Sunday, October 18, 2015 (continued)
We arrived at the train station in Florence, Italy.

There was a great mural of country folk working, made out of tiles on one wall of the train station. We schlepped our bags to the bus stop and took a long bus ride to where we were staying near the center of Florence. The bus was very short and small so it could fit on the narrow streets of Florence. This, however, presented the problem of too many people for such a small bus. I must say it was one of the worst bus rides I have ever encountered. There was barely room for us let alone our luggage. The bus driver shut the door on a lady. There was really no place to hang on and definitely no place to sit.

Once we arrived at the Square near our apartment we saw someone waving us down. It was the lady we were renting the apartment from, Gisella. She had come to meet us. She gave us a great welcome and explained some of the downtown sites of Florence

We have a one bedroom apartment, complete with the linen and dishes. We have a fridge, stove and washer, plus our own bathroom. It is very clean and modern with air-conditioning and heat radiators. 

We decided to take a little walk to the grocery store. We came to what we've heard of is being a classic Italian event. The bar had tables out on the street, people were out there watching their favorite football team score goals. The grocery store had lots of fresh pasta, many sauces, a deli bar full of classic Italian foods such as olives, polenta, etc.We made ourselves a wonderful pasta meal, complete with olives and some red wine. 

We slept well in the big cozy bed, looking forward to the sites of Florence, Italy tomorrow.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Today is the big federal election day in Canada. We won't get the major results until tomorrow morning here in Italy. Hope things turn out as we would like.

We had a real good sleep in this morning after touristing it up so many days in Venice and then yesterday being a moving day. After we felt like we got ourselves settled Ken went to the Macado which is across the street. He got us some sweet treats. The treat was like a Danish in Canada, but the fruit inside this Danish like substance was grapes. We thought it was blueberries but wondered what the little crunchy things were, they were grape seeds. It is actually called

Schiacciata all’uva  or Florentine grape bread. 

gotta get some,

I too went out and checked out the mercado that is just across the plaza from where we are staying. Vendors set up spots for themselves and are selling things such as sweaters, jackets, jewelry and even vegetables. I must return see there were things I know I would like to purchase but they were starting to tear things down by the time I got there. This mercado goes from approximately 8 AM until 2 PM.

After eating lunch at our little apartment we decided to go take in the sights of Florence, Italy. No particular plan of where we were going, we just left to wander the streets. We did not get far and we come to an area where there is just a portales out in the middle of the plaza. Don't know the history on it is there or why it's there in sort of the middle of nowhere. Out to one side of it are small little shops mostly containing older, antique items that the vendors are selling. We saw there was a majestic building off in the distance about a block or two away, that is where we headed.  The huge edifice was Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Italian). This main church of Florence and it's Gothic style began in 1296. The outside is faced with marble panels which it may which make it very striking. The dome was finished in 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi, this dome was one of the most impressive projects of the Renaissance period. Giotto's bell tower stands tall beside the church, also faced with marble panels. There is also an octagonal shaped baptistery just outside the church - Baptistery of Saint John. When I thought of coming to Florence this is the type of place I thought I would be seeing everywhere. After taking many numerous shots of the Basilica we realized there were horses pulling carriages in the vicinity. After taking a few shots of what we call "cloppity, clops" Ken noticed one of them had ear coverings like horsy earmuffs. All horses in Saskatchewan need these in winter at twenty below. 

We came across the Piazza della Repubblica. It is a square with high Stone gates. This area was once a ghetto but is now an area of restaurants. Further on we go and found a bronze pig. According to Wikipedia, Il Porcellino (Italian "piglet") is the local Florentine nickname for the bronze fountain of a boar. The fountain figure was sculpted and cast shortly before 1634. Its original home was in Rome but it was moved to Florence. 

From there we walk to Piazza Della Signoria also called Palazzo Vecchio. I needed help from Wikipedia to explain this area. "The Palazzo Vecchio ("Old Palace") is the town hall  of the city. This massive, Romanesque, crenelated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the square with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia Dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy, and it host cultural points and museums." The square started taking shape in about 1268. Wow, is about all I can come up with. The statues are way past amazing. Many other people thought the same thing so the area has loads of people milling about. There is an area where you can walk inside and see all the arches and frescoes on the wall. Very amazing!

We have found a few buildings with metal or steel holders attached to them. These steel holders have rings attached to them.  Every time we see them we realize how old the building is because those metal holders were used as a bracket to tie up a horse in days gone by. 

Tomorrow we will be back at The Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery. Tonight we make another great pasta meal in our Florence apartment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Our big adventure for the day is going to the Uffizi Gallery in historic, downtown Florence, Italy.

The Uffizi was started in 1560 for the Medici family. The art collection was started in 1574. It is really like two, long, narrow buildings with a very narrow Plaza in between. The buildings are attached, however. The tall ceilings are amazing with their domed, beamed, gold clad, painted, inlaid views. The walls did not distract from the paintings but the ceilings where a definite distraction.  

Ken had ordered up tickets at least a week in advance. That meant our lineup frustration was limited, thank heavens.

What kind of art did we see? Art of some of the great masters of both painting and sculpture.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Today being my birthday, Ken made me breakfast.

I wanted to have pasta instead of a more regular meal, after all we are in Italy. Pasta seemed more fitting. 

There is an inside and outside Mercado - Sant' Ambrogio Market -  just across the plaza - Largo Pierto Annigoni - from our apartment. I want to go shopping for my birthday. I know weird thing to want to do on your birthday, especially when you are in Florence, Italy. It is getting plenty cooler now and I sent back to Canada or gave away many of my cool weather clothes. I need a warm jacket and boots. Being my birthday Ken will give me some leeway with the whole shopping thing. He is feeling better than yesterday but his head cold is a real drag. 

Florence is a great place to shop for leather goods. Woollen items seem popular, too. I have heard silver is here, too, but have yet to see that. There seems to be many down filled type jackets and coats, that is what I am looking for. 

We went to another mercado called San Lorenzo Market. Here vendors had stores back behind their marque tents. Most were selling leather items. I made the mistake of looking too closely at a leather jacket. The sales person had me try it on. Now this jacket was about €550, a bit too much for my taste. Before we left the store the sales person had his price down to $150. CAD. I did not buy the jacket. I saw so many leather I did not even want to look at that anymore. 

Next place we went was Piazza Del Mercato Centrale. The ground level market was closed, but the upper level was open. This area was like a gourmet food market for both cafeteria goodies and for tasty little treats to take home. There were even recipe books. There was a giant, embellished statue of David overlooking the entire floor.   

We found a downtown temporary mall selling artisan foods, soaps and other goodies. They were handing out samples to entice potential buyers. The ceiling of this place had frescos painted on it. Florence is so amazing!

Ken usually makes me a chocolate or carob cake for my birthday when we are at home. This year he bought me Italian Cannoli which is actually Sicilian. He was great, tolerating my shopping indulgence today. He is a very special husband.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

First thing today I went out to the market again which is just about half a block away.

I am still looking for a down-filled type jacket or coat. It feels like it's getting a little bit colder outside. It is very hard to communicate when you do not know any words in the language. Some of my knowledge of Spanish has helped me with Italian. 

Ken is still recovering from his cold. We did not want to do too much today or spend too much time outside. After a substantial lunch we began our planned bus trip to a small town about a half an hour north, east of Florence - Fiesole. We wanted to see some of rural Italy and some of small town Italy. 

We had gone and picked up our bus tickets last night that were €1 each at a tobacco shop. Once out of Florence on the bus, we were on a windy, narrow road that was uphill. It was what I would call classic, rural Italy - lush, rolling, low lying, green hills. Trees such as tall Italian cypress and stone pine were some of the regions well known trees that dominated the landscape. 

Once up the hill to the town of Fiesole and off the bus we could feel immediately the temperature drop and the wind. We could see the old Cathedral San Romolo and it's wonderful tower. The tower just seems to float above the buildings when you transcend the hill. We were in a plaza off to the side of the cathedral. We walked near were the ruins of the Roman Theater and Civic Museum (Teatro Romano e Museo Civico) are located to try and get a view. By this time we realized we were not going to be able to get a view of Florence from that vantage point. We would have to walk elsewhere. 

Off we walked up the hill to look down on the city of Florence. In among some old farm homes we could see Florence laid out below, pretty awesome! We also saw olive and fig trees with cactus blooming in the yard. We sat soaking up the sun, went and purchased a pistachio gelato, then off to an art gallery. It was very modern art even though this town was here in Roman times. It was too chilly up in this quaint town and we hopped a bus back to our area of Florence. 

We decided to explore the area our bus dropped us off at. Earlier we had pondered the fact that the buildings with portals were identical in colour and similar styles. Well, we discovered they were the buildings around Piazza della Libertà. In 1875 the square was built to honour the Poto San Gallo, one of the gate of the old city wall and to honour the Triumphal Arch of the Lorraine (1738). This Liberty Square. This was a nice little discovery only a few blocks from where we were staying. 

We had a great day out of the city. We walked but not too much and were able to make discoveries and explore. Tomorrow it is finishing up Florence.

Friday, October 23, 2015
This is the day that a Category 5 Hurricane Patricia slammed into Mexico's west coast just near La Perla, or a few miles north of Barra Navidad. Scary! Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Mexico!

We returned to the huge UNESCO World Heritage Site of  Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower, otherwise known as the Florence Cathedral, to see two things that we missed previously. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city - built between 1059 and 1128 in Florentine, Romanesque style. First, we went to the baptistery on the outside to see the artistically important doors with relief sculptures. We saw, of the three sets of doors, the door facing east. According to Wikipedia, Michelangelo called these doors the Gates of Paradise. Actually we missed seeing the other two sets of doors due to not knowing about them, too bad. 

Next we went into Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower and there was no line-up. We wanted to see the paintings inside the famous renaissance dome. What we saw was remarkable. The church was fairly crowded. We were able to go down in the basement as well. There were other parts of the church that you could pay to view, like climbing the tower. We saw plenty for free.
Outside in the plaza of the church were the horse and carriages that could be rented. Again the horses with ear coverings on were a great source of amusement. Ken talked to a carriage driver who was very proud of his authentic, original carriage. He had the officious license #1 in the city for carriage drivers. 

We took pictures of some interesting buildings. We did not know they were named or famous places we just liked the look of them. Palazzo Strozzi, a palace from the 1500s is one example, as is Porta Rossa, likely the oldest hotel in Florence is another example. 

We walked by the oldest basilica in Florence, Santa Maria Novella, started in about 1246. It is a mix of a few styles - Classical architecture, Renaissance architecture, Romanesque architecture, Gothic architect. Remember that these huge buildings took a great deal of time to complete so the vogue of styles fluctuated. We were on our way to the main train station of the same name. 

We crossed under the road to actually get to the train station. It was one big mall. Ken purchased our tickets for our train ride to Rome tomorrow, yes we have to leave Florence. 

By this time we needed a sitting down break. We found an outside cafe/bakery on Borgo Ognissanti. They were decadent snacks of some type of chocolate cake and some type of cannoli. Part of our view was a small, foreign made pick up truck with the back full up with blooming plants. Wonderful!

From here we took a city bus to a fishing tackle shop. Tackle is not allowed on planes so the Christmas gift idea failed on the drawing board.   We are rather near the Arno River. 

We next walked to the Nicchio area. We walked down Santo Spirito and on the corner there is an angled fountain on a building which is the Zephyr, wind god. This is a very old area of the city. 
With very chic chic shops and restaurants. Some cafe appeared to be reasonably priced even with their amazing views on the Arno River. The aim of our walk was the Ponte Vecchio a very old bridge crossing the River. This Roman arch bridge with shops built on it was first mentioned in written history in 996. It has been rebuilt several times since. There are art dealers and jewellers, etc in the shops now as this is a popular tourist destination. 

From the Ponte Vecchio we wondered back to our apartment, tired. We went past the Di Vinci Museum, passed huge plazas we have seen previously, passes cute dogs, finally to the grocery store we have frequented all week. We need to get home and rest for our big move tomorrow - onward to Rome.

Saturday, October 24, 2015
Ken is still struggling with a head cold, luckily it has not gone to his lungs, yet.

We get up relatively early to prepare for departure, our checkout time is 10 AM. We are heading out to Rome, Italy. I get one last look at the Market across the street, I find nothing. Each day there are different vendors and the vendors that are the same are in different spots. I really enjoyed being able to go to the market and get a taste of real life Italy.

We took a little Italian bus from our neighborhood to the downtown train station - Firenze Santa Maria Novella - rolling our less than wonderful or less than new suitcases under the road, through the mall and on to the very busy train station. Reminder, do not travel on Saturday. We had to wait for our train as it was late. Ken went and got us coffee. When he returned we ran to the train as our "ride awaited us". Ken pushed the train's door button for it to open, I figured we were early that is why no one else was waiting. Not so! We were late and the train was about to leave, not letting anyone else on. Ken felt like it was his fault and felt awful. It was just one of those crazy things. Worst thing is that it was kind of cold in the station with few spots to sit. Ken requested new tickets, since ours was a flex ticket, we were fine. Two hours of wait time was our penalty. McDonalds was were we headed with our previously bought food and water. We had warmth and wifi, what else could we ask for. 

Once on the train with our seats facing in the right direction we sped off to Rome. Literally with speeds up to 300 Km per hour. This is the last new destination of our trip before we start to wind our way home. When we are not speeding through tunnels we are admiring the Roman countryside of rolling, lush hills. We do see some flatter farm land, some grape and olive orchards, not as much as I imagined. 

Rome seems to come upon us quickly and before we know it we are there. Likely an over two hour trip. The train station is massive and we haul our bags outside to the bus. Just outside the train terminal is the central bus terminal. Italian stone pine surrounds the area along with old looking buildings. We hop our bus to the B and B where we will be spending the next few days.

The area we are in is near the downtown, close to embassies and offices, etc. It is an upper class area with great architecture. The building we are in is similar to where we stayed in Barcelona, at least it remind me of the place. It has the elevator with double opening doors, fitting three people without luggage. A sweet Italian girl tells us the ins and outs of the place. Then with a map gives us a great tour of all the major sites. Who needs a travel guide book, although this place provides them, too.

We buy groceries, eat supper and head off to begin seeing the sites of Rome, Italy. We walk to a huge park.

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