An early start for everyone today as we needed to be at the train station in Rufina at 9:20am to catch the train to Firenze (known to us as Florence). Probably the earliest some people have had to get up this week and especially after a 2am game of poker again for some last night (@Bryan – don’t worry it’s not strip poker). Adding in the treacherous road, we needed to leave at 8:30am. We managed to figure out the ticket machine for the train and then got onto the 9:20am train into Firenze. Given there were 20 odd of us, the train had no seats and was standing room only for most of us. Daniel and I were leaning against the train door (not recommended) when he suddenly gave way – fortunately not too much but we both avoided doing that for the rest of ride.
We arrived into Florence around 10am. At that point the group split up. Some were going to the Academia to see the statue of David, some were only going to the Uffizi (famous art gallery in Florence) and some (Helen, Chloe, Kirsten – my niece and myself were doing none of them and just wandering around Florence and seeing the sights). We wandered down to the river and headed to see the Ponte Vecchio which is the most famous bridge in Florence. It was the only bridge that Hitler commanded not be destroyed by the Nazi troops on their withdrawal from Italy – he did it for sentimental reasons and it apparently cost the German’s significantly as it would have slowed the Allies down if he had destroyed it. He did destroy all the other bridges. I am glad he decided not to destroy it because it probably is the most interesting bridge I have ever seen. As you can see from the photo it is a bridge of apartments – the bottom section being jewelery stores and above it are residences (I assume of the owners of the stores).
We had iced coffees and Affogato on the other side of the bridge and then headed back over the bridge and toward the Duomo which is the Cathedral in Florence. On the way there we passed some of group waiting to get entrance into the Uffizi (there tickets were for 12pm) and then we met up with the rest of the group that had finished at the Academia after seeing the (what I believe is) impressive 7ft statue of David. They all remarked on the size (and I am assuming that it wasn’t about his nether regions).
We went for lunch at a restaurant on one of the Piazza’s and everyone had the traditional Italian Pizza or Pasta. The group split up again and either headed for the Ponte Vecchio or the Duomo (depending on which one you hadn’t yet seen). The Duomo is pretty impressive from the outside and apparently is even more impressive inside (we didn’t go in). Some of it is being restored (as most things are in Europe of any significant age). It was would be even more impressive without the restoration.
We then headed back to the train station and as we were first back we bought tickets for everyone and sent a whatsapp to say which platform the train was leaving from and then hoped everyone would make it in time. Michael and Daniel wanted to go the Vodaphone store as their SIM cards weren’t working and they were eventually the last 2 to get on the train with a few minutes to spare.
The train only makes 3 stops before Rufina. Just before the 4th stop there was an announcement in Italian which we clearly didn’t understand and then we stopped. However, we looked outside and there was no platform so we assumed it was a forced stop before the station. And then I realised it was at the station and the carriage we were in just wasn’t near enough to the platform. So the 14 of us started running forward and trying to get doors open as we went and then the train pulled out. Station missed. So we waited the 6 minutes and got off at the next station which was in an industrial area. Thank goodness for Google which told us the next train back to Rufina would be about 12 minutes and so we waited and finally it came and we got on. I noticed this train had a conductor (of course it would because we didn’t have tickets for the reverse journey) and so we tried to get on a carriage not near her. But of course she came before we got off at the next station. There was much hilarity plotting how one person could distract her and the rest of us would get off, one person could burst into tears, one person could pretend to have a heart attack etc. Jeff (my brother-in-law) did his best to persuade her that we had missed the station and were just returning to the correct station and she seemed sufficiently satisfied. As Lara said to me, it is those experiences that make holidays.
The rest of the afternoon was spent cooling off in the pool or taking a siesta (given it was 37 degrees). Dinner this evening was risotto (zucchini & squash) and Pasta (pesto & tomato) followed by spare ribs and turkey breast with cauliflower and then creme caramel for desert. All too good again not to stop eating too much. The food has been ridiculously good. The chef is a teacher who does this just for the summer when he obviously gets well paid. He really is pretty good for a teacher!
P, H, S, L, M, O, C