Sunday, March 11, 2012

Florence - Our Hotel - Location, Location, Location

After lengthy showers, we gather up our luggage and catch a water bus down the Grand Canal, one final time, heading for the train station. It is Monday and the city has taken on a different flavor. Gone are the tourists and day trippers. The local citizenry have retaken their town and are going about their business unhindered by the throngs of weekend visitors.

It being rush hour the boat is somewhat crowded. Someone is moving, a boat glides by laden with a mattress, box spring and an assortment of furniture and boxes. On the opposite side of the canal the DHL boat pulls up to a dock to make a delivery. Arriving at the station we go ashore and head for out train to Florence.

After pulling into the station in Florence we head to the street to catch a cab to our hotel. Ahead of us in the cab line are a group of women who are unmistakable America. Obese, loud and garish. We discover our hotel is situated on a small centrally located side street. When you walk to the corner the Doumo, Florence's main cathedral is 1/2 block in one direction,the Plaza Republica, another famed locale in Florence, lies 1 block in the opposite direction.We go through the heavy glass street doors of the hotel, through the vestibule and enter into a tiny lobby. The reception desk is several floors up. We squeeze ourselves and our luggage into the elevator.

We are treated somewhat rudely by the desk attendant as we show him our reservation sheet. It's clear he is unhappy with our room rate. He hands us two keys. One is a fairly standard room key, the other a fairly standard skeleton key. He explains to us that the toilet, which he assures us we will be the only ones using, is located several steps down the hall from our room. Peeing at 2 a.m. became a small adventure as you left the room, walked 5 steps down the hall and unlocked the door. We would then relock the door; all this done in semi darkness; and pad back to our room.

We went downstairs to our room and unlocked the door for our first peek at our lodgings for the next 3 nights. After the romance of our hotel in Venice my first words upon seeing this room were "At least it's clean." Bare, whitewashed plaster walls, a full size bed, in one corner a small desk and chair. Against one wall, inside the room, stood a sink and the shower, a small enclosure with a cheap plastic curtain on a rusting rod. I have seen more luxurious monks cells. A long window with the shutters that are ubiquitous in Florence looks out on the terraces of the apartments across the narrow street. Off to one side a sliver of the Doumo's bell tower can be seen.

The Doumo is our first stop.Winding our way through the carts brimming with wares designed to catch the tourists eye, we make our way to the Baptistry and take in the beauty of it's legendary gold paneled doors. The soaring dome inside the cathedral is breathtaking. It was a major feat of architectural engineering at the time of it's construction. Down a small street we discover, by accident, the Chapel of the Medici's. A small sign outside reminds visitors that this is a house of worship. Photography and speaking are strictly forbidden. Inside the chapel is dark, it's ceiling a masterpiece of carved wood.

It is about this time that we first encountered the ringing of the bells at the Duomo. The bells pealed at times that seemed, at best, arbitrary. 5:37 p.m., 8:19 p.m., 10:22 a.m., this is merely a sampling. Over 3 days, try as we might, we could not determine a pattern or system to the bell ringing. We would consult out watches every time they rang, 1:52 p.m., 11:21 a.m., it began to appear as if they were attempting to never ring them at the same time twice.

Going to dinner that evening was our first experience with Florence at night. Spotlights that glow with a white light the contains a yellow undertone highlight architectural details and accentuate the lines of the statuary standing in the plazas., My partner was so taken with them that he searched when we returned home until he found Christmas lights which replicated them for our tree that year.     

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