People, Toppling Dogs and the Umbrella Brigade

This was our last full day in Florence because we are leaving for Venice tomorrow morning. We left early and it was beautiful this morning. It was about 56 degrees, windy and really sunny. This was encouraging considering the freezing rain from yesterday.

Interesting local interaction of the day: On the bus, I was standing by the middle doors and an older lady wearing nice clothes, hair fixed and a lot of make up leaned really close to me and said “blah blah blah marco” while pointing at my face. At first, I didn’t know she was talking to me (there’s a language problem on my end) so I was just kept looking at her. She did it again and pointed more vigoursly at my face. So this time, I said “scusi????” and she repeated herself gesturing wildly. I had NO IDEA what she was talking about. I was just about to start saying “no parla italiano” when Jose suddenly said “ohh those are Blu Blockers” as she stepped off the bus. Jose fills me in that he thinks she was either asking me what kind of sunglasses I have, or what designer they were. Apparently, in the fashion capital of the world, my $15 Blu Blockers from Walgreens are quite eye catching. What do you think?
Que marca?? *finger pointing*

We got off the bus at the train station stop and started walking. Our plan was to go to the Uffizi Gallery (we foolishly did not reserve tickets because we weren’t sure when we would be able to go), have another sandwich or two from I Fratellini (see yesterday Part 1), walk across the Ponte Vecchio bridge and tour the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, go have dinner and head home. Riiiight. This is what actually happened today:

We got off the bus and started walking toward the Duomo, it was so lovely today, there were horse carriages out and a TON of people.
foto 055

foto 052
As we were walking between the Duomo and Baptistery it was very windy and a huge gust of wind blew a lot of things around. Suddenly, I heard a loud, high-pitched barking- yapping and down at my feet a small yippy dog was rolling around tangled in its leash, literally doing somersaults. The people with the dog were laughing at the poor thing as it was rolling over and over. How often do you see a dog rolled over by the wind??? Too bad I was not camera ready 😦

I was surprised considering how this is not exactly peak season just how many people were in Florence. So we made our way down a Via Calzaiuoli to Piazza Della Signora where there was a sighting of a member of the Umbrella Brigade!!!!!!! This time I was prepared and camera ready.
Piazza della Signoria

This piazza is full of statues including a copy of David in it’s original location (I think!)
Fake David @ Piazza della Signoria

There was also a state of Perseus holding Medusa’s decapitated head. This was quite familiar to me because my dad has had a mini version of this statue in various locations in his home for as long as I can remember. It was nice to have a friendly reminder so far from home!
Perseus with the Head of Medusa

Jose and I walked all the way to the back of the line for the Uffizi Gallery and settled in for a long wait.
Waiting in line at Uffizi Gallery
I occupied myself by taking pictures of the river and its surroundings, a small car (as many times as I have seen them, they continue to amaze me), and we took a few pictures of ourselves.
Ponte Vecchio

Arno River

Compact car

Waiting in line at Uffizi Gallery

I was lucky enough to catch another member of the Umbrella Brigade!
Umbrella Brigade
I won’t embarrass us by saying exactly how long we stood in line, but it was more than one hour and less than three.
Waiting in line at Uffizi Gallery
Finally we get inside the museum and quickly realize that neither of us really cares for renaissance art…ugh B O R I N G. We did walk through a tunnel that had many paintings of violent acts. That was a bit disturbing: stabbings, decapitations, impaling, and a huge shield of Medusa’s bleeding head. EW – We did walk through about 70% before we had to get out! I’m really more of an Impressionism fan, and Jose prefers cave paintings.

Those of you who know me well, know that I have issues with public toilets (also called Water Closets {WC} in Europe), but I really had to go. Near the exit was a unisex bathroom, which I approached with caution. I opened one door and it was not pretty, so I moved to the next one. I wish I had been able to photo what I saw. It was a toilet with a lid and no seat, kinda like a urinal that you can close, and it had running water. shssssh sshhhhhsssh nonstop. There was no way in hell I was going to use that thing. So I turned around and went back. Closer to the exit there were other signs for toilets. So I tried again. This time, I had to walk through a barricade, around a corner and I came to a stairway that was made of metal mesh leading into a dark, dungeon-like basement. It was moist and smelly. Hell NO. So, I turned around again and went back to meet Jose. “I’ll wait” I said (just like when I was seven and went camping with Dad and Val {for three days} and realized there were no toilets).

So our plan is now way off track AND the weather is now cloudy and chilly again — and I really have to go to the bathroom. So we cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and get mobbed by literally a thousand people.
Streets of Florence

We stopped at a trendy place called Open Bar for lunch, decent but overpriced. We had a mix of crostini, salad and spinach ravioli in a bechemel/tomato sauce.
Spinach Ravioli & Tomato Sauce

oh, and in case you were wondering, the bathrooms here were clean and nice.

– Chris

——-

Chris is going to bed so I’ll finish writing this post for now… – Jose

After stopping at Open Bar we decided to go see the Boboli Gardens which were next to the Palazzo Pitti. We thought they were just some free gardens behind the palace so we went over there to check it out. So we get there and all we see is this huge fortress of stone and no entrance to the gardens. At this point we were completely museumed-out so we just wanted to see the freaking flowers and get the hell out of there. We walked along the castle to find some sort of opening to the gardens. Suddenly in the far distance we see this gate and green stuff behind it. That must be the secret entrance we thought. So we rush over there, after taking a couple of lion photos, and this is what we find….
Boboli Gardens

So OK fine, we’ll go see if we can get some sort of cheap rate just to go to the gardens since we don’t care about the 45 museums inside the Palazzo Pitti. So we head over to the big entrance in what must have been 40mph-dog-flipping-winds. We get to a guy that is working at the entrance and he starts telling me “Prego?! Prego?!”. I can’t stop thinking of bad spaghetti sauce every time I hear that. So after a short spacing out, I remember that the tickets were at another window about 400 feet away (how convenient). So we finally head over there and see a sign that says, access to the gardens 50% off! So we were like yeah!!! Then Chris reads the fine print, the offer is only good for EU citizens. So we ended up not paying the 50 bucks to see a few flowers. It was already almost 5pm and we were both freezing (we are having totally freakish weather) so we decided to head back to the center of town.

On the way back we see freaking Gandalf from Lord of the Rings selling some paintings by the Pitti Palace. We tried to do a “take a photo of me next to this boring wall” just to get Gandalf in the shot but the tricky wizard evaded us every almost time. This is the best photo we ended up with.
Gandalf The Gray Artist

Side note: there are a lot of vendors around here, selling mostly illegal items. They carry around large sheets filled with either knockoff purses, sunglasses (no Blu Blockers apparently), or umbrellas when it’s raining. We saw about 6 of them completely pack their stuff and pretend they weren’t selling a thing as a couple of cops walked by the area. It was quite a sight.

We went back to I Fratellini for a couple of more sandwiches which we took back to the inn. After a short nap at the Inn we headed over to “Pane E Olio”, a little local place recommended by our inn keeper. We were originally going to Trattoria Sostanza but didn’t really want to deal going back to the city again since we were cold and tired.

So we took the bus outside of the inn and headed over there. It was a cute little restaurant with only about 10 tables inside. It was mostly filled with Italians so that’s always a good sign. We had a wonderful waiter who knew English enough to explain all the menu items. Before I forget, all the places we went to had the nicest waiters around. Really nice down to earth people who weren’t being nice just to get a better tip. Chris had some sort of cod dish and I had spaghetti with clams and mussels. Chris’ dish was really good even though it didn’t really photograph that well.

Here’s me eating my dinner.

For dessert we got a ‘chocolate flan’ which was not really a flan by any American standards but more like a Morton’s legendary chocolate cake aka a chocolate lava cake. It was really good. Chris had an apple cake which was also great.
Chocolate lava cake

Apple cake

After we got the bill we asked the waiter to call as a cab. It’s common practice in Florence to just ask your waiter for a cab and they’ll call for you and tell you how many minutes till they arrive. It’s a really nice touch that lazy people like me can really appreciate.

That was pretty much our day. We are traveling to Venice tomorrow. That’s the only stop in our trip that doesn’t have internet access so it might be a couple of days until we post something new. There might be a chance that someone is “sharing” a wifi connection near our hotel room but I wouldn’t expect that to happen for sure. So we’ll talk to you in a couple of days (maybe Tuesday night the earliest).

Nina, if you happen to be reading this blog, we pet Irina, the inn owner’s cat today. She really likes us and would like to take part in an exchange cat program. So pack your bags, cat!!!

Cat from Villa La Sosta

– Jose (and sleeping Chris)

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One Response to People, Toppling Dogs and the Umbrella Brigade

  1. Stephanie says:

    Sounds like another entertaining day in Italy! A dog rolling in the wind, now I can’t say I’ve ever seen that! You guys always have such great stories! Enjoy the next few days, can’t wait to read the next entry into the Pulgar’s National Lampoon’s Italian excursion!

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