April 26, 2009

Rome to Florence - April 4, 2009

We took the bullet train to Florence and were met at the train station by Jean-Paul, our guide, who transported us to our hotel, the NH Hotel.
See the charming building on the far right in the picture? Well, that's not it. It's the third building to the left, the ugly, modern-looking one behind the trees. Not a bad thing that you can't really see it.

Actually, tho, it was much nicer than The Claridge, our hotel in Rome, where our last night was so incredibly noisy. There's apparently a casino or a gambling salon or something next door to the hotel and there were a bunch of guys playing cards all night and coming out into the courtyard to talk and smoke, right under our window. ALL NIGHT this went on, and they got rowdier and rowdier the later it got. Charming.
The NH Hotel was modern, like the Claridge, but had nicer amenities, a more comfortable bed and was, thankfully, quieter.
We took a walk into town, which was about 1/4 mile away, walking along the Arno River toward the Ponte Vecchio. It was beautiful.

The streets are narrow and winding with old, old buildings, some renovated to hold upscale shops. We found Piazza Signoria and had lunch on the square - a delicious seafood salad with a nice, crisp white wine.

Then we found the Duomo, the huge cathedral that was started in 1296 and finished in 1436. It's amazing. Rather gaudy, very ornate, but spectacular, covered in green, pink and white marble.

We wandered through the streets, found the open air market with stall after stall of leather goods and souvenirs, and bought a couple belts and a leather bag for Bill.
We loved Florence. Later we went to look for a rooftop bar that our friends Ron and Barb told us about. It was at the Continentale Hotel on this side of the river just before the Ponte Vecchio, and it was like someone's rooftop patio - white-pillowed banquettes, with 360 degree views of the city. We had cocktails there and then found a little trattoria in town that was nice. Decent food but not great. No matter. It was a fabulous first day in Florence.

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