15.05.2014 - 15.04.2014 70 °F
For Thursday, May 15th, we're going to take the train from Venice to Florence, and make a day out of it, staying overnight and departing the next morning for points south. We're not big on Renaissance art, so we're skipping the museums during this trip.
The train from Venice to Florence is, as usual, a breeze...I really enjoy using the Italian train system for transportation. We've booked a room at the Hotel Laurus Al Duomo, and it's really very nice and centrally located. Here's the view from our room:
After a light snack, we head over toward the Duomo complex. Our plan is to climb both the dome and the bell tower. To do so, you first need to stop at the ticket office, on the south side of plaza, opposite the Baptistry. The ticket is now a combined fare for all of the Duomo complex.
The Baptistry itself is currently undergoing exterior renovations, and is covered with canvas.
We do, however, get to see the replica of the "Gates of Heaven":
First up, the climb to the cupola of the Duomo. Brunelleschi's dome is an engineering marvel, and architects are still trying to figure out how he managed to accomplish the construction of this vast dome without the use of timber forms or concrete. This journey is foot powered, all the way. Your first ascent is through spiral stairs ascending through the transept of the church.
Eventually, you reach the base of the dome itself, where you have an incredible view of the fresco. You're also surrounded by a plexiglass wall, which inhibits photography somewhat.
The next phase is a circular climb between the inner and outer shell of the dome. It's dark and crowded, and you often have to squeeze over to make room for groups of people descending, but eventually, you reach the hatch to the cupola, and rewarding views.
After a while, we squeeze back down through the hatch, and navigate the stairs back to ground level. So, what to do after you've seen an engineering marvel from the inside? Hey, let's climb a bell tower!
The Campanile has four platforms, so you have an opportunity for breaks and views at each level.
The views aren't much different as those you can get from the cupola, but you have the added bonus of seeing the dome from the outside. If tight, enclosed spaced bother you, I definitely recommend the Campanile as an alternative to the Cupola.
Weak-kneed from our back-to-back climbs, we wander around Florence for a bit, catching some of the iconic views.
We decide to have dinner at Trattoria San Lorenzo. Normally, I would expect a restaurant in such close proximity to a major tourist site to be mediocre, but this was an unexpectedly nice meal. We both chose Papardelle pasta with Cinghiale, a broad ribbon pasta with a wild boar sauce (our first time eating boar). Delicious! Intense pork flavor with the al dente pasta was a great combination, and worked well with the house red.
In the morning, we'll be taking the long commute on a fast train south to Salerno.