Friday, March 20, 2009


Our two excursion days wound up back-to-back because of the rain all week. After the long day in a van with driver, on Saturday we rose early to make the train to Florence, about an 1.5 hour trip.

We visited the cathedral of course, where I took a huge number of photos of the elaborately carved doors and interior icons.

My bird fetish especially enjoyed all the critters I snapped.

I declined to climb the 414 steps up Giotto's Campanile to see the view, as I figured my feet would be needed to walk all over the city later in the day.

We stopped for a pasta lunch, unfortunately omitting the mouthwatering desserts at the restaurant.

We meandered toward the river, passing shops, cars, and markets. Finally we arrived at the famed Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge lined with jewelers' shops.

Street artists were everywhere, and I stopped to buy a watercolor of the Ponte Vecchio. The artist, Vittoria Scaffidi, makes her work unique by extending the painting with more color or pen and ink onto the mat.

When we caught up with our instructors at the Palazzo Pitti, they were working extremely hard, preparing for our final day of class.

Here we had to decide whether to look at the decorative arts there or return to the Uffizi to see the fine arts. That was a hard call for me. If I had it to do over, I'd do the Uffizi early, grab something quick to eat, and then go to the Palazzo Pitti.

The Uffizi is hands-down the most recommended site in Florence. Luckily it was the off season; even so it required a wait in line to get tickets, then many hours to do even a quick pass through all the famous paintings. We had to backtrack to see "The Birth of Venus" because it was in an inner room that we missed. No photos were allowed, of course, and I declined to lug a heavy catalog home. I did buy a book about sketching through Tuscany because it reminded me so much of our experience.

After the art wore us down, I finally got my first gelato of the trip. We wandered back around to the bridge, to find the rest of our group enjoying wine and cappucino there. After a brief rest, we moseyed on, with a few quick shop entrances, to a square with performing jugglers. We had an early dinner of pasta again, before returning to the train station for the ride home.