Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekend in Firenze

Florence was great. We got up at 4 am to go there. Just outside of Gagliano, we finally saw some wildlife (aside from the scorpions on our floor-yuck)one deer and a pack of wild boar. I didn't realize they travelled in packs but there they were, about 20 of them running in a field near the road including little baby boar. Quite the sight-cinghiale they are called. Before we can go anywhere around here, we have to go up this very twisty mountain road, then down. It takes at least 30 minutes and our bus takes up most of the road. It honks around each blind curve but I see plenty of opportunity for disaster-fortunately it will be tougher on the cars. It's hard to believe that Napolean's army came charging through Gagliano stealing all the riches of the monastery. Our little village is truly in the middle of nowhere. But the Italians, 200 years later, still haven't forgiven i francesi. It takes 5 hours alone to drive to Florence, which is mostly on the autostrade. We drove through Lazio (the province Rome is in) Umbria and finally Toscanna (Tuscany) Lots of girasole in Umbria-I didn't realize there was such a market for sunflower oil. There are hills in both provinces but not the steep mountains of the Abruzzo region where we live. Still, if there is a hill, there's a town on top of it. Both regions are much more populated than the Abruzzo and have lots of farmland. On these trips, we stop at the autostrada's rest stops for the 'Autogrille', which actually have much better food by far than its American counterparts. They have a silly system for ordering. You have to pay for your food first far away from the food meaning you have to remember what you want-hard for the language impaired but also you are stuck standing in two lines. The actual tourist center of Florence is small so they limit how many people can be in it. We had to wait outside Florence for an hour while they confirmed our reservations and they didn't want the bus running. As Firenze is not on top of a mountain, it is very hot. Fortunately our hotel, the Albergo di Firenze, was right in the middle of the action and was fairly nice. A hot shower, with a working drain for a change, a TV, and unlimitted caffè con latte. The first day was spent admiring the architecture (photos to come), eatting lots of gelati and hitting the markets. The Duomo on the outside must be the most magnificent chuch in the world. In France, Spain, England and Germany, all the cathedrals were of sandstone but the Duomo had inlaid marble patterns using mostly white and green marble but with pink and black accents. It is huge. We had trouble getting in the churches as they are really strict about women not having bare shoulders. It was 95 degrees so of course alot of us had bare arms. Outside the churches, Asians were selling prayer shawls. We had dinner at a Rick Steve's trattoria serving Tuscan food-a small family run place. Good. The city is quite magical and busy at night with parades, music, street performers, and all the attractions lit up. Plus the temperature drops to something reasonable. Of all the European cities I've been to, nowhere are the sights so plentiful and close together. I will continue this after my film class.

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