Europe 2.0 – Day 11 7 June 

Day 2 of Florence! Today we woke up on time but spent a lot of time going back and forth the supermarket for groceries and also waiting for the bus (it took about 30 minutes to come). Keith recommended us to take a walking tour so headed to the meeting point, basilica santa maria novella, where a jazz band that was made of 3 curly hair guys (like the Jonas brothers) were playing. We found the guide easily and the group was HUGE! Despite splitting into 2, each group was still around 30-40 people strong. 

After BSMN, we walked over to the duomo via the luxury district. We saw the strozzi Palace and I learnt that this family is the feud of the medici family. After the duomo we went to the piazza delle signoria via the museum nazionale (or was it a church that used to be the green market?) and the guide explained to us the significance of some of the statues and sculptures which we passed by. We also learnt more about the medici family, as well as the art and culture related to renaissance. 

At palazzo vecchio, yue shan and I left so as to make our tickets and tour reservation (and to avoid tipping the guide…oops)!

As our tour was at 330pm, we decided to cover more places on our to-visit list. However we weren’t too productive (oops again) – we walked back to the piazza republica (we had passed by it during the tour; it is the old city centre of Florence and now has a big merry go round in the middle). Then we went for lunch at this place which yue shan’s friend recommended. However we not only went to the wrong one, but the good there is also subpar and weren’t priced affordably. I had an eggplant tart for €12 and yue shan had linguini with spicy tomato sauce for €10. To top it off they had a killer cover charge of €3 per person… Sigh… So I spent €20 on a small vegetarian appetiser. It’s especially upsetting because I had wanted to try a dish that’s more specialised for Florence. 

After lunch the journey continues and brought us to Biblioteca del Oblate, which means Oblate library. I had no freaking idea why this place was on the list because it’s a library that local students chill in. I don’t think there’s any touristy significance whatsoever, save for a nice view of the dome from the library’s cafe. It was a confusing and time wasting moment for us haha… 

330pm rolled around the corner and we made our way to palazzo vecchio once again. The words mean old palace in Italian, which means that a new palace is sitting somewhere! (it is the palazzo pitti on the other side of the arno river.) 

Our guide is a young florentine lady with 16 years of experience leading tours in this palace! So cool! Her accent wasn’t too bad and the tour gave us a lot of info about Cosimo the first, who is the first Duke of Florence after the fall of the Republic. She also showed us the rooms of the palace and told us the significance of each. From her introduction, I could understand the personalities of Cosimo and the intentions of the Medici family when they came into power. 

The most awesome of the tour was when we came into a room displaying a collection of world maps and she told us that one of them has a secret passage whereas the rest serves as large closets (or more like walk in wardrobes =p). 

Then after identifying the map with a border running through to the floor, she let us cross the line and brought us behind the map. It was oddly satisfying that when other people not inside the tour were equally amazed (but couldn’t follow us through to discover the secret that lies behind…) Anyways I’m really glad that we found out about this tour, which wouldn’t have been possible if our free walking tour guide didn’t inform us of it. 

The suspense is over and we were all smiles as we step inside. The secret passage way was built for Francesco’s mistress, Bianca HAHAHA! Francesco is the heir of Cosimo. He didn’t like his princess as much as Bianca because the former was a “typical princess” while the prince is a studious and independent man. Bianca is a scholarly lady from Venice and clicked better with Francesco. And the mistress’ area is used for storing her collections of interest, like poisons, textiles, pigments etc. Very interesting. From her room, she even had a secret window that she uses to spy on guests in the main dining hall! V cool 🙂 we all took turns to look through the window. 

The tour only lasted an hour and later yue shan and I made our way to Basilica Santa Croce, which was closed by the time we arrived… Sighs. We got some food from the supermarket to fill our stomachs for dinner (cuz lunch has ripped us off) and started heading to ponte vecchio and piazzle michelangelo for the sunset. The former was pretty underwhelming as most vendors there were selling jewellery. For the latter, The hike up was steeper than I imagined and I was panting by the time we reached. =( #unfit

The view was as promised, pretty amazing. I love how we were better able to appreciate the grandeur of the duomo against the Florence landscape when we’re viewing it from the panoramic viewpoint. 

The sun set later than I expected, at around 9pm!!! So we have been waiting on the steps while enjoying the view with the snacks that we bought earlier. There were many other people sitting with us and I admire the couples who could take in the lovely sunset with their significant other. Hahaha! 

People clapped when a group of marathon runners passed us by (very enthusiastic and supportive, these westerners) and later when the sun dipped behind the hills. About 10 mins later the ‘clouds’ (or actually the puffy trails left behind by aeroplanes) lighted up in orange hues, ending the day on a perfect note. =) 

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Europe 2.0 – Day 10 6 June 

What a bittersweet day… Today we bade goodbye to our lovely home in Tuscany, where we’ve made friends with the locals and 2 guests from Yokeshire, England. I tried to hold back my tears as we hugged one another goodbye. 

And the adventure begins! Today’s check in is only after 2pm so we asked Bruno to drop us off the Paggio Museum which is a stone’s throw away from the PCT station. Initially we thought that we had to visit the place with our turtle homes behind us but thankfully we could leave it somewhere to enjoy the place fully. Paggio is the producer of Vespa which my sis likes them a lot so it’s of special significance for me to visit. I also video called her then to show her around the place. The visit was especially good because it isn’t so crowded and there was free WiFi! Ha! 

Afterwards we had a worrying ride from PCT to Florence because the train conductor kept walking about and we were afraid of being exposed for not having tickets. We got off scott free (again, phew) and later began an arduous wall from Florence grand station to the airbnb. The apartment is located beside the train tracks and we couldn’t cross the roads to get to it although Google maps displayed a through route. Naike welcomed us at the apartment and I loved how big and clean the place was. 

Later we reached piazza san marco and walked to the duomo. Unfortunately the tickets for the cupola has been sold out for today and tomorrow so we had to give the whole package a miss. We still managed to pop inside the Cathedral and took many photos outside so yay! There were many people on the roads and everybody wanted the right of way – the cyclist, the segway riders, the horse carriages, the cars etc. It was pretty chaotic and dangerous to walk around without paying attention! 

Along the way there were many shops and they were selling leather goods, souvenirs, gelato, sandwiches, specialty items etc. At Piazza San Lorenzo we also visited a market selling leather goods; it was super amusing when the vendors (mostly Indians or middle eastern) tried to guess our nationality and greeted us Hello. So far we’ve heard Ni Hao, anneonghaseyo, ohayo HAHAHA! The best was when a guy in Pisa started singing the pen pineapple apple pen song to us lol. 
I put the Lorenzo library and church for the next day as it was closed by the time we reached (sadly we also didn’t visit it the second day as it wasn’t a priority). Afterwards we went off to the Galleria dell’accademia when 7pm rolled around the corner as we had purchased reserved tickets online a few days before. (should be done the same for the duomo combined ticket) 

The museum was a good experience as we managed to Google our way to find out the significance of the paintings and sculptures while we were viewing them. We learnt many things about the Bible in this way and I’m sure so did yue shan =) 

Alas we came to the much anticipated attraction, David by Michelangelo. And mind you, this is the real one (there are 3 other replicas around Florence). He looks really majestic and visitors that were approaching it all seemed to treat it with a lot of respect and admiration. After all David is a biblical hero. 

To end off our museum trip, we went to the bookshop where I became super absorbed in a children’s book called ‘A story of painting’. It describes how paintings have changed over the eras and the special characteristics of each form of painting style. We must have stood there for about 10 minutes w speed reading through the educational books. They also have books written on Leonardo Da Vinci and Dante, a famous poet in Florence. If only we had the whole day… I think we may be stuck in the bookshop longer than the gallery =P