Cortona to Florence

Trip Start May 20, 2006
Trip End Jun 04, 2006

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Our last few hours in Cortona... We enjoyed another great breakfast at the hotel (with probably the best cappuccinos ever), before we headed down to the internet shop to do some downloading. Unfortunately they were still closed (Italian time!), so we decided to walk up to the market to pick up a few souvenirs and some lunch to bring with us on our way to Florence. We went back to the internet shop to do some final downloading before we packed up.

Before leaving Cortona, we attempted to find Bramasole (Frances' home in the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun"). I finally decided to call it quits, after driving around the winding hills and narrow roads of Cortona for half an hour. Nausea got the better of me. Our search for Bramasole obviously wasn't meant to be. It may be another incentive to visit this beautiful town.

It started raining 20 minutes after we started our drive up to Florence. When we stopped for gas, you could feel the chill in the air... an unwelcome change from the hot Tuscan sun we've been experiencing for the past few days.

Our drive into the city of Florence was rather uneventful. We dropped off the rental car at Maggiore/Alamo and walked to Hotel Firenze, only 15 minutes away. Our hotel is located on Via del Corso, just a stone's throw away from Piazza della Repubblica, and conveniently located to many major attractions such as the Uffizi and the Duomo. The room was somewhat "dorm-like", very plain, with very little furniture. This didn't bother us, since we knew we would be out sight-seeing and therefore wouldn't be spending much time there. What did bother us were the extremely noisy American kids that were staying in the hotel. We could hear the kids, (who were on the 1st floor) from our room, located on the 3rd floor. And when we went downstairs to talk to the concierge, they confirmed that the noise was coming from a group of Miami kids... and that was as far as it got. Shocked by their lack of customer service, Cam asked them if we were staying at a hostel. I couldn't believe Cam would say such a thing...since he tends to have more patience than I do.

We spent the rest of the day familiarizing ourselves with our new surroundings. We were no longer in a small Tuscan town. As we walked around Piazza della Republica, the home of Gucci, Prada, and Celine, it's hard to imagine that this was originally the site of a Roman forum and the heart of the medieval city. The streets were crowded with shoppers and street vendors selling anything and everything - from souvenir Tshirts and postcards, to Louis Vuitton knockoffs and boxer shorts printed with David's "privates". A close walk away was Piazza della Signoria with Ammannati's huge Fountain of Neptune, and Loggia della Signoria, the home of 2 well-known sculptures - Cellini's bronze statue of Perseo (Perseus) brandishing the head of Medusa, and Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women. We taste-tested gelato at Gelateria Vivoli, considered to be the best in Florence. It was certainly good, but not the best we've had so far.

For dinner, we took Lonely Planet's recommendation and went to Leonardo Self-Service, a cafeteria-style restaurant. The food was good, with big portions and at a reasonable price. After dinner, we took a stroll along the Arno River and to Ponte Vecchio. Adorned with jewellery shops on both sides of the bridge, from one end to the other, it's hard to believe that Ponte Vecchio is even a bridge. It certainly is the place to be for bling-bling. But that wasn't always the case. In the 14th century, it was the home of town butchers who would throw unwanted leftovers into the Arno river, until Ferdinando I de' Medici ordered them out and replaced them with jewellery merchants.

It was a chilly evening, so we headed back to the hotel for an early night.
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