After the bike trip we spent three nights in Florence. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Cavour, in the thick of things, very close to the Bargello museum; it was very nice.
On our arrival we walked past to the Duomo (stopping for gelato, of course) and noticed that one could climb the dome, so we immediately did so - it was a beautiful day, and who can say what the weather will be tomorrow? The views were spectacular. We noticed that there were rooftop gardens near where we thought our hotel was, so we asked on our return and were told the hotel had one. We then rushed off to our appointed time in the Ufizzi and did the abridged tour from Rick Steves' guidebook. This is excellent, as it shows you important works and explains their significance, without overwhelming you or wearing out your feet. Instructions include "skip the next two rooms": music to my ears. After the Ufizzi we heard drumming so Kathy led us to Piazza della Signoria in front of Palazzo Vecchio where there was a sort of "mini-Palio" of drummers, trumpeters, and flag throwers celebrating the death of Savonarola, the priest to tried to squelch the Renaissance and had the "Bonfire of the Vanities".
Back at the hotel we went up to the roof to watch the sunset. Another couple came up to the roof for a picnic, and we decided to steal that idea for our last meal in Florence. That night, however, we went to I'Cchè C'è C'è, a small restaurant recommended by Rick Steves, for dinner. Since it has a Steves mention, it was no longer off the beaten path, so we could not be seated immediately, but the meal we had was fabulous, and after most of the patrons had left, the chef came out and chatted with those of us remaining; very cozy. After dinner, a nice walk by the Arno past Ponte Vecchio and back home.
Sunday we went to the Bargello in the morning, then met Tom and Michelle at the Accademia in the afternoon. Some gleato was consumed somewhere in there, I'm sure. At the Bargello Ben had seen miniature replicas of Michelangelo's sarcophagi in Medici Chapel and this had stirred long-dormant memories of a field trip when Ben had been living in Rome in 1968. Ben remembered only that the place had been interesting, so we decided to add it to our plan for Monday, our last day. We then walked over to Ponte Vecchio to check out the views and jewelry stores and found a lovely gold ring for Kathy. Sunday evening the four of us met Ben's cousin, Dorothée, for drinks and dinner. Drinks were on the rooftop of a hotel overlooking Ponte Vecchio, and dinner at a little artist's restaurant called Gorga's; both very nice. It was great to catch up with Dorothée as well, since we had only seen each other once in at least 20 years. We said goodbye to Tom and Michelle after dinner since they were leaving for Toronto on Monday morning.
Monday we went over to Santa Croce to check out the art as well as graves and memorials to a wide variety of Italian historical figures from Michelangelo through Fermi. Then we did the "secret rooms" tour in the Palazzo Vecchio. Pretty neat. Finally we went over to the Medici Chapel and discovered that, indeed, the place is very impressive. The main chapel is full of "paintings" made from inlaid marble - not mosaic, per se, but intricately cut, and using the coloring and lines in the marble for part of the effect. The sarcophagi are also quite impressive, and Ben recalled that he had learned that Michelangelo had used a male model for the female figure "Night". One look at the sarcophagus confirmed this memory. After the Medici Chapel it was time to hit the supermarket to buy dinner fixings. After shopping we found a little gallery where they were doing marble inlay artworks. We were very tempted to buy several of the pieces, but reason prevailed and we just took their contact information. We might have had a gelato or two somewhere in all of that. Early Monday evening (by Florence dinnertime standards) we headed up to the roof, had our picnic, and said goodbye to Florence. We had to leave the hotel just before 5am to catch our flight to Rome. We can't quite believe how much we crammed into less than three days in Florence!