June 4, 2007

Climbing Around Firenze

Climbing Around Firenze

Since cars are not allowed in or around the central part of Firenzi the best way for us to go was to drive to a commuter town and take the train. So we got up and drove to the town of Empoli. It is definitely a commuter town as we had a heck of a time finding a parking spot since we got there about 9am. We got our ticket and took a slow roller into Firenze Santa Maria Novella station. This is the station where all the books warn you about pick pockets. Luckily we made it in and out unscathed.

When we got off the train we made straight for The science museum. Since it was Tuesday the museum was only open until 13:00. It was great, this will definitely be one of the highlights of the trip for me. Anyone who is interested in Physics would love this museum. There are exhibits of real early scientific instruments including astrolabes, Sextants, early batteries, Galileo’s first and second telescopes, early microscopes, the list goes on. Every one of them is a great example of early science and many of them are really illustrative of important discoveries in Physics.

We finished our tour of the science museum just in time for lunch. So we took another Rick Steve’s recommendation and went for a late lunch at the Golden Wall -- Open Bar. It was great. They gave us a table right on a corner window where we could look out at the Arno river and the Ponte Veccio. We watched several groups of rowers out for their daily exercise and enjoyed a good lunch. Kaia had a pear and cheese salad followed by Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta and Basil, I had Bruschetta con quattro formagio e Truffles for my first course followed by Gnocchi with Sausage and mushrooms. Josh had a Mezzaluna (part pizza part Calzone), and Jane had fresh Mozzarela with Basil and Tomatoes followed by a foccacia of Mozzarella and Tomatoes. It was a bit much of the same for Jane between the first and second courses. Overall a good meal.

After we were fortified with a good lunch we decided to find the Duomo. We lucked out and caught a relatively short line for climbing to the top. The line was much shorter than the climb to the top. 463 Stairs! The first part of the climb was pretty standard fair, some spiral staircases... We had a nice break in the middle where we could view the dome from the inside and look down into the sanctuary. As we got closer to the top the stairs got steeper and steeper and we lost the spiral approach and started spiraling around the dome itself. The rise was almost one foot by the time we got to the very where we were climbing along the very top of the dome itself.

Much of the climb followed the stairs between the two layers of the dome. The inner layer is very thick, and the outer layer is only 82 cm thick. You could see the herringbone pattern that the bricklayers used in laying the bricks for the dome itself. By the time we got to the top we were all hot and sweaty. Unfortunately Jane got stuck behind a very hot and sweaty German guy who forgot to use his deodorant!! Nobody was happier to get to the top and out into the fresh air than Jane.

The view from the top was amazing. We could see every direction, and looking down on the top of this ancient city was really beautiful.

After three days without internet contact, which seemed like much longer to all of us, we found a small Internet Cafe so we could check our email before we headed back to the train station and our journey back to our apartment.

Unfortunately we were sidetracked along the way by more shopping. Jane found a winter scarf, Kaia found T shirts for her friends back home, and Josh found a pair of Italian Nikes. Unfortunately for Josh they did not have the shoes in his size. In the meantime I found a soccer warmup set that seemed like it would make nice lounge wear.

The rain at Il Lebbio continued while we were gone and when we returned everything just felt damp. Jane made the comment that this was like camping. All of our clothes just had a damp feeling to them. It would be nice to have forced air heat or even air conditioning just to dry things out in our apartment.