After waking up early to pack our bags and check out of our hotel, we headed into town to finish sightseeing in Florence. We had an 11:30 reservation for a “Secret Passages” tour of the Palazo Vechio, but first I really wanted to climb up Brunelleschi’s Dome! As we headed off, we noticed Sam’s ever-so-important copy of Inferno was missing. It wasn’t in the room or her suitcase, so saddened we headed to town, assuming it had been left somewhere or stolen. As we walked we discussed where it might have been left, and I suddenly remembered a short visit to a pharmacy where Sam got allergy medicine and I got toothpaste. Luckily Sam remembered which pharmacy it was, and when we walked in it was waiting for us on the counter! What luck!
So, as I said, climbing the dome was at the top of my to-do list. So I got right in line. Unfortunately, the line was like an hour long and it is supposed to be about a 30-40 minute climb, which would get me out right before our scheduled tour. Sam’s allergies made her not want to make the climb, so I ascended myself. It was pretty annoying going up the stairs, because it was so narrow you could never pass people, so I had to stop about every 5 steps as the people in front of me took their dear sweet time.
The first ⅔ was just very narrow winding steps, leading to a great birds-eye-view of the church’s interior. But as we got into the dome itself the entire corridor began cresting with the dome, the walls and ceiling curving inward and making for some awkward climbing. Finally we turned and basically climbed straight up the very steep steps at the apex of the dome, and popped out in the cupola. The view was awesome! It was at about the same height as the adjacent bell tower, but the perspective offered from the focal point of the Florentine skyline was amazing!
Sadly, my view gazing time was cut short because of the upcoming tour. I tried making my way down, but was stopped multiple times by groups of people coming up from the bottom, and having to wait for that group to pass before I could continue. Fortunately that was only for the actual dome segment, and there were separate spiral staircases for going up and down. I texted Sam to have her meet me at the tour location because I would have to run to make it on time. As I spun dizzily down the never ending spiral staircase I felt like I needed Dramamine. When at last I reached the exit of the church I had only a split second to glance at the interior of the dome before running out of the church towards the Palazo Vechio.
Luckily we made it in time for our tour. The tour guide was from Boston, and it was a bit tricky to understand her 0-60 talking speed. Also, there were some very young kids on the tour who apparently were very art-smart but very manners-impaired. Meaning that they asked the most annoying and irrelevant questions about every thing we saw. Like if someone had ever stolen the gold leaf off of the 80 foot high ceiling, then speculating loudly on how it could be done.
Other than that, the tour was awesome. We saw all of the places Robert Langdon and Sienna visited in Inferno, including the secret back staircases, passageways, corridors hidden behind maps, arwork, awkward statues, and the dark attic above the Room of the Five Hundred. Our tour guide noticed Sam’s copy of Inferno and was great about always pointing out the important sights from it.
Well the tour lasted a bit longer than scheduled (partly from the Inferno references, but mostly from the kids obnoxious questions) so we basically just had to get lunch, pick up out bags, and head to the train station. The train to Ancona went smoothly enough, but when we arrived the docks for the ferry was a pretty long walk away, so even though we had 2 hours to get there, we started walking. This is where the story gets… tiring.
We found a restaurant right across from the docks and ordered dinner. For some reason the food took forever, even though we were the only people eating, so I decided to go and double check at the docks that we were in the right place. Turns out we weren’t. The ticket office was about a mile back in the direction we had come from, and we couldn’t board with just the email confirmation I had. So I ran back to the restaurant, inhaled my food, and then literally sprinted all the way to the ticket office. When I got there I only found an old, very out of service looking booth. This was 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. So I started sprinting back. I called the phone number from my confirmation email and talked to a woman who drastically over estimated her English speaking skills. Finally after several minutes of trying to ask her where the check in / ticket office was (while still booking it back to where Sam was waiting by the dock) she gave me a street name, which when I checked my phones map was another 10 minute run the other direction. So I just decided we would have to try out luck getting on without printed tickets, because there would be no humanly way for me to run that far and back and get the tickets printed in 15 minutes.
I got back to the restaurant where Sam was waiting for me, and still heaving from the sprint got our bags and hurried to the passport check and explained the situation. The men there told us to try getting on the ferry bit that they might not let us on without a real ticket. So we then ran to the ferry where they scolded us a bit for not getting a validated ticket, but still let us on after calling the office to confirm my email reservation was real. Then we got on the ferry. We were exhausted, so searching the boat for a place to sit wasn’t fun, but then we found a nice big empty room where we could crash. We explored the ship for a bit, and I stepped outside for a long while to cool off after my 25 minute sprint session. I was very tired. We then watched a movie on my iPad and found a few empty rows of seats where we folded up the armrests and sprawled across the make-shift beds.
I have the blessing and the curse of being able to fall asleep anywhere. (Often when I shouldn’t!) Sam does not have that gift. She got speed-reading and I got easy-sleeping, apparently. So tonight won’t be great for me, but it will probably be worse for her.