January 20, 2012.
Today we had to wake up super early to catch a train to Firenze ! The only downside was that the walk to the train was about a forty-five minute walk .. and it was barely light out yet. But we finally made it there, and all twenty-nine of us boarded the train and fell asleep, eager to wake up in a new city.
When we first arrived in Florence, we headed as a group to the Palazzo Vecchio. This building housed the original popular government of Florence beginning in the fourteenth century. Even though I have seen this building twice already, it held so much more meaning now that I had studied it in my Renaissance Architecture course. The tower, the pictures of the guilds, the machicolations, everything made so much more sense now that I understood the meaning behind it. The windows had been borrowed from religious architecture, to show the new government’s domination over everything else. The guilds’ symbols showed how this was a government of the people. Finally, the crenellations and fortress-like aspects show how even though the new government was a popular one, it still meant business to its enemies.
While Karen and I were enjoying the view of Palazzo Vecchio, we stumbled into the statuary next door to the old building. Karen and I had both been in the same architecture course together as well as both being Classics majors, and so we were completely appreciative of everything we were seeing. While we were enjoying the view, however, everyone vanished from sight. Which was only slightly terrifying. We started running around like chickens with our heads cut off, looking for the rest of our group. Eventually we found our professors .. and the rest of our group, which had wandered only a few hundred feet to the left to admire the fountain. Whoops.
Once we gathered all of us together, we headed into the Uffizi Art Gallery. Here, some of the most famous art pieces of all time are held, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera, as well as some pieces by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and others. It was so amazing to see these pieces that I have studied sitting right in front of me. The Botticelli pieces were absolutely larger than life. It was amazing to see the real canvases, and how much skill Botticelli possessed. When I was younger, we used to frequent this pizza place in Audobon, and they had a replica of The Birth of Venus on their ceiling. And I used to stare, and stare, and stare at it. Seeing this in person was .. more than I could have imagined. It was fantastic.
After we finished in the Uffizi (having seen some other great things, like Parmingiano’s Madonna of the Long Neck – which you all should Google, because it’s terrifyingly out of proportion and hideous), we sat in the piazza outside and grabbed a panino and gelato before heading to the hostel to check in. it felt so good to finally get settled in our room. There were seven of us in our room, and all of us were beat. We decided to take a nap, so that we could enjoy the rest of our evening.
When we woke up, we chose to explore the area outside our hotel. Walking down the main street, we discovered Florence’s huge leather market ! Which of course got me pumped up since I have been looking for a new leather purse as my souvenir ! We walked through this whole line of tents, and I found a purse that I fell in love with. But there wasn’t anyone working at the stand, at least not that we could see, so we decided to continue on. Down a few more stands I found another purse that I liked – a small black satchel with diagonal zippers – and haggled with the man and bought it for eighteen euro. Wahoo ! Around this point all of our stomachs started growling … so we decided to stop at a cute little (inexpensive) restaurant. I got gnocchi, and it was amazing.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel to prepare to go out to Florence’s main discoteca, Space. Just about everyone who had stayed in Florence with the group was going to go out, and we were all psyched to have a great time. When we got there, this place was crazy. There was a karaoke bar on the first floor, and on the second there was a huge stage with a DJ, who had a lightshow going and incredibly loud music. We had a ton of fun dancing and getting our groove on. One of the highlights for me, though, was that I got to see my friend from freshman year who was on a different Delaware trip. It was super fun to see the other group of kids and we had a great time all hanging out ! We finally left the club around 330, getting back to the hostel and going to sleep around four. What a great first day in Firenze !