Saturday, November 2, 2013


Cities in Italy are unlike cities in the rest of the world. Italy has a very stark contrast between its historic buildings and more modern buildings. Things from the middle ages can be right next to things from the 1800s, and no one bats an eye. There is no blending.

HEADS UP the photos are probably not going to correspond much with what I'm writing.

Santa Croche cathedral

This is a Franciscan church, as opposed to Dominican. The Dominicans had more money, so this church is much simpler in material and design. You can tell really well because of the arches- they aren't vaulted and the spans are made with triangles, not real arches.

The tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, and Dante, respectively. We also visited Dante's house

Dead guys just interred in the floor

With that said, picture Florence in your brain. Google it if you have to. Yellow houses, red tile roofs, big fat Duomo. Right? We drove into the city on Wednesday, and it looked NOTHING like my imagination said it would. I think we came in from the university side, because I thought it looked more like metropolitan Paris than an Italian city.

A piazza, then the courtyard of the San Lorenzo monastery

Michelangelo designed these steps in the library at San Lorenzo :)

In the daylight though, the city lives up to all preconceptions. It is beautiful and yellow, there are leather goods stalls literally on every corner, and TONS of tourists. It may have been worse than Venice in that regard. But there were lots of statues to see and piazzas to hang out in and places to walk to.

I spent a lot of time at the Duomo. It was designed and built by Brunelleschi in the 1400s, and is super impressive because it is built as two shells- an outer and an inner shell. On Halloween (Thursday), Hanna, Ryan, Rebecca and I hiked up to the top of the dome. It's totally awesome, because you walk in between the two shells to get up there. The view of the city from up there was absolutely stunning, the red roofs sprawled out for miles. You can pick out which towers and tall buildings were built in which time period, too. The darker stone ones were the middle ages, the churches were in the Renaissance, and so on and so forth. On Friday, Hanna, Ryan, and I climbed the tower next to the Duomo and sketched for a while. Good fun. I struck up some conversation with a friendly Austrian and an Argentinian architect- I love meeting people.

The front facade of the Cathedral, and the fresco on the interior of the Duomo

The vaulted arches (definitely NOT a Franciscan church), and us up in the top of the inside of the church. Getting ready to climb up to the top!

Climb climb climb. Mildly terrifying, because there is only one way up and down. So there's lots of congestion and apparently people didn't really believe in adequate handrails in the 1400s

Side note though, people LOVE to watch you draw. They love to be nosy and judge how you draw. They will crane their necks to see what you're doing and crowd around behind you. It's really awkward to be in the middle of a drawing and suddenly sense someone behind you, then turning to see two people literally staring at what you're doing. Even worse is when they take photos of you. We've had some awkward interactions with people trying to take our photos while we draw, like one person will stand behind you and the other will take "their" photo, but it's totally of you. It's really uncomfortable. So, if ever you see someone drawing, please, leave them alone. Don't be nosy, and for the love of all that is covered in melted cheese, DON'T TAKE THEIR PHOTO. Especially without asking.

This little shop does all the repair work on the cathedral. Apparently, 80% of what you see on the Duomo has been replaced- BY THESE GUYS

As far as other "things to see" in Florence, I saw the Ponte Vecchio and some other random bits, but no sculptures. It cost 11 euro to see the David, and the line was always at least 30 minutes long. And I couldn't find the museum where the Pieta is housed. And anyway, they have taken to making reproductions of these works for safety reasons. A crazy guy came at the Pieta with an axe a few years ago, which is why they moved it. But now there's a chance the statue you see is not actually the real one.

Ben is wise

The Duomo!

I also experienced the most anticlimactic Halloween of my life in Florence. Since the hotel didn't have wifi and the free wifi in the piazza was very limited, I didn't see photos online of people's costumes or got any Halloween hype. And I didn't carve a pumpkin or eat candy or dress up or anything. Hanna, Rebecca and I went out Halloween night with plans to hit up a bar I found, but we ended up wandering the city and listening to the street musicians. It was really nice, and I enjoyed watching all the people walk by who WERE dressed up. We eventually made it to the bar, where I received a free lobster hat. Kids in Florence trick or treat at the restaurants instead of apartments/houses (because they aren't really accessible), so we had kids running in and out of the bar to get candy. Pretty odd.


I have less than a week left of my trip! I am in Sienna until Monday, and then we head to Rome. I think it's going to take me a couple months to process everything I've seen and to formulate an opinion of my experience. I just want to nap and eat macaroni and cheese when I get home.

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