waking up was very difficult this morning because i went to bed very late last night and sleep is important if you want to be awake. the group left milan this morning and travelled via bus to florence. the drive was very cool. the appenine mountains are a beautiful part of this country and we drove right through them. on the way through i saw a truck with some downhill bikes on the back and it made me want to rent a bike and explore the single tracks in the area. i think the mountain biking scene in italy is pretty large considering the size of the country and i would really like to give the location a try.
we arrived at florence at around 2:30 and got checked into our hotel after a short walk from where the bus dropped off. the hotel has a modest exterior but the inside is very warm and inviting. the walls are colorful and there are very old pieces of wooden furniture that gives the hotel a very classic feel. i suspect that the hotel used to be the home of a very wealthy family because of how impractical the layout is and the way our room is. the ceilings in the room are twelve or thirteen feet tall and the whole thing is covered in a painting of cherubs with decorative scrollwork on the edges. there is a wooden bureau, a wooden wardrobe, and a marble fireplace, but the bathroom is modern and updated which is very nice.
after we checked in we went on a tour of the uffizi gallery which was about half a mile away from the hotel. but between the hotel and the gallery is the cattredale di santa maria del fiore, better known as the duomo. it is an enormous white , red, and green church with a decorated facade. it is the most impressive building i have ever seen. because the streets are so narrow, the cathedral appears literally from around a corner and you are so close that you can’t fit it all in one frame of vision which makes it very imposing. i found myself struggling to follow the group while effectively taking in the majesty of the building. i am going to have to go back there because i did not have enough time to look at the whole building.
we had another guided tour when we went around the gallery. the guide mostly focused on the paintings of the renaissance. she began at the transition between medieval and renaissance. the first transitions were when paintings began to incorporate depth in an effort to create a more realistic painting. i enjoy looking at paintings and it was very cool to get concrete answers to questions on the paintings, but i like to explore museums at my own pace and i enjoy speculating about what the art is about and taking in the art in my own way instead of by being given information about it which the tour did not allow for. i also wish the tour would have had more of a focus on the many sculptures in the gallery, but the focus was mostly on paintings. i think my favorite thing was the ceiling in the room with the fourteen statues on the top floor of the gallery. it was decorated in gold vines. i also liked the view of the arno river from the gallery and the view of the palazzo della signoria and the duomo. there were some children learning how to row in the arno which i would really like to do and the view of the duomo was from far enough that you could see the whole thing and really appreciate its enormity by comparing it to the size of the buildings around it. you can see how large the dome and the bell tower are and how they totally dominate the skyline of the city, which has no buildings taller than the church.
there was a group dinner after the gallery. the meal was pasta bolognese and sausage and veal. the pasta and bread were very good. i went back to the hotel after dinner and have been in my room since, relaxing and watching tv because i am very tired and i have not had much time to relax or watch tv on this trip yet.