Monday, June 29, 2009

Florence Day 1&2 - Thursday/Friday

We took the three hour train to Florence Thursday morning (half the
price for a trade off of twice the time of the express train). The
scenery was beautiful. After an hour outside of Rome, it was very
rural with lots of sunflowers, grapes, and wheat. Even a shepherd
with his flock near the tracks. Which brings us back to toilets. It's
a three hour trip, and as Gilligan experienced, it could be much more.
So we checked around on the train. There are gas station quality
lavatories WITH seats. But looking through those seats, you could
actually, visually, non metaphorically see the train tracks. This
sounds like a public health disaster. But not having a bathroom on a
three hour train is another disaster. At the very least, there should
be a sign in several languages saying, "Don't use while in the
station." Avoiding open sewers is one of the hallmarks of a
developed nation. The smell of some tracks in the station defies this
Once in Florence, we proceeded to the bus stops that I had looked up
on Google. We even bought a bus map this time. It's not a simple
process because not all buses leave from the front of the station.
They leave on all sides with a several block radius. We got on the
right bus. We pushed the stop button at the right stop. We stepped
toward the front door to exit. Then only the back doors opened. By the
time we shuffled toward the back doors, which closed as we approached
them. It turns out you can ask the driver to open the doors, but he
does not intuit that need when you approach the door. So the bus
crossed the river, and we ended up a mile away after exiting from the
back doors. Nov we had started 0.8 miles away. We could have walked,
but the bag was heavy and buses are easy, right? Then we got on the
right bus going in the wrong direction, ending up two miles from the
hotel. Many minutes later, we found the right bus in the right
direction. The right direction is not necessarily just across the
street because of the weird routing. The bus wins again.

Being defeated left me grumpy.
We arrived at the Garden Hotel, and it was nice and also affordable. I
started feeling better. The front desk lady knew some English, and
told us, "you walk-uh down the river-uh, it look-uh real nice-uh." She
was right-uh. We toured the center of the city. We had seen the
American consulate on the way over. By the time we were done, it
seemed like there should be an Italian consulate. Americans were
everywhere. So were shops for Italian leather. The city was beautiful,
but the tourists seemed to overwhelm it. I suppose we were part of the

The Duome Cathedral is a gigantic church with a gigantic dome. We
walked around it after the interior had closed. We had a nice dinner
at a sidewalk café with a view of the dome. The lasagna was
wonderful. They had all you can eat olive oil, vinegar, and parmesan
cheese but no free refills on Coke or even water. I guess Italians
have different priorities and a lot of olives.

The next day we dropped off our bag at the train station. Getting to
the train station on the bus was very easy. Every bus heading in that
direction is labeled on the front. Going the other direction is not as
easy; the buses are not labeled D+L's hotel. From the train station,
we walked to the bus stop that headed to the gardens. After two
missed scheduled times, we and several others decided to walk. It
started to sprinkle a little, so we headed to the covered Old Bridge,
the only bridge the Nazis didn't mine on their retreat from Italy. We
know this fact because we were crowded next to a tour group as we
huddled under the covering against the driving rain. One skinny girl
next to us could not stop shivering. L commented to me, "That's what
you get with no body fat." The rain subsided a bit still looked a bit
threatening, so we decided to head back to the dome. It was also
beautiful on the inside, but I think we have hit the wall and are
experiencing church touring fatigue. A McD €1 menu balanced out the
nice meal from last night.

While we waited on the Albano train in Rome, I scored an economic
victory. I found a cheap €1.70 1.5 L Coke vs €3-4 around the station
for a 500 ml from a black man in a Chinese block of Rome. Truly an
international experience in the eternal city.


  1. I love reading about your trip!
    And I'll share a little bit from home... as I was reading this post on my laptop at my desk, I stretched out my legs and my toes felt something strange. I wiggled my toes and wondered what it was. Wadded up socks? No, I'm not that careless with my socks.
    It was... your cat.
    Tucker was sleeping under my desk and I had inadvertently been playing footsie with him.
    (I thought you'd enjoy hearing about that.)

  2. No free refills! I could never dine out there!