Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Italy - Day 2 and 3, Montecatini and Florence

We arrived mid-afternoon to get settled into our home for the next week.   This is the view from our  hotel, Grand Hotel Tettuccio, Montecatini Terme.  The hotel sits in front of the Parco Termale (Thermal Park).  We enjoyed panoramic views of the Tuscan hills from our room.

Montecatini is famous for its thermal facilities and luxurious spas.  Claudia told us there were over 200 hotels welcoming guests from all over the world.  We did a little walking around our hotel, felt safe and made new friends at the Gelato shop close to our hotel.
I loved the image of the bicycle rider covered with evergreens! 
The Monument in the park
Our first taste of gelato
Our welcome dinner with Phil & Marilyn, Butch & Joyce Stark...all from Lewiston

 Our first views of Florence... the famous Bascilia of St. Mary of the Flower.  The Baptistry is currently being renovated (we saw scaffolding surrounding many of the churches and buildings we visited).
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church of FlorenceItalyIl Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.
The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile. The three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering thehistoric centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting the region ofTuscany. The basilica is one of Italy's largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

You can see the Duomo from many places throughout the city
I loved the candles in all the churches we visited...I lit them for all my friends suffering from cancer, hip replacements, and for the unity of our parish!

Palazzo Vecchio[edit]

Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio ("Old Palace") is the town hall of the city. This massive, Romanesquecrenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany.[2] Overlooking the square with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy, and it host cultural points and museums.
Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del PopoloPalazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke's residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.
We did not have time to see the real "David" at the Accademia Gallery, but this statute in the Palazza Vecchio is a replica of Michelangelo's famous work.  
Our tour guide, Claudia II, kept us moving right along, but did let us stop and take pictures of Toni in front of the Ufizzi Museum.
Toni & Friend
The Ponte Vecchio  is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers.  We walked over this bridge later in the evening and noticed the shops filled with lots of bling.

The guides left us on our own for the afternoon so we started off with lunch at the Boccadama, getting energized for some serious shopping for Paula's leather journal.  She asked several shopkeepers where she might find a leather journal, but to no avail.  We finally found one on our own, not a leather shop, but a stationary store.  We decided we'd check out the line for the Uffizi Gallery and gratefully it only took us 10 minutes to get inside, where we were awed by two floors of incredible art work.  We could not take pictures, but apparently Rick Steves can, so I attached his You Tube Video!

We could not take any pictures, but saw collections of Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo DaVinci, and Raphael.
We met up with our tour manager in front of this amazing church at Piazza Santa Croce.  Toni, Cindy, Paula, and I decided to extend our trip in Florence and Claudia told us how to catch the train back to Montecatini.  
This church houses the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo 

 Incredible view of the main altar

 Need to stand on tip toes to get the holy water from this font.
Galileo's Tomb
After the church tour, we encouraged Toni to buy this lovely leather jacket.
We stopped for some liquid refreshments and joked about our microwave meal!
We then began the trek to the train station and muddled our way through the ticket process, finding the right platform and defending ourselves from the gypsies on the train.  Whew, we did make it back to Montecatini and even had time for more gelato before we headed to the hotel.
A great way to end our first day of touring

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