Florence & Il Centro

by homer

It’s been an increasingly busy few days since I’ve caught up on Jet Lag and started sleeping through the night. The most difficult part has not been staying asleep, but rather getting to bed before midnight (and preferably at 10:00PM)– something I haven’t done regularly since I was nine or ten years old.
On Wednesday Bryan recommended that I go to Florence and get some real-world Italian under my belt. I’ve been in tandem with the only other English-speaking guy my age in this town, Christian. He’s just graduated from high school in Montreal and is on a bit of a tour around Italy (and next Romania), tracing family heritage and discerning exactly where he wants to go to school. As a technophile and Apple nut, he’s got the technology to take wonderful pictures and capture what I am too lazy and unterested to do. So I seized his pictures he took of the “downtown” or Il Centro and of Florence to post up.

The Florence experience was wonderful, but travelling in Italy is no glamorous task. I went to bed that night at midnight and woke up at 4:15 AM for no good reason. After a coke and a cold shower, we were on the road before 5:00 just as the sun was coming up and the monks were finishing their matins or vigil prayers starting at 4:15 and going an hour. We arrived in Spoleto an hour later to take the train to Terontola and another two hours to Florence. Arriving 8:30AM, we stumbled onto the street and found ourselves something to eat: Preschutto, tomato and mozzarella cheese sandwich with some nestea. We kept the bottles and filled up at the periodic public fountain; the water is moderately cold and delicious and free. We took a turn at the Duomo, this magnificant church built during the Medici era of religious nepotism, piety and corruption– all the things that made the church so interesting to study today. As we crossed the Fiume Arno (Arno River) we ended up in the leather dealer district of Florence, and everywhere there was bags and shoes and gloves– everything from a nice $50 pair of dress shoes to $350 pair of leather gloves. By the time noon rolled around, the heat had set in. I was sweating moderatly and Christian was drenched from carrying around two cameras and a video camera that he never used. Our pace slowed, and the stop-and-go action of seeing something and waiting for Christian to take pictures became stop-and-go action at pubs to keep out of the sun and keep properly hydrated. We asked for recommendations of spots to see from everyone we saw who spoke good English, but the streets are sufficiently winding and non-linear enough that we never made it to any of the spots– the scenery from outside the museums with hour-waits was beautiful and we were pressed for time because we had to pick up the 4:00PM train back home.

The climax of our trip was back at the duomo. We spent some time in the church, and then when the line was short we paid our €6.00 to climb 463 steps to the top of it. What a view. The new perspective was really a demonstration of the compact-ness of Italian towns– they really aren’t all that big, but contain as much as American towns three times the size.

Sweaty, tired and chafing, we headed back to the station and stopped in the local McDonalds to give a taste to an Italian version of the Big Mac. Everything tasted the same, but the straws were labeled “McDonalds, ©1986”. I got an extra one as my single souvenouir, but Christian threw it away. Jerk.

The trains were unpredictably late, and we missed our first connection in Foligno and had to take the second one. We got the last train back to Spoleto, where the 8PM Bus was waiting for us to take us back to Norcia. We got home, had a delicious meal of meat tortellini at Trattoria dal Francese and a long shower. Meeting up at 10:15, we went out for a glass of wine and decided that we were too exhausted to keep our eyes awake, yet alone be social. I was in bed by 11:00 and asleep by 11:01 with that sort of deep comatose that would make a sleep apnea sufferer look fidgety.

The remaining pictures are of the town square and various statues, door knobs and things Christian thought were interesting. Then there’s a random picture of something that looks like elementary school pizza that’s been puked on; that’s the delicious pizza I had at the gas station in Orte on my way to Norcia some eight days ago; it feels like its been a month.