October 19: Florence (subtitle: “A Good but trying and sobering day”)

Sometimes, when you travel, you have “learning days”, otherwise known as days when a lot goes sideways.  Today was one of those days.

Last night we checked the prices on bus tickets to Assisi; round trip for the two of us: €31. We have been unable to log on to free Wi-Fi when we are out and about, as it requires you to provide a local phone number and then put the code in that they text you. We would have had to access Wi-Fi to use the online tickets, so we figured we would buy them right at the bus station. We were up and out the door by a little before 6 AM.

We got to the bus station; the ticket office opened at 7:15, our bus (the ONLY bus to Assisi of the day from here) was to leave at 7:30. We went into a small convenience store in the station that also sold bus tickets. He told us it would be €33 to go there, and another amount to come home.  We also could not use our credit card. I figured he had to mark up the tickets to make a profit, so we waited for the official bus ticket office to open. When it did, we were the first in line.  We told them we wanted to go to Assisi today, and come back tonight.  Not possible, he said. Turns out they only sell overnight tickets on another bus line. So, back to the convenience store. By now, the tickets had gone up to €39 to get there, and another 40+ to get home. He explained that the closer to the departure it got, the more expensive they got. I know that MegaBus operates the same way in the US, so that made sense. We bought tickets for Monday (the next day we could get reasonably priced round trip tickets), and headed back to the B&B. 

Our alternate plan had to be to go to Florence, but since we had not planned on that, we did not have our Eurail passes or our passports with us. We got back at 8:30, had breakfast, and headed back to Siena AGAIN. (lots of wasted bus fare)

We caught the train to Florence, and arrived a little after noon. We went first to the Duomo. The entrance was free, which was surprising to us. The exterior is one of the most elaborate we have seen thus far. It was designed in 1296, and finally consecrated in 1436. It is described in one of the guidebooks as “the central achievement of Renaissance architecture”. It is a huge complex, with design and color everywhere you look.  We took some photos, had a bite to eat, and went in. We could immediately see why it was free. Although it was nice inside, it is sparse compared to so many others. There is very little that is on public display, very little stained glass, and you are in and out in about 10 minutes. The exterior is the draw, and you can’t charge people to look at the outside.

We next decided to go to San Croce, which is the place where many Renaissance well-knowns are buried: Galileo, Michaelangelo, Macchiavelli, and Rossini, just to name a few. On the way, we passed a monastery of the Monastic Order of Jerusalem, and went in for a peek.

We finally arrived at San Croce, and once inside, decided to look for the bathroom. It was out in the cloister area, so we headed there, and since we were alread out there, decided to see that part first and finish on the inside.

Sometimes when you travel, bad things happen, either to you or to others. I have debated all afternoon how to write this blog post, as there is a fine line sometimes between being informative, and being voyeuristic. This story is all over the European news tonight, so am going to cover it briefly here. As I was beginning to photograph and explore inside, Kelly came over and advised me not to go to a certain area, as they had paramedics working on someone to try to revive them. After a few minutes, they announced that the church was closed. They ushered us out, and we knew that he did not survive. On the way out, they handed everyone a free voucher to visit another day.

I had seen a place that I wanted to take photos of outside, and was working on that. Kelly finally came out; she had been listening to another American tourist describing what had happened.  It turns out a piece of plaster fell off of a support beam 66 feet up (a square about 6″ x 6″), and hit him in the head. He went down immediately.  He was a Spanish tourist, 52 years old, visiting with his wife. I saw the hearse come to remove him. 

If we hadn’t gone to the bathroom . . . if we had decided to go to Florence in the first place . . . if if if. It could easily have been either one of us who was there when the block fell. We are very sad, and very grateful that someone was watching over us. If you are praying people, please say a prayer for his wife and family.

We headed back to the train station, and caught our return train with five minutes to spare. Once back in Siena, we hopped on the first bus that would take us to the main square, where we catch another bus that takes us to the B&B. Only, it turns out that this particular bus winds aaaaalllllllllll around Siena before doing so. It was very crowded when we got on, and we could not validate our bus ticket. The ticket inspector happened to choose this bus to inspect all of the tickets (they do this randomly throughout the day; this was the first time we had been inspected). When we explained what had happened, he could not get to the ticket validator either, so he made a tear in each of the tickets. 40 minutes later, we were STILL on the bus, waiting for our stop. Another ticket inspector got on, and it took a lot of explaining and kindness on his part not to fine us the €42 fine EACHfor not validating our tickets. (Once validated, they are only good for one hour, then they are null and void).

We arrived home, tired, sad, and hungry. After a nice dinner at the house, we are wrapping up today, and preparing for tomorrow. We bought tickets online (they printed them out for us here at the B&B), and will be visiting the Ufizzi Gallery tomorrow, along with either the Palazzio Vecchio or the Pitti Palace, or both if time permits.

The exterior of the Duomo in Florence.

Photos of the interior . . . 

I love the aquamarine color in these stained glass windows!  So unique, I haven’t seen this color used in this way quite so much elsewhere.

This was the ceiling inside of the dome, all done in frescoes.

Photos of the Jerusalem Monastic Order house/church . . . 

This ceiling is all hand carved wood.

The exterior of San Croce . . . 

Photos from the Cloister and chapels outside . . . 

Out of respect, I will not be sharing any of the few photos that I had started taking inside. Tomorrow,  more Florence, more art!


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