Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 – Florence, Italy – Sunny – 72F

Distance from Cannes to Livorno (Florence), Italy: 145 Nautical Miles

A beautiful day in Tuscany…

Local Information: The ship is docked at Livorno, gateway to Florence and Pisa.  Florence is about 90 minutes from the port.  Florence is best known as the birthplace of the Renaissance. The city, located on the River Arno, contains 15th century piazzas and palazzos.  The city is also home to a magnificent Cathedral and several scenic churches as well as the Palazzo Vecchio, which sports a sculpture garden including a copy of Michelangelo's David.

We are both on tour today: “Florence on Your Own” (Trudy from Holland Guide).  This is what we did in Paris – the bus takes you to the city and you are on your own for several hours and then you meet your bus for the ride back to the ship.  The trip to Florence did take the predicted 90 minutes using the Toll Road.  Rolling hills and the occasional palazzo constituted the views on the way there.  We did pass the village of Vinci – located on a distance hill – the home of Leonardo da Vinci. 

The bus dropped us off near the Church of Santa Croce, which is a good central location to explore Florence.  Florence is known for its leather works and the city is peppered with Leather shops  It is also the city where the story of Pinocchio was written – later to be co-opted by Disney and turned into a classic.  Pinocchio paraphernalia is also ubiquitous in Florence.  Map in hand, we started our tour.

First stop: Church of Santa Croce

Piazza San Croce (Small)

Church of Santa Croce

The church is at one end of the large Piazza San Croce

Piazza Santa Croce (Small)

Piazza San Croce

The Piazza is home to several Pizzerias and leather shops (important due to their accessible washrooms).  To the left of the church entrance, there is a very impressive statue of Dante

Santa Croce Church Florence (Small) Statue of Dante Santa Croce (Small) 

Church of San Croce and Statue of Dante

The Pinocchio shops, as I mentioned, are everywhere especially near the central squares.  We managed to catch up to our “pine” hero hanging out in front of his store.

20121024 E and Pinocchio (Small)

Ellen and her wooden friend

We has asked our guide about kosher food in the area and she said there are kosher restaurants near the Synagogue.  She said the Synagogue was only a 15 minute walk from Piazza San Croce.  We were on our way since it was getting close to lunch time.

The signage was very helpful and soon we were in the very tiny Jewish section – complete with a Chabad and two kosher restaurants (meat and vegetarian).  We checked out the meat restaurant and it turned out to be more of a store where you could get a hamburger (microwaved frozen burger) for about 5 Euros.  I opted out of a frozen burger – I was spoiled by those fresh grilled burgers in Rome.

20121024 Chabad Florence (Small)

Chabad of Florence

20121024 Very Fast Kosher Food (Small)

Kosher Market of Florence

The Synagogue – Tempio Israelitico - was about a block away from Chabad and it was a very impressive structure.  It had a distinct Moorish style complete with blue dome.  The picture below was taken through the fence openings.

Tempio Israelitico (Small)

If you didn’t have the Hebrew writing on the front and the Jewish Stars on some of the windows, this structure could easily have been a Mosque.  The structure was funded by a David Levi, who led the Jewish Population in the late 19th century.  The designers he hired clearly favored the Moorish look.

We paid to enter the building and grounds – no photos allowed (all of our stuff had to be placed into lockers – although one bizarre person snuck her camera and it and started shooting away – where are the Guardia?). 

We explored the museum and took a mini-tour of the synagogue.  We learned about the Jewish Ghetto and the trials and travails of the 4000 Jews living in Florence at the time.  We also learned that the synagogue was used as a garage during the war.  The Nazis tried to topple the synagogue as they were fleeing but set the charges on non-load bearing columns.  The explosives only destroyed some exterior columns which are on display in the garden.

The structure is massive inside with women’s sections on both the upper level and lower levels (for the winter when it is cold).  There is a raised pulpit on the left side of the building which reminded me of the place where the Imam conduct their weekly speeches in a mosque.  It also had a feel of a cathedral especially with that raised pulpit – I could picture a bishop standing there.  There was the standard bema, ark, and eternal flame.  A very unusual layout.  I tried out the wooden seats and they were comfortable.

The Synagogue is still active with about 900 persons attending at peak occasions.

Haven forsaken the kosher burgers, we were ready for some Florentine pizza.  Having been burned in Venice, we searched for restaurants with no cover charge.  We found a very nice one called D’Monde where we ordered a Pizza Margherita and a beer for me.  They also had wifi so were able to accomplish two objectives.  The pizza (7 Euros) was good as was the expensive beer (6 Euros).  We got all of our emailing done and had a nice meal at the same time.  The owner was friendly and didn’t rush us – it was nice.

 IMG_20121024 Italian Beer DMonde (Small) IMG_20121024 Lunch at DMonde (Small)

Lunch at D’Monde Restaurant

We left the restaurant in search of the Piazza Signoria and the Cathedral of Florence.

The Piazza Signoria can be found by following the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio.  Along the way we found another interesting statue – that of Cosmo de Medici (of the Medicis)

Statue of Cosmo de Medici (Small)

Cosmo de Medici

We found the Piazza Signoria

Piazza Signoria (Small)

complete with its famous statue) a copy of Michelangelo’s David (three photos below).

20121024 David (Small)

David (Small)

 David 2 (Small)

David is not the only attraction in the Piazza.  I tried to figure out who the other statues were but the legend and the inscriptions were in Italian.  Even in context, I could not identify the statue below.

20121024 Statue Piazza Signoria (Small)

It was easy to determine that the figures below represent Perseus an the Gorgon Medusa.  I was struck by the small size of the head of the Medusa.

 Perseus and head of Medusa (Small)

Perseus and Medusa

Sculpture Garden Palazza Vecchio (Small) 

Sculpture Garden at Piazza Signoria

Even though David is the main draw at the Piazza Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio (“old palace”) is also an imposing structure.

20121024 Palazzio Vecchio (Small)

Palazzo Vecchio (Small)

Palazzo Vecchio

Home to the rulers of the city, the Palace was eventually abandoned by the royals because it was too dark and dungeon like.  They moved to the Palazzo Pitti across the Arno River.

Our next stop as we ventured through the small streets of Florence

 20121024 E shooting Me (Small)

IMG_20121024 Me Shooting E (Small) 

Shooting each other shooting each other

was the Duomo, the Cathedral of Florence.  It is also not difficult to find since it is the tallest structure in the city.

 Duomo Florence (Small) Duomo Forence A (Small)

From the Duomo, we walked back to Piazza San Croce.  There seemed to be some activity in the center of the square with people being diverted around another group of three to four people.  Inquiring, we found out that they were shooting a film. I had seen the cameraman but I thought he was filming something for the evening news.

20121024 Filming a movie Santa Croce (Small)

Filming the next big hit at Piazza San Croce

There was one more place to visit before we could leave Florence.  We headed toward the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”).  Down at the River Arno, we could see the Ponte Vecchio in the distance – we decided we had enough time to get there and back.

River Arno and Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Alle Grazie (Small)

River Arno and Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Alle Grazie

There were a lot of people walking toward and from the Ponte Vecchio on our side of the river.  We saw some people go through a gate leading to the river – it turns out that there is a private club along the river bank.  We saw people having their drinks on their private “beach” on their private lawn chairs.

20121024 Private Club along the Arno River (Small)

Private Club along River Arno and Ponte Vecchio

As we walked toward the bridge we came across a monument for the Liberation of Italy

IMG_20121024 Liberation of Italy Statue (Small)

Liberation of Italy statue (Small)

As well as a very interesting and mysteries obelisk in front of the Galileo Museum.

Monument outside Gallileo Museum (Small)

Galileo Museum Obelisk

The Ponte Vecchio is a covered bridge now containing vendors and shops. 

Ponte Vecchio (Small)

Ponte Vecchio

It is a very busy pedestrian area.  We also noticed special police patrolling the area – they kind of looked like “Bobbies”.

Ponte Vecchio Interesting Police (Small)

On the Ponte Vecchio

The walkway on the Ponte Vecchio has several openings onto the River Arno – perfect for taking pictures.

20121024 E on the Ponte Vecchio (Small)    

Ellen on the Ponte Vecchio

 20121024 Ponte Alle Grazia from P Vecchio (Small) 

Ponte Alle Grazie from Ponte Vecchio  

We made it back to the statue of Dante (bus meeting place) about 10 minutes early and early enough to use the facilities at one of the leather stores (courtesy of Trudy).

The ride back was scenic and quick.  We were able to get ready for dinner in the Opus Dining Room.  One of the highlights of dinner was seeing one of the other ships departing through the window while we were having dinner.

20121024 MSC Oceana departing - from Opus (Small) 

MSC Oceana departing

David Klinkenberg is the headliner tonight.  A really nice show.

Pedometer: 10.384 steps; 4.92 miles; 508 calories

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