Individual Days - Italy

Venice to Florence

September 19, 2023

We enjoyed our time in Venice. Right before we left the States, we watched a documentary covering the engineering efforts to save Venice from the rising waters. We got to see this firsthand – warnings were given about high waters coming and within a couple of hours the rising waters receded, and we were back on dry ground. But how much longer can Venice fight back the waters? Unknown, but restoration and engineering work is being done everywhere.

After breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we took the Vaporetto back to our bus (the one-day strike was over) and headed to Florence.

Loading bus to head to Florence
Train into Florence

Hotel Accademia

We checked into our hotel – the Hotel Accademia. It is beautiful! Stained glass, art deco, statues, mirrors in stairwells (reminiscent of an Escher drawing), and lots of twists and turns. Our room (315) was on the 4th floor since the ground floor is floor 0 in Europe. It was easy to get lost navigating through all the passages.

After dropping off our luggage, we met Lisa to head to Florence’s Central Market for lunch. It was just a 3-minute walk from the hotel. We walked past street vendors to get into the market building. The ground floor of the indoor market offered fresh produce, butchers, cheeses, flowers – everything you would need to shop weekly for groceries. Upstairs was prepared food. It was so good!!

We met our local guide, Eleanora. She talked about the Renaissance which means the new beginning that started in Florence. In 1347, the Black Plague spread through Florence. At the peak, the pandemic took 3-5 days to go from infection to death. Approximately 25 million died, 50%-60% of the population died.

This provided an opportunity for new guilds to rise. The Medici family made up the new banking guild. They funded art in Florence – artistic freedom not just for religious purposes.

Piazza della Repubblica Square
Piazza della Repubblica Square
Palazzo della Signoria
Fake David in front of the Palazzo della Signoria
Foundation of Neptune
Original Statues in Covered Gallery

Eleanora pointed out the little arched openings that can still be found on the outside of some buildings. These openings are called “buchette del vino” (literally meaning “little wine holes”). In the 1500s, many aristocrats were also wine producers. These openings allowed them to sell wine with minimal contact to the common class.

Most of these openings were sealed or covered over until recently. During Covid, many businesses reopened these holes and started using them to sell food and drink without contact.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was the biggest Catholic Church until St. Peter’s Basilica was built in Rome. The two domes are made from bricks, not stones. They are laid in a herringbone pattern which provides extra strength.

Michelangelo’s David statue was commissioned to sit on top of the smaller dome of the cathedral. However, it was too heavy for the dome so was unveiled in 1504 in the public square in front of the Palazzo della Signoria.

Octagon Baptistry
Gold Doors to Baptistry
Front Entrance

Galleria dell’Accademia

In 1873, Michelangelo’s David statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery. The statue is massive!!

The details in the marble are amazing – the bulging veins, flowing hair, and muscles. David’s hands are disproportionally large which is symbolic showing that the head creates the idea, but the hands perform the act.

Our guide told us that there are cracks in David’s ankles and each year restoration work is done to fortify them. We never know how long something will last which is why it was so important to see this special piece of history and art.

The gallery was also filled with other statues. It is hard to believe the detail that can be seen in the stone – the softness of the skin, fingers digging into the skin, flowing hair, and draped fabric. It all looked so life-like.

David
Hall of Models by Bartolini
Rape of the Sabines

We ended our first evening in Florence with a group dinner at the Ristorante Giglio Rosso. We started with a trio of pasta sampler (4 cheese gnocchi, penne with tomato and basil, and ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach) and salad. Franco, the owner, and chef, prepared the beef main course table side. Desserts – cream pie and Francotiramisu (a chef Franco original – tiramisu with chocolate rather than coffee).

We enjoyed an evening walk back to the hotel. We walked 7.3 miles today.

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