Friday 1 Nov
We made our way to the hotel near Florence. I say near because not only was it not central, it was in another town about a 30 minute bus ride away! However it was next to a train station where you could get the train right to the center of Florence! This was also disappointing that we were that far away from the center of the city
Florence! Too bad in a way that it was the end of our trip because I know I didn't appreciate it as much as I would have had we started there. It was a case of information overload and homesick as well. Three weeks away is a long time with so much to do and take in. First thing in the morning we went to the Piazza Michelangelo where there is a reproduction of David and a fabulous view over Florence where we had a group picture taken. Then to the center of town where we had a look in a leather factory and then met a local guide for a walking tour around the main squares of Florence, the political centre and the religious centre by the duomo and saw the bronze doors on the baptistery which are only reproductions as the originals are being restored. Denise and I escaped before seeing the duomo museums (where the walking tour ended anyway) so we could go to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David which is so beautiful and so real looking you would think he would step right down off the pedestal. Very very large too! My picture of it came out really good. We left there, found a bar and had a light lunch and made our way past the San Lorenzo market to the Uffizi Gallery about 1 p.m. Good timing as we didn't have to stand too long in line. We bought our tickets and a lovely book on the gallery.
We went through the Uffizi Gallery although the best rooms are closed (restoration' The gallery was bombed 3 or 4 years ago so maybe that section had more damage.) Which meant we didn't get to see the paintings by Michelangelo, Rafael, Rubens, among others. We kept missing Rafael! We did see Botticelli and one beautiful one by Leonardo da Vinci though his main room was closed too. There was a couple other art galleries I would have liked to see, the Bargello and the San Marco but I did go into the Santa Croce church which has a lot of tombs and memorials to Italy's top genius's like Leonardo, Rossini (composer), Michelangelo, Galileo and I also saw one small one to Marconi. Santa Croce is quite old in its origins too. Denise was really getting tired and though I felt like I might have my second wind I didn't want to leave her to wander alone and go across the Ponte Vecchio so we found our meeting point for the bus and waited for about an hour, resting our feet and chatting to the other tour members as they arrived back as well. Most of us went back to the hotel tired that day. The meals in that hotel were cafeteria style and we felt rushed. There were several groups in the hotel and the staff in the restaurant seemed a bit cranky trying to move everyone along so the next group could get on with things. We just wanted to go home by this time!
And so our tour ends. An early start in the morning (about 5:30 a.m.) and a long drive cross country to Treviso airport outside Venice where we dozed part of the way on the bus. We flew back to Gatwick on another crowded charter flight and were bussed to the Kennedy hotel (on a regular bus this time) after saying goodbye to some of our favourite fellow tour people. Another couple from Florida were staying in the same hotel so we went out to dinner that evening with them.
We transferred to Heathrow the next morning and checked in. We wandered through some of the shops, one of which is my favourite gift store, Past Times, where I spent about $100! I think I bought more for myself in England in Heathrow than I did in Italy, where I spent most of my souvenir budget on gifts for others, to be saved for Christmas giving. Because there were so many unidentifiables (all those gifts!) in my carry on I had to have it unpacked at customs! And because of all those gifts, I was $250 over my duty-free limit and had to pay about $35 when I arrived home!
We really did enjoy it though and were really glad we went. Bus tours like this are only meant to give you an overview which is what it did. With all the climbing and walking we did it's no wonder I lost weight! We had lots of good pasta, gelato and a little wine although neither of us are big wine drinkers. What I did have was pretty good though! Italian beer was tasty too. Our tour guide wasn't all that great. Professional and polite but inexperienced (2 years) not much fun and the tour crowd was ok. Some of them really kept to themselves and the half that we ate with and chummed around with were very nice but didn't hang out much in the evenings after dinner too often. The weather the last week was nice, cool in the morning and evening but often got quite warm in the daytime, hovering around 20 degrees Celsius. I even got a bit of a tan! As I said, I didn't buy a whole lot for myself in Italy, but I did get most of my Christmas shopping done! .
Well that's a brief over view of our adventures. We've been paying close attention to movies that were made in Italy to see what we can recognize and still talk about things we did or saw! I know a lot of people don't care for escorted tours, preferring to go on their own but we liked having everything done for us although we weren't overly impressed with some of the hotels, especially the ones in the larger cities that were out of the central area. I think the next time I go, if I take a tour, I'll look into the first class tours rather than the budget versions as the hotels tend to be more central. I would love to go back, especially to Florence and Siena but there are just so many other places I want to see first! Decisions, decisions!