Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Firenze, Italy (Florence)

Greetings from along the Adriatic across the lagoon from Venice. Just arrived and settling in before we cross into the island city by passenger ferry in the morning. A big high point these last few days, hanging out with Galileo and Michelangelo, in Florence. We arrived here late this afternoon from Florence or Firenze as it's really named in Italy.

What can you say about the three days we spent in Florence other than that it was wonderful. We stayed at Camping Michelangelo up on a hill overlooking the city of Florence and the River beautiful. A campground among the olive trees just a short bus ride down the hill into downtown Florence. That is the neat thing about campgrounds here in Europe. They are right in or extremely close to all the cities, unlike in the U.S. where they would be miles and miles away. A bus or tram usually comes right by the entrance of the campground every fifteen minutes or so, ready to whisk you wherever you want to go in the city....SO civilized. Sometimes you can even walk from the campground right into whatever city you're located in. The campground in Paris was right along the Seine, for example, right in the city.

At any rate, was awed into silence by seeing both Galileo's house, and by paying homage at his tomb in Florence. To actually realize and feel the fact that these were real people, who lived, worked and walked around in these places, such as Galileo just humbles me, somehow. Tom went to the Museum of Science one morning and was able to see two of the telescopes actually used by Galileo, as well as his finger, carefully preserved (the one he used to polish the lenses of his telescopes, and which was cut from his body when he died, and saved). (Nancy's had to miss a few things such as that due to just pooping out, exhausted, while Tom still had some energy, so she didn't get to see that). His tomb is in the Basilica of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) in Florence, which is kind of funny in the extreme, him being entombed in a church, when at the time of his death, he was considered a heretic, excommunicated and not even allowed to be buried in any "holy" place. However,the story is that the Franciscan monks hid his body for a number of years,in defiance of the Pope and the Church in Rome, it is believed they kept it in the sacristy of this Franciscan church, Santa Croce, and some many decades later, built the tomb in the church where his remains now lie. Of course, it took the Church in Rome another five hundred years to admit that he was right and they were wrong. The earth really DID revolve around the sun!

He shares his place of burial with some other personages of note, and we paid homage to them as well, Michelangelo, Dante, Rossini and Machiavelli, among others. Just so amazing to realize that you're standing right next to the bones of these people.

We went to see Michelangelo's statue of David.......absolutely incredible.......the genius that could take a block of marble so huge (5 meters long) and end up with that work where David virtually lives and breathes was amazing. I sat there nearly a half hour just looking at him. How marble can convey such fluid grace, vulnerability and beauty and bring David literally alive before your eyes. So beautiful........Michelangelo did this work when he was young, also, which makes it even more amazing.

We have discovered Italian gelato, (ice cream), which has to be the most delectable ice cream in the world, sold everywhere, and which has spoiled us forever in the ice cream department. The ingredients were universally much the same: cream, milk, sugar, and whatever flavoring. Yesterday Nancy had coconut and I had pine nut and amaretto. These delicacies are not large servings, but are incredibly satisfying and oh so tasty.

Lots of tourists in Florence, just like in Rome, and we anticipate that Venice will be the same. Every tourist presently touring in the world must be in one of these few cities. They certainly weren't in any other of the cities we visited. Even in Paris, we were able to walk right into the Louvre, no lines, no waiting, but in Rome and Florence, tourists were running out of the woodwork. To get into the museum where Michelangelo's David was took an hour or more of waiting in line just to get in. Although taking photos was not allowed, and there were stentorian women guards louding proclaiming, NO PHOTOS, Tom managed to snap a couple and he was not alone as most people were sneaking photos themselves. They want you to buy the photos they have for sale, because it isn't that photos are going to damage a marble statue.

We of course visited several other churches and a cathedral of note, toured the town's tourist and historical sites, enjoyed (Tom) a stop into a hardware store and food market and enjoyed a capuccino (decaf, of course) and pizza at several of the many trattorias and ristorantes.

We are heading north after this, through the Alps and up into Germany. Not looking forward to the colder weather we'll find up there. This time in Italy in the warmth and sunshine has been wonderful. In three weeks or so, we'll be back in the desert southwest. For Nancy somehow, finding herself right next to Galileo was a real high spot and there's still more to go. Perhaps we'll get to meet Otzi in Bolzano, IT...remember he's the 5000 year old "iceman" found in the Alps a few years ago.........but all in all we have to say that we're looking forward to getting back to bore all of you with countless photos.....Happy trails and much love, tom and nancy

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