09.01.2015 - 13.01.2015 14 °C
We left Venice by boat taxi, getting up early enough to get et breakfast at the hotel before pushing our gear (no much heavier for some reason) bags to the dock, get tickets and hope that the next boat taxi was only 10 minutes away, as the predicted voyage was 35 minutes to the railway stop. The boat was packed with workers and we had to manouver ourselves and our bags on board. We safely arrived with a few minutes to spare and found our train to Florence.
There are many good things to say about the Italian train services, they are very nice and clean, they have an efficient service for passengers meaning that you get booked seats, they leave (and attempt to arrive on time and are ver fast (on this trip the train hit 300ks per hour on a couple of occasions and generally travelled at 240 ks, so ifyou are watching the ccountrysideout of the huge windows, it is whistling by. Iin the odd possibility that you are Korean or Japanese then it just means that your eyelids close sooner on leaving one destination and open quicker as the train stops at your new destination. Must be difficult to know if you have indeed moved or that reality (as you perceive it is actually the same place given a different name).
Anyway we were now in Florence and got a cab to take us to our AirBnB in Lungarno by the river. Vittorio was there to meet us and show us his unique basement apartment. His ecclectic ttaste meant that the walls were like an art gallery and the adornments and furnishings more like museum pieces. Great space, walking distance to town (for us, now seasoned walkers) and just right for our tastes, even if the shower was a tight squeeze, and I rested my head on the underside of the stairs when using the toilet and the kitchen was definitly a one person activity. He was a great help answering questions whilst we were there, left us a a great bottle of wine a tasty breads.....
Over the next couple of days we visited the Uffizzi Gallery, too many churches to mention although it's best I mention the Duomo The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore here David climbed the 483 steps to see the renowned double cathedral ceiling, spent a day on the Hop on Hop off bus (which required us to walk to the Railway Station to catch as they would only take a printed voucher, not the E one on my phone), this took a long time but we managed to do both the A and B routes which took us to a number of sites (to the sound of harpsichord music) we would otherwise have missed, and we even got up into the hills above Florence to Frisole to see (as the driver suggested how "the other half live"). It as so sunny Sharon got a sunburnt face. We walked to the top of the Michaelangelo hill to look out over the city on another day, then wending our way through the back streets.
Florence is known for its leather and Sharon kept looking at the bags and boots without finding anything that suited. What she did fall in love with was gelato. Just as well it's not winter (the temperatures in the teens most days) as we have found a number of flavours that are really great. What we didn't like about Florence - the smokers! We were struck by both the high numbers of both men and women who smoked either cigarettes or cigars, and the disregard they had for anyone else, blowing smoke directly at you in some instances, and certainly seemed to feel entitled.
Leaving Florence for Rome was our low point for organisation so far, contributed to in a great extent by a Florentine system that's hard to fathom. Here' how it went. I booked a taxi on-line for 8am. We were ready outside waiting. It didn't come. Taxis in Florence do not respond to hailing them. They only respond by telephoning them. We telephoned them. They did not come. Apparently there was an International mens design event happening in the city so no taxis were available. After discussions by txt with Vittorio, and pigeon english conversations with the builders (who had arrived to work on another apartment in the building), we rushed down the road, pushing our bags and caught the bus which took us to the airport with 5 minutes to spare. The bus trip was like watching paint dry, honestly I now have a better understanding of how Italian people can be laid back.
Anyway, we're on the train to Rome and our last stop.......