In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!
This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!
Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location. Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.
In the heart of Florence is a huge cathedral called the Cattedrale Di Santa Maria del Fiore, or more commonly called Il Duomo – named after the huge dome at the center of the building. It was by far the most popular attraction in Rome, separated into four different sections: The cathedral, the bell tower, the baptistery, and the dome itself.
We had initially planned on visiting on Saturday the 30th, but had run into the issue of tickets being sold out. Not just for the day, but for the next three days. So we had picked up tickets and headed out for our daily adventures, aiming to come back on Tuesday.
Our tickets had a time on them for the Dome itself, but the other three aspects were un-timed, basically a “go as you so choose” situation. We’d seen the lines back on the 30th, and consequently planned for a bit of queueing… but even with Bill and Greta’s Scottish queue-fu, we weren’t prepared for the lines we ran into.
Our Dome tickets were for 2:00, so we started by going into the cathedral… and no joke, the line was multiple hours. I honestly don’t remember exactly how long it is, and I don’t even have any notes on it. It was seriously so bad that I completely purged the memory from my brain. Thankfully we had six people, so we took shifts standing in the line itself; two people stood, while the other four explored and got breakfast.
We did eventually break through to the entrance, finally entering the main hall of the cathedral itself. It was beautiful, but honestly kind of underwhelming after just having been in Rome, and seeing the Basilica Majoris there. Not to say that it wasn’t beautiful, of course! The crypts below were especially interesting, since they gave a lot of information and detail about the originals of the cathedral, and thus the origins of most of Florence itself.
After the stress of queueing for the cathedral (and everyone getting a bit turned around in the crypts) we needed a rejuvination. And since the Duomo square is home to that amazing panini place that we went to on the 30th (Ed Note: See upcoming post on meals in Florence), we stopped in for a bite to eat and a drop to drink. As before, the panini were gloriously amazing, hand-crafted with the individual ingredients meticulously presented by the head chef.
Thus fortified, we stood in line again.
Turns out, the time on the tickets is… well, more of a guideline. That no one abides by. So not even a guideline at all, really.
We persevered though, and finally found ourselves thigh-mastering our way up roughly fifteen trillion stairs, winding ever upward.
Our views alternated between small stone passageways and grand vistas of the Duomo itself. The stairways seemed to originally be intended as maintenance corridors, or priest passageways, unintended for the number of people that were currently using them. But the views were worth the short bits of claustrophobia, as we repeatedly lost our breath at the beautiful art and sculptures that we were passing by.
The Duomo… I tried to take pictures of it, and you honestly can’t. I mean, maybe you can do a panorama, or one of those cool 3D pictures, but even those probably wouldn’t do justice to the sheer complexity of the composition. There were countless characters telling unnumbered stories, starting with heaven at the top and ending with a demon near the bottom. It was beautiful, soaring, and honestly breathtaking. Though our breath may have been taken by all the stairs, I guess.
After we passed above the catwalks around the Duomo itself, we continued upward along the outside of the Duomo, in between two layers of the “shell” that makes up the architecture itself. It was really cool, and almost felt like we were exploring some secret Indiana Jones style building.
Then, we broke out onto the top of the Duomo, with a soaring view of the entirety of Florence laid out below us. It was beautiful, and we spent a ton of time sightseeing, enjoying the breeze and the sun, and taking what probably amounted to a truly unnecessary number of selfies.
After our descent, we made a group decision: although our tickets could get us into the other two portions (the bell tower and the baptistery) we simply didn’t have the energy to survive any more lines.
And let’s be honest – the Duomo itself was beautiful, so it’s a pretty good note to end on, don’t you think?