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May 19th 2017
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Fast train to RomeFast train to RomeFast train to Rome

The Tranitalia Fecciarossa schedule. We were told the train's speed was 300kph, but it did not seem that fast.
Geo: 43.7755, 11.2537

Uneventful two-hour train ride to Florence on Thu; fast, smooth and clean. It was a 15 min walk from the station (with a brief navigational oops) to Elena and Valerio's apartment. They have a 140 sqm, second floor residence in central Florence, just minutes from the Duomo and museums, etc. We had dinner at home and later went out to a nearby bar that had live music.

Fri we enjoyed long, guided tours of the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries and felt much more sophisticated after absorbing all that culture ;-) Dined out with Elena and Valerio at the nearby Trattoria Garga, enjoying tasty local fare. Apparently waiters have now come to expect Americans to tip them. Locals generally do not tip, but may leave €5 if they were particularly happy.

Additional photos below
Photos: 6, Displayed: 6


"The Goose" bistro"The Goose" bistro
"The Goose" bistro

Run by an American. Elena' s English teacher is an occasional performer there. That's him pointing and talking to Elena, who is in front of Robyn. Valeria is across the table, thumbs up.
Uffizi GalleryUffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery

Built by Cosimo, the Medici patriarch, as his government's offices. Completed in 1581, it comprises three floors in a long U shape. When Cosimo married, his wife demanded a villa with gardens etc. so they bought the Pitti Palace across the Arno River. For convenience and security, Medici had a private, enclosed walkway built to his home via the Ponte Vecchio (the Vasari Corridor). His wife didn't like the market smells from the produce vendors on the bridge, so only jewellery was allowed to be sold. And so it remains to this day.
Michelangelo's Doni TondoMichelangelo's Doni Tondo
Michelangelo's Doni Tondo

Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor and rarely did paintings, or even frescos (as at the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel). This apparently is his only surviving painting. It looked terrific: what a talent/genius. We were told that Michelangelo sculpted differently to others. Instead of preliminary drawings and plaster models, he would just start chipping away, to reveal the "soul of the marble". He left behind several sculptures unfinished - he was the only one who knew what was intended.
Caravaggio, Italian renaissance masterCaravaggio, Italian renaissance master
Caravaggio, Italian renaissance master

I took many photos of masterpieces, but this convex Medusa shield by Caravaggio particularly caught my attention. There was also a couple of Da Vinci paintings in the gallery. Apparently, Da Vinci described himself as a scientist, not an artist.

The Accademia Gallery had some historical musical instruments (including a Stradivari viola and violin). However, its main exhibit is Michelangelo's Statue of David. At over 5m tall it was the biggest European statue since Roman times. The statue was commissioned to be placed high in a church, but because of its magnificence it became a symbol of Florence. It was placed outside, near the government buildings. As time passed it was being degraded by the weather. Wisely, I think, in 1873 they moved it inside and left a full-size replica near the Uffizi Gallery. I like this view because it shows David with his sling and a stone in his hand. He is yet to slay Goliath and the tension in his stance is apparent.

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