Christian Art, Laundry with the Jersey Shore, and more in Florence, Italy

After a great first few days in Venice, I was psyched to get to Florence. I laced up my wet shoes (see my last post on why they were so wet), got on the train, and off I sped into central Italia. The train ride felt long with my excitement to see the capital of Tuscany. Finally through my window, I saw the beautiful hills of Tuscany, green and lush. As I got off the train in Florence and tried to get my bearings, out of the corner of my eye was a big red dome. I turned around; the Duomo was in front of me in all its splendor. And to my pleasant surprise, I found that my hotel was only one block away.

It was late enough so I decided to grab some great Tuscan food (aka meat) and spent the rest of the night blow drying my shoes and socks to get ready for the next few days’ adventures.

First thing the next morning, Utrip had me tackle the Duomo complex. As some of you may know, the Duomo complex is composed of six main parts: the museum, the cathedral, the bell tower, the crypt, the baptistery, and of course the dome itself. Each has its own ticket line. Upon my arrival, the queue for the cathedral was huge so I decided to start at the museum. While I was slowly losing patience waiting in line for my ticket, a kind man informed me that a combined ticket, including all the attractions except for the dome, would save me both money and time – sounds like a sweet deal to me. Additionally, I found out that the combined ticket was good for 4 days, so I could spread out my visit if I wished. Starting at the museum was a great choice as it gave me an extensive historical and artistic context about the Duomo, which made the remaining experience even more interesting and meaningful.
Now I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss audio guides. Like many other tourists, I’m frustrated that after paying to get into these museums and sights, I am again asked to pay for an audio guide that are often almost as expensive as the admission ticket itself. What’s even more disappointing is when the audio guide doesn’t provide helpful information. In Florence, however, I was happy to find a few gems. A good guide (real, audio, or multimedia) can really make the experience for a first time visitor. Take the Cappella Dei Brancacci for example (sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance). While it is a small place, most of which is closed to public visitation, the chapel contains some of the most astonishing fresco paintings I’ve ever seen, and this is coming from a history rather than an art buff. Without the guide it is merely a handful of wonderful works of art. However, the multimedia guide (which is only 1 euro) transforms the entire experience, adding a wealth of history and culture, deep insight into the mind of the artists, and their views of religion and the world. A must see when you’re in Florence.
Duomo Bell TowerNow back to my story. After the Museum, I decided to climb up the bell tower, or 404 steep little steps. While many may argue that climbing the Dome is much more popular, the bell tower is a real memorable experience. They differ in height by a mere 5.3 meters (17.4 feet); which at 84.7 meters (~27 floors high) is not a major difference. Nonetheless, the line to the tower is shorter, and you can take amazing photos of the Duomo from the top of the tower.

The DavidMy time in Florence continued splendidly. A city filled with some of the most breathtaking arts, landscapes, and culinary delights. I won’t go into too much detail about the art or I would be writing a book, and it’s better if you let Utrip plan a trip customized for you. But let me share just one, The David.

I often feel that to truly enjoy sculptures, one must be a real art lover, yet this is not true about David. This massive statue, made from one solid piece of marble, stands above the rest (excuse the pun). The attention to detail, the emotion in his eyes, even the curl of his hair makes this giant seem truly life like; like he is a real person standing right next to you. And of course the biblical story from which he comes is inspirational to us all. Not only did I come back for a second look after leaving the gallery which is very unlike me, but on my way out of the museum I darted left to see it just one more time before departing.
Overall Florence was warm (sadly not in temperature while I was there), friendly, and wonderful in every sense of the word. Filled with tourists year around, it is relatively easy to navigate and to get around with limited Italian. Also, with fresh local meats and a rich history of baking, you are bound to leave Tuscany with a happy stomach and a full heart.
Oh and I almost forgot, while tossing my laundry in the machine at this little place by the central market, I saw a picture on the wall. Who was in it you may ask?
Your dear friends J Woww, Snooki, Vinny, & Pauly.
Safe travels!
Utripper Gilad Berenstein

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