We arrived in Pisa and picked up our rental car. Our Hotel was in Viareggio, which was north a ways. The Hertz rep told exactly how to get there. Naturally we missed a turn because there was no sign and proceeded to get lost. This would turn into a running theme for the trip. Italian roadsigns are never where they ought to be and we got lost several times on this trip. Eventually we found our hotel on a beachtown street. It turned out to be a remodelled palace, how fancy! Oh, and it was also a best western… not so fancy.
The next day we drove over to Florence. Florence, the home of the Medici family, was only an hour drive from our hotel in Viareggio. But, due to the failure of Italian street signs (again) it took us almost two hours to get there. Because the streets are so narrow and cars are not allowed in city-center, we decided to park at the airport and take a bus into the city. It took us three times be able to park but eventually we ignored the signs and found the entrance to the airport where we had planned to park. We took a bus into the city and it was amazing. This was Italy! We checked out an apothecary and then walked over to the river. Along the way we spotted a Gucci Kids store with tiny tuxes and dresses. Sort of excessive, but cute nonetheless. Florence doesn’t just look old, it feels old. You can feel the history around you. What was once someone’s home hundreds of years ago is now a grocery store, and what seemed like a palace is now just a perfume store.
At the river there was an amazing view of the Ponte Vecchio. This was surprising since I didn’t know this was here! Ponte Vecchio is a bridge that has houses on it! But these houses are actually small jewelry stores. Many year ago, they used to be occupied by butchers, smiths, and whatnot but some duke decided to move them out and replace them with gold merchants and it has been the way ever since. We strolled over and crossed the bridge. The prices of most of the jewelry were in the hundreds to several thousands. Ponte vecchio itself was busy and bustling. Full of tourists and pickpockets alike.We also noticed many paper stores and pinnochio stores.
We walked a bit farther on the other side of the bridge and then walked back and went into the Galileo museum. They had thousands of pieces of equipment and instruments. We saw beautiful instrument after instrument for measuring who knows what. I wish there had been a bit of an explanation for each device, but they were beautiful nonetheless. This museum was important because they had some of Galileo’s actual telescopes, and two of his fingers, oh and his tooth. Yes, that’s right, two of his fingers. Apparently people stole his fingers from his grave because it was good luck – they also did this for saints ironically. This museum housed his middle finger and his index finger. One of which was recently found after being lost for 100 years. Evidently this was some sign of respect from those good old days that they saved pieces like this. But that was weird none the less.
We almost stopped at the Uffizi art museum but the wait time was about 2 hours and we didn’t want to spend that much time standing around. But the Palace de Vecchio was nearby and free, as was the Piazza della Signore. We moved on to a square with a giant fountain of Neptune with lots of smaller statues. This was also the location where David was originally placed. They have a replica there now. We had a nice pasta lunch and then wandered down to Dante’s house. We didn’t go in, but that was neat to see. Then came the Santa Maria Basilica. Wow! The scale and beauty of this place was much more incredible than I’d imagined.
The museum containing David was right down the street from there but we decided to check out a Leonardo demonstration first. It was a little shop with some recreated Da Vinci designs. After that, we went over to David. He was a lot bigger than I’d imagined. Sterling took a few secret pictures and we took off and returned to our hotel.