Monday, August 12, 2013 a Day!

We arrived at the Firenze S.M. station right on time. I feel like we’re becoming seasoned travelers now! First order of business was to find breakfast for Alex. I wasn’t sure when we’d have a chance to eat again and he’s not one who’s into the pastry type breakfast! He found McDonalds and was good to go. We left the train station and found the taxi area. We’d have to get two taxi’s to fit all 6 of us and our luggage. We told the driver’s the name of our hotel, the Hotel Monna Lisa, and off we went – the kids and I in one, and Keith and my parents in another. 

When I’ve told people we’re going to Florence, unlike when I’ve told people we’re going to Rome or Venice, I always get comments like “oh, you’ll LOVE Florence” or “Florence was my favorite city” “I can’t wait to go back to Florence” As I mentioned with Rome, I got a lot of “Rome was dirty, Rome was crowded, Rome was too much like a big city” and with Venice I heard a lot of “Venice was ok, but it smelled, or Venice was overpriced, it was ok but I wouldn’t want to go back”. So I was intrigued about Florence. What was it about Florence that made so many people love it? And I absolutely loved Venice and even though at this point I had only spent one afternoon and night in Rome, I thought it was a pretty amazing place! So – let’s check out this place called Florence!

My first impression just from the taxi ride, on a Tuesday morning was good grief it’s crowded here! It wasn’t at all what I expected. I expected a small town as compared to Rome. It felt big and like a city and it was busy! But we’ll see! 

We got to our hotel, which was off what felt like a smaller side street, behind one of those GIANT doors that opened up into a haven! I think it’s amazing how you’re in a city and you open up a giant door and suddenly you are in a garden!

We checked into our hotel, and our guide, Christina was right there waiting for us! This was our plan. Since our rooms wouldn’t be ready and we only had this one day – we’d leave our luggage locked up and head out for a tour of Florence with Christina, from Tours by Locals! It was about 10:15 am and we were ready to go!

So, how did I book this tour? Most of the research I’d done was for “port” excursions. But we weren’t coming from a ship for the day. I was having a hard time finding a tour of Florence once I was already in the city. The ones I did find didn’t really fit our time frame. We weren’t there at 8:00 am or even 9:00 am. We had plans at 6:30 already scheduled so we couldn't do a tour that started in the afternoon that was a "full day" tour. We wanted to see David at the Accademia, but also see the highlights of Florence. I knew I needed a private tour. I stumbled upon the company Tours by Locals while researching our port day in Palma de Mallorca which would be coming up on the Epic, and found Christina who would soon be booked for our day in Florence. It was a perfect fit! She knew we had just traveled from Venice and was totally flexible with what we could do and wanted to do! She was an absolute joy to spend the day with! Within five minutes I felt like we were old friends. 

I wish I could remember the details of where we went, the names of the squares (campos) and all of the buildings, but of course I wasn’t taking notes I was just taking it all in. She was a great story teller and I know we saw what we wanted to see.

We stopped in this square and spent some time hearing about the buildings and this horse statue. I honestly don't remember why it was so important now though! 

Of course we went to the Accademia. She had reserved tickets for us, and we went and picked them up, walked right past everyone waiting in line and went right in. I can not understand why people do not pre-reserve tickets! Why would you wait in line if you don’t have to?  Some of those people wait in line for HOURS! Anyway, there is security like at the airport where you scan your bags and then you’re in. Christina came in with us and gave us an amazing history of Michelangelo. We started with the Prisoners statues. She really taught us how to see those pieces. It was amazing. Then of course we saw David. She had us stand at different angles. She really gave us an art lesson as we studied the piece. It was breathtaking. By this point in the trip we had seen statues, and now we could compare this piece to many others and you could understand why this one stands out as a masterpiece. The detail, the size, the smoothness of the marble. You can not help stand in awe as you take it all in. Christina explained how the position of his arms and legs cause you to see motion. How your eye moves through the piece. There would have been no better way to see David than to have her narrate it for us. It was amazing.

Note - this isn't my picture, since you can not take pictures in the Accademia, but for the sake of the blog - here's David:

If only you could take pictures....but no, we'd have to settle for pictures of the "fake David" later in the day....

Next up...The Duomo!

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