much…but I would say, if you appreciate art – go see it in person!
I practically ran to meet the group, grab my bag, and take the brisk walk back to the train state – destination: Rome.