Italy and Switzerland

May 2008


Before leaving for Florence we visited Il Cimitero Monumentale in Milan.  It is a cemetery like no other we’ve seen, with sculptures of those buried there, as well as grim reapers, grieving widows, children and soldiers.  Some of the family tombs were at least as tall as a five story building.  We’ve added photos of this cemetery to the Milan section of the blog.  On Thursday, May 15th, we took the 1:00  PM train from Milan to Florence.  The train ride was wonderful; no security or luggage hassles, on time and a pretty ride through the countryside.  Our hotel is a short walk from the train station.  Florence is quite a contrast to Milan, as there are many more tourists and most are on foot, as the city is compact and easy to navigate (no subways to confuse us).  There are as many bicyclists and motorcyclists as there were in Milan, so you have to watch for them as well as cars.  We left the hotel and walked to see the Duomo, then on to the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge with shops on both sides.  We had gelato near the duomo, and later a wonderful dinner at the Trattoria Za Za near our hotel.  We had reservations on Friday (made months ago) for the famous Uffizi Gallery.  It has the largest collection of Italian paintings in the world.  We left the Uffizi and went to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens across the river.  The view of Florence from the gardens was beautiful.  From here we went to lunch at the Golden View Open Bar, and sat at a table overlooking Ponte Vecchio and the river.  The waitress took our picture there.  We relaxed (translation: napped: 8 miles of walking a day is wearing us out) at our hotel in the afternoon and had dinner nearby later at the Trattoria 13 Gobbi (13 Hunchbacks).  We didn’t see a single hunchback, but the restaurant was full of locals who seemed to be holding court.  We haven’t had a bad meal in Italy yet.  We were both feeling under the weather on Saturday, May 17th.  We decided to keep our reservation at the Accademia, as it was our only chance to see Michelangelo’s David and his unfinished Prisoners.  We spent quite a bit of time in our hotel room just resting, but did go out to see the nearby church, Santa Maria Novella.  We went to the 5:00  PM mass at the Duomo, which was in English and about 35 minutes long.  The most interesting thing about the Duomo is that the technology for the dome didn’t exist when they built the church, so they just left a big hole in the center.  Soon a local architect named Filippo Brunelleschi designed the magnificent dome, which was the first Renaissance dome and was copied by other churches.  We did not consider climbing to the roof of the Duomo, as there is no lift, only 463 steps.  After mass we had a gelato, then walked along the river until it was time for our reservation for dinner at Trattoria Nella.  We had steak (yes, they have great steaks in Italy) and panna cotta for dessert.  We only walked 6.62 miles today.



Ponte Vecchio

View from Ponte Vecchio


Ponte Vecchio from Uffizi

Boboli Gardens

Florence from Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

Lunch on the Arno River (Golden View Open Bar)

Ponte Vecchio from Golden View Open Bar

Santa Maria Novella Church

Arno River

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