Florence, Firenze

Monday, March 7 2010

Arrived in Florence early afternoon from Frankfurt, via an Avro whose high wing restricted the overhead luggage space to zilch for those of us amidships. Shared a taxi to the Hilton Metropole with several colleagues also coming to Broadband Forum, and several of us met at 3 to take the free shuttle to the train station, which is near the old town. A sunny day, nice when we could get out of the wind.

We strolled around the old town, stopped in at the cathedral, paid EUR6 for a little cardiac exercise, the climb of 414 stone stepsto the top of the campanile. I wonder: if you take the steps two at a time, can you still claim the full 414? Several observation levels along the way, and the top as well, have great views (the picture above, for example), but it was so cold in the strong, stiff wind that we didn’t last very long.

Then we went to the Galleria dell’Accademia whose strong point is Michaelangelo’s David. Well worth seeing, and there are six or eight of Michaelangelo’s so-called prisoners, the roughed-out statues that are still mostly just large blocks of stone. The rest of the place was not worth seeing, vast quantities of the art of Christianity, which might be interesting once, but hardly more than once, especially for those of us who are not impressed by dead bodies nor ghost stories.

Here’s a slide show of Sunday’s adventures.

Found a place on the Piazza della Signoria to eat, and made it back to the station in time to catch the 8:30 bus back to the hotel. Jet-lagged and sleepy, so it was good to make an early evening of it.

Monday, March 8

I *never* oversleep, but I overslept. It was about 7 when I woke up, and close to 8 by the time I was ready to go out. Jean and I went out to be tourists for a while – the first technical meetings of the day are not until 3PM, and we were neither of us that enthusiastic about the kickoff ceremonies.

We had missed the shuttle, so we took a taxi to the Ponte Vecchio, whence we started walking.

Jean wanted to see David, but it turned out that the Accademia is closed on Monday. We strolled and checked out various churches and street scenes. In the central market, Jean talked with a salesman about some expensive wines, while I checked the little tray of free cheese samples. The proprietress offered me a toothpick with a little cube of cheese that had been dipped in truffle honey. Not a combination I would have thought of, but it was terrific.

Of course, I didn’t buy anything.

We figured we would likely end up eating Italian food most of the week – not many ethnic restaurants around – so we went to a Chinese place for lunch. Then we headed for the river and the Forte di Belvedere. It’s at the crest of a hill, dominating a defensive wall that runs up the hill from below. The road is narrow and busy, and not a whole lot of fun to walk on. And then it turns out that Belvedere is also closed on Monday. Moomph!

So we walked on along Via San Leonardo, a narrow and busy road with high stone walls along either side, easy to believe it was a thousand years old. Eventually came out into more open country, and we needed to find a taxi back to the hotel. But of course we were on the far side from the city, and a bit disoriented vis a vis the map. We stopped in at the Hotel Villa Betania, whose proprietor was good enough to call a taxi for us, and we were back at the Hilton in time for the late afternoon meetings.

Today’s slide show.

The bus into town at 7 was full, and some of the guys were ordering up a taxi. Anna and Glenn were in the lobby, and we decided to try something closer and more convenient. There’s a cineplex next door to the hotel, which includes Rio Grande, a Brasilian restaurant. It’s a buffet with more meat than you could imagine, but lots of other stuff as well, and we did just fine, thank you.

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