Bologna Wednesday: Off to Florence

We plunk down our 50 Euros per person for a round trip on the high-speed train to Florence. This will give us a new experience — riding a train in Italy — and will get us back to our tourist-free Bologna streets by dinnertime. Looking forward to a ride in the countryside, we are surprised that the train is all underground. Every so often, it pops up for air, and then down you go again. All of the passengers, with the exception of us, immediately fall asleep the minute the train starts to move. Then, in just a half-hour, we are in Florence (or Firenze, which is its real name), the capital city of Tuscany.

Bologna Wednesday



Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and was once ruled by the powerful Medici family. The historic center, which is where all of the really cool bits are, is overrun by millions of tourists every year, and we think we saw every one of them. (Of course, we are tourists too, so we have no right to complain).


One big name after another

The history of Firenze is peopled by heroes and villains, including the di Medicis  (Cosimo, Lorenzo, and Catherine), Savonarola, Michelangelo, Leonardo di Vinci, Dante, and Prince Machiavelli, which is, we suppose, why everyone wants to come here. The streets where they walked, ruled, wrote, created art, or were burned at the stake, still exist. It makes you stop and consider, even amidst the hubbub of tour groups, crying babies, and many languages being spoken all at once.


We hit the high points

Our first stop is to the tourist center, where we holler out “we have about four hours! What should we do?” Map in hand, we are off to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The line is long and we slog through in bovine fashion. Every so often, a mechanical voice says “Sssssssh. Silenzio!” The voice is really loud and freaks us all out. Everybody is quiet for about 45 seconds. Then, its back to business as usual. We leave and try to see the Baptistry doors, but the crowd is 50 people thick, and many of the panels have been removed for restoration so we move on to the Palazzo Vecchio.

The Palazzo is well worth the visit. Most everybody else is over at the Uffizi art gallery looking at famous art treasures, so we are happily crowd-free as we plumb the depths and heights of the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence, and the former seat of power of the di Medicis. It overlooks the Piazza dell Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue and the Rape of the Sabine Women by Jean de Boulogn. While we are there, three “lifters” under the watchful eye of two conservators were hoisting a statue of what we think was the god Mercury, trying to move it back into a niche. Also there is Michelangelo’s The Genius of Victory marble statue, huge and beautiful. The rooms of this palace are fascinating, and we finish up with a visit to a fabulous map room where the new world is sort of a vaguely shaped mish-mash of non-specific stuff.

Finally, we zip off to the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge of merchants, wolf down a gelato, and hoof it back to the train station.


The ride home and a wild Angelus

Back on the train, and back to Bologna, we are home in plenty of time to hear the nightly ringing of the 6 p.m. Angelus bells. Every Catholic church in the area goes bananas at 6 p.m, and each has its own sound and its own tunes or tuneless ringing. It really is a splendid cacophony of sound. Carla imagines a city full of padres hanging onto bell cords for dear life, flying up into the air and then back down to toe-tap the ground before flying up again.
Click on the PLAY ARROW below to hear the church bells! Warning 5 and a half minutes!

Or try this link (Should play, it works on my Mac)


Click on any photo below for full screen slideshow.SWIPE or use spacebar to PLAY/PAUSE.

Bologna Wednesday: Off To Florence

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