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Firenze – Italy

In no particular order of travel, here they go…one at a time, or as and when I feel like posting. First is Florence.

(P.S: The intent here is to confuse the reader as to when and how I visited where, so that events of my life cannot be reconstructed, when a clever nose picker decides to intrude into my life, at a later point of time! Whoa – I feel like giving Sherlock Holmes some work to do.

Okay …forget it, and read on 🙂 )

We reached Florence from Rome by the Trenitalia(one of the Euro rails – more on the trains later) at 11.30 am. Not yet time for lunch, so we decided to track down the hotel first. As instructed on the website, we took the bus, and hopped off at the mentioned stop. And bingo, hotel Europa in big bright letters right ahead of us. The elevator to the reception desk left us wondering if the 2 cabin strolleys we had carried with us was the size of a 1000 giant mosquitoes. The lady at the reception was sweet. Not because she said I looked like a Hindi film actress. Not because she repeatedly said so 😉 She showed us our room, our breakfast area, the views, and a quick guide to Florence. We checked the toilet faucets (not figuratively) , stowed our bags away and then we were off once again on the streets. In search of our first lunch before we went to see Pisa. Lunch done, quite uneventful. By now we had figured out the cheapest and quickest ways to eat were the café joints, and sometimes the most delicious too. Pisa was a good 1.5 hrs away by train. The moment we bought our 11 Euros a piece rail tickets, we realized it was going to be a disappointment. Down at the Pisa station, wait for about half an hour at the bus stop, and a cute Chinese lady, we got down in front of the leaning tower. We had to lean hard to understand why it was world famous. Qutub Minar is much more beautiful. Maybe we should have spent another 6 Euros to go up the stairs to understand why this marvel of Engineering fault was still standing straight. We didn’t.

But we loved the huge lawns, the orange slush, and the church. We took the train back to Firenze (Florence as they call it), and went in search of a good restaurant for supper. Managed to locate a shady looking but highly recommended one, and even sat down to order. But then he refused to serve us just 1 plate of pasta. Now why would that be so. The only reason we could assume was that we were brown Asians, albeit the fairer ones!! May God shower upon the restaurant his choicest blessings, AMEN.

The next day, we slept in later than usual, to take off all the travel dreariness.Then a casual stroll well past breakfast hour, we reached the famous church. Nothing spectacular about this one once you had seen the cathedrals at Rome. The church gates were beautiful though. Shown below is a magnified image of a 1 feet by 1 feet area of the giant gate.

It took another hour of aimless wandering to realize our foolishness for having slept late. Outside the Accademia, that houses the Michael Angelo’s famous David, there was a serpentine queue. We were told reservations could avoid the queue, but since no reservations were available for the day, we could stay or scoot. By then, we had understood there wasn’t much else in Florence besides the famed museums, this one and the Uffizi. So we chose to wait. Tirupati queues are long, rail reservation queues before the advent of internet booking were longer, and this, as Rajnikanth says..is jujupee…True to what we had assumed, the queue cleared very quickly, and we were inside in less than an hour. It was still early in the day, precisely noon time ! We paid the customary 6 Euros entry (felt a little glad, as early reservations would have cost us 2 Euros more) but very soon thought that maybe even the 6 Euros was too much. Ok..the museum was great, multimedia, ancient stones, and Roman tombs…but what the heck..we had seen it all.

It was then that David struck us.

This is THE piece of art(The above picture is just a replica for enthusiastic photographers to take back a memorablia!). For a moment, we stood dumbstruck. Amazing marble beauty. Such precision. The interactive software which helps us take a closer look at the masterpiece was indeed good. After we had spent close to half an hour in sheer awe in front of the statue, we moved on. The rest of the museum took hardly 5 minutes, that which included pondering over a 4 Euro magnet and which we ultimately did not buy. Once out, we had a quick lunch of heavenly sandwiches and coffee in a bistro, and proceeded to the Uffizi.

Here, I have to mention the trouble we have had with money exchange throughout our trip. We had carried more than half of our cash in amex traveller’s cheques. We had found them really convenient in our earlier trip to the US. Nobody warned us that it is not going to be as easy exchanging them in Europe. There was a hefty commission charge, ranging from 3% to 13% everywhere. Now 3 doesn’t seem such a high number, until you convert it back to your local currency, INR. So we trudged on and on as much as we could, until we found the lowest possible commission shop. This included several drop ins to various banks along the way in Rome as well. Banks sure are pretty slow in this part of the continent, God knows why. They are wide inside, with mouse trap entrances. The person at the counter is just as the ones you see in old movies, stiff, spectacled, lot of paper garbage around him/her. But they have no clue about Traveller’s cheques or the nearest American Express Bank. No luck in Florence either, we moved on.

Uffizi looked like an old dilapidated municipal office building, but the much longer queue here as compared to the Academia, indicated that we should indeed check this out. Here it did take time, a little over an hour. But we snoozed in turns, thanks to the delicious lunch we had earlier.

Once inside, awestruck is a belittling word for the place. Over three dozen rooms, of paintings, of every conceivable and famous Italian painter. Some of them are truly mesmerizing. Here I excuse myself for my naivety, on my inexperience on the various paint forms, and the sculpting techniques. Maybe I could have appreciated it much more, if I had invested time in reading them up well before I reached Italy. But what the heck…I definitely did not miss seeing the famous ones, thanks to the surging crowds in front of each such masterpiece, where the tourist guides made their pit stops. I wont be doing any justice to Uffizi by writing about it here, so please check the official website for more information.

Once out of Uffizi, it was snack time again. Pastas in Italy are probably imported from heaven. The icing is not on the cake, but the cake itself ;-), which we had after the pasta.

Then we moved on to Porto Vechio. Why we went there, ask Miriam from Hotel Europa. It was a long dreary walk through the streets of Florence, we saw some jewellery shops, dazzling gold, artsy stuff, scary masks.

Returned to the hotel, but just before we entered, we packed our Asian meal at the Turkish café we had discovered the previous day. Good bye Florence.

Florence Highlights
1. David – at the Accademia – must see
2. Uffizi – grand museum
3. Pisa – waste of time

Filed under: Travel & Books - my pastimes, , , ,

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