After the extensive eating that happened on our first day in Florence, we tried to do marginally better on day 2. Everyone had breakfast at their hotels and met at the Duomo around 9:45 AM, thinking that we’d be able to get in shortly after it opened at 10.
The line was probably a few hundred people deep, some of which had gotten there as early as 8 am. Having failed to buy a ticket to climb up the steps (which also got you into all of the other areas), we decided to just enter the Main Cathedral and go from there (note: since I’m now 0 for 2 on climbing, next time it is happening). It took about 45 minutes (once it opened) to get inside but as usual, the sights were worth it.
We didn’t have a tour or anything arranged but watched a few movies to learn that the Church is one of the largest and oldest in Italy (obviously lags a bit behind the Vatican). At the time it was built, the Dome was actually one of, if not the, largest Domes on a Church. The main architect was able to get this Dome constructed without any ground support and had floating infrastructure connected to large holes in the ceiling design to build it- apparently it’s still a topic of discussion today as to how this was built that high that long ago.
After our sight-seeing adventure, we had about 45 minutes before our meeting time for lunch with our guest stars for the day. Most of us made our way through the leather market stalls just a few minutes away from the city center- looking at the various purses, bags, belts, etc. While a few bought a few small items, there were no major purchases.
We made our way back to our hotel at 12 pm to meet up with some of my grandparents friends back from when they both used to be in the retail business- Gianni, Giampiero, and Francesca (daughter of Giampero). These two men knew both of my grandfathers which is always pretty cool to meet folks that knew them, and I even had previously spent a day with Gianni on a prior trip here 7 years ago.
When we got to the lobby, it was so great to see how excited my parents were to see them as they’ve also stumbled across their paths on prior trips to Europe and potentially when they came to the USA. As a group, we let the 3 locals pick a lunch spot and we made our way over to one of the oldest Trattoria’s in the city (Zaza). It is very entertaining to go out with locals in a foreign area as the wait staff thought that we all spoke Italian because the three of them did. While we all got menus, we just let them pick 3 pastas for the group and had a ton of food as usual- 3 plates of each of the 3 pastas for 9 people- plenty of food yet it all disappeared because Francesca said it’s a crime to leave leftover pasta.
Lunch was filled with catching up about how each other had been doing and a brief FaceTime call from my grandmother to chat with them. You could see how strong the relationships were as to how excited each of the 3 was to FaceTime with her.
After lunch, Julie and Dan made their way to the hop-on/hop-off bus and the rest of us went on a walking tour of the city. They took us to various churches that we hadn’t seen, provided deep and extensive history about the various squares and sights that we were walking through (example- it’s possible that soccer was invented here during a siege of the city from the French empire, they played to show the soldiers on the outside that they didn’t ever need to leave), and so much more. Highlight of the day was we walked upon a store with some sort of golden outside, I had no choice but to say hello. In exchange for my friendliness, I received an ear cleaning and a facial.
We went in and out of various leather shops, including a visit to the leather school, continuing our casual searching before ending up near the Jewish part of the city with a brief visit to the synagogue and Jewish museum. It was very cool to see such old heritage and tradition coming out of Florence as we learned about the Florentine Jews and their struggles getting citizenship in the 1800s followed by the challenges of being occupied in WWII and aligned with Germany. The synagogue itself was gorgeous- 2 stories and home to nearly 1,000 members today.
We made our way back to the hotel and said our good-byes and hope-to-see-you-soons with our local Florentine family. Giampiero and Gianni weren’t nearly as tired as we were with our full day of walking. We got a dinner recommendation from them that we’d later use and many memories for the trip.
Everyone needed a little rest before dinner so we ended up eating pretty late (830 pm) and meeting at one of the recommended spots. We had a table for six about as far away from the entrance as possible which was necessary given the volume of the crowd tonight. We toasted the final dinner that the group of six would have on this trip and hoped to get back together soon maybe on another vacation next year (cough Safari, cough Safari).
After dinner, we made our way to look at the Duomo at night which didn’t live up to the hype but was still a beautiful sight to see and may or may not have gotten a second round of gelato for the day.
Another full day in the books- but another successful one!
Random section here- signs of the day!