Tuesday, 05-05-2015. Day 258.
Train Tracks, Photographs, And Two Davids.
We were off on another day trip to another Italian city—Florence (called Firenze in Italy)—which is home to another UNESCO World Heritage Site (Historic Center of Florence). But this time, instead of driving, we took the train. We did have to drive a little though—the few kilometers to the Lucca train station, where we parked the car before buying our tickets and waiting for the arrival of the train to Florence.
Despite rumors of an ongoing transit strike, the Italian trains were running on time and we got to Florence is just over an hour. We only had a limited time in the city before we had to catch the train back to Lucca—and we didn't want a repeat of the Kyoto fiasco—so Samantha used Florence Map and Walks to set up our own walking tour. That let us hit the ground running as soon as the train pulled into the Florence station.
Allinari National Museum of Photography
Our first stop was the Allinari National Museum of Photography. We weren't sure what to expect from this place, but it was near the train station and was intriguing enough that we wanted to take a look. It's tucked away inside a small plaza, so it took us a little while to find it. But once we did, we found it to be more of a gallery than a museum. It claims to have more than two million photos, but only a small number of these were on display—although some of them were really cool, like an old-style double-exposure of a cat and a girl. The main draw while were there was a series of photos from World War I called The Great War.
Our walking tour included lunch at a then-to-be-determined location, but when we saw Brewdog Firenze, there was no question where lunch was going to be. We sat down and ordered some food and drinks and started to enjoy a nice, leisurely, craft brew experience ... and that's when I broke my camera.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale
Despite the camera woes, we soldiered on after lunch. There was a market to explore, after all. We didn't end up buying anything, but we do enjoy browsing the street markets in various cities to see what there is to see.
Basilica di San Lorenzo
After we walked through the central market, we took a stroll past the Basilica di San Lorenzo, a church that's famous for being the local church of the powerful Medici family and the burial site of the major Medici players. As a counterpoint to its rough-hewn exterior (Micheangelo's design for the facade was never completed), the interior is designed in high Renaissance style. We didn't venture inside, however—we were on a walking tour.
IL Duomo di Firenze
After we left the Basilica di San Lorenzo, we walked the short distance to the much larger Florence Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, an impressive church which is part of the city's UNESCO site. Construction on the church began in 1296, but it wasn't completed until 1436. A few things stalled it along the way, like the death of the first architect, the arrival of the Black Death, and an architectural fight between rivals Ghiberti and Brunelleschi over the construction of the main dome.
We didn't go inside this church either, but it was an impressive piece of architecture with an amazingly detailed Gothic revival facade. You can pay to climb up to the dome's cupola and the tower, but as we did in Pisa, we passed on the opportunity to climb them. The lines were long and, at €10 a pop, was a little too expensive for our budget.
From there we walked through the old part of Florence (the UNESCO site), and up a long set of steps to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo, which dates back to 1869 and is famous for offering great views of the entire city.
From this piazzale, you can see just how the Florence Cathedral dominates the city's landscape. There's also a replica of Michelangelo's David here, cast in bronze, but smaller and with a critical piece of the anatomy missing.
We walked back down the steps and toward the Galleria dell'Acadamia, where the statue of Michelangelo's David is on display. Our walking route took us right past the Museo Galileo. Alas, it was closed up tight by the time that we got there, but we were still able to check out the Monumental Sundial outside.
The sundial was built in 2007 and tells both true solar time and the period of the year in conjunction with the brass marking inlaid around the monument.
Spoon - I eat earth
Not too far from Museo Galileo, around and on the exterior wall of the Gallery Hotel Art, there's an art installation consisting of many spoons commemorating Expo2015 and its theme of "Feeding the planet, energy for life." If not for the really long and self-ingratiating plaque near the spoons, I'm not sure the message would have been clear. But hey ... art.
Then we walked through the Piazza della Signora, which is where the original Michelangelo's David used to stand until 1873 when it was moved inside to the ...
And that brought us to the doorstep of the Galleria dell'Academia. As we tend to do for the big tourist draws, we bought tickets in advance. The lines to get in weren't that long, but because we had the tickets, we just strolled right in and got to the art—and this museum has a lot of it.
In addition to many paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries (including work by Botticelli), Michelangelo's famously unfinished Prisoners is housed here, as well as the ever-popular Rape of the Sabines, which is really fun to explain to your kids.
Of course there's David.
There's not much to be said about David that hasn't already been said, other than at 17 feet tall, he's bigger than you expect. Oh, and perhaps a special note of interest that selfie-sticks are not allowed around David.
After we left the Galleria, we double-timed it back to the train station and caught the evening train back to Lucca. Unlike our train to Florence, this one was packed to standing room only.