Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Roma & on the fast train to Firenze (Florence)

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April 25th 2015
Published: April 27th 2015
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Today it is Anzac Day and this year marks 100 years since the lives of so many Aussie Diggers were forfeited on the beach at Gallipoli. We purchased our badges before we left Australia so that we could wear them today and remember our soldiers who fought and died. By coincidence today is also Liberation Day in Italy celebrating the fall of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy in 1945. Being away from home we have really appreciated Facebook posts of the poppies in Federation Square and the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance.

After breakfast this morning we re-packed our bags ready to catch the fast train to Florence this afternoon. We took the bags downstairs and locked them up in the luggage storage area of the hotel before going along the street for a concert 'Sounds and Visions of Caravaggio'. When we were walking past the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj earlier in the week we picked up a flyer for the Roma Opera 2015 Series that included this morning's concert at 'the best private gallery in Rome'. We knew that we would have some time to fill in before our train to Florence so we thought it would be something interesting to do.

The event consisted of a guided tour of the gallery with an Art Historian, interspersed with live musical performances in the halls of the palace. It was really interesting to have someone who has studied art explain a number of the gallery's most significant works of art, in particular those by Caravaggio and Raphael. The music was performed by a soprano accompanied by a gentleman playing a Baroque-period guitar (Bernie thinks we were told it was a Spanish guitar, I thought we were told it was Flemish?!) with 10 strings. The concert concluded in the Jupiter Hall, a room that was made available exclusively to guests who had purchased tickets to the concert. When the concert concluded we were free to spend more time revisiting the halls of the palace. This enabled up to get our money's worth out of the photo permits that we had purchased (for €4.00 each) to be allowed to photograph exhibits.

We bought pizza slices for lunch at the cafeteria next door to the Hotel Regno before collecting our bags and taking a taxi to the Roma Tiburtina railway station. We allowed heaps of time in case the traffic was bad, but arrived at the station a good hour before our scheduled service to Firenze at 3.00pm. Plenty of time for a beer and a cappuccino while we waited for the train. Well, a beer and a cup of froth anyway - my cappuccino only had about two mouthfuls of actual coffee in it!

Our train arrived on time and we managed to haul our bags into Coach 6 and take up our window seats for our train trip to Florence without any panic. The only slight hiccup was that the train stopped with Coach 5 in front of us and, of course, we went left to discover that the coach behind was Coach 4 and we needed to be further to the front of the train in Coach 6. Fortunately we got ourselves sorted out within the allotted two minutes for disembarking and boarding. Phew, once we were on the train we enjoyed an entirely uneventful high speed journey through the Italian countryside.

We arrived in Florence just slightly ahead of schedule and disembarked at Santa Maria Novella station. Through a combination of Donatello's Italian English directions that he had emailed to us and sheer luck we managed to find our way to The Black Sheep B&B. No lift!! Thank goodness that Donatello carried my bag up to the third floor for me. At least we knew that Bernie had booked a room with twin beds this time. Strange configuration though, we are in a really long, narrow room with the single beds arranged head to head along one wall. Very nicely appointed, with everything we need for the next few day including free wi-fi to keep the blog up-to-date!!

With the afternoon slipping away we headed out to familiarise ourselves with Florence. At the end of Via della Scala we found the Basilica Santa Maria Novella. Its distinctive green and white patterned facade is so much more colourful than any of the churches we visited in Rome. Next we continued on towards the centre of Florence and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower) - generally just referred to as Duomo. It is the main church of Florence and is located on the Piazza San Giovanni. It is another beautiful church featuring marble panels in green, pink and white and, of course, its magnificent dome.

We zig-zagged our way past a couple more churches and then made our way across Ponte Alle Grazie over the Fiume (River) Arno. Bernie wanted to walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset over Florence and, hopefully, take some night photographs looking down over Florence. With the mild weather and the public holiday we weren't the only ones up on the Piazzale Michelangelo waiting for the sun to go down!!

It was probably a little bit too early when we arrived atop the hill on the south side of the river, but at least if gave us plenty of opportunity to scope out a good spot for taking our photographs. And then we waited and we waited ... and waited some more for the sun to set! Eventually twilight started to fall and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio lit up. But only the Palazzo, what about Duomo?? In an exercise of extreme patience we kept on waiting ... and hoping ... that some more of Florence's significant buildings would be flood lit. We set ourselves a time limit of 8.30pm figuring that anything not lit up by then was probably not going to be lit up.

We nearly pulled the pin at about 8.15pm because the breeze was getting quite cool, but pushed ourselves to wait until our 8.30pm deadline. Our perseverance paid off with first the Ponte Vecchio and then the Santa Croce Museo lighting up. At about 8.29pm (and 52 seconds!) the floodlights on Duomo finally lit up so Bernie started playing around with his exposure times to try to capture a good photo of Florence by night.

After packing up the tripod we headed back to the hotel to drop off the camera equipment before finding some dinner. It's lucky that Italians eat late because we left it very late tonight to go looking for a meal. Although Donatello had recommended a couple of restaurants on the B&B's side of the river Bernie wanted to try one on the other side of the river. This time we crossed the river using the Ponte alla Carraia and found Santo Bevitore easily enough, but it was still very busy. They obviously didn't want any more business on a Saturday night because they couldn't squeeze two more in and didn't offer us the chance to wait for a table, they just sent us on our way.

Hmmn, where to now? Donatello did suggest another restaurant on this side of the river, but its specialty is tripe. I'd be prepared to give that a go - Mum used to cook tripe occasionally and I didn't hate it - but there was no way Bernie was going to a tripe restaurant!! Fortunately we stumbled upon Trattoria Giovanni where we were offered prosecco to drink while we waited for a table to be cleared.

Our meal tonight was our best yet, but we were out very late and didn't make it back to the B&B until after midnight. As we went upstairs Donatello arrived to try to sort out a problem with the door to one of the other rooms. The couple in the room next door could not get into their room so Donatello had arrived with some oil and some tools to fix the problem.

Steps for the day 19,708 (13.45 km)

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