The train station in Munich was vast and interesting. We quickly learned the difference between a first class ticket; lounge with restrooms and snacks – and everyone else (restrooms in the basement.) Newell dropped Tim and me off at the station with luggage so he could return the rental car and catch a bus back to meet us. As we waited on the platform, we endulged in some serious people and pigeon-watching. (Note from Tim: vegan yogurt – just say no.)
The 8-hour train ride took us through the Alps and into Tuscany; a lovely journey for an autumn day.
We had bought books to read and shopped for lunch on the way to the station. I thought I would get bored, but I was wrong. Watching the variety of landscape and quaint villages as we sped past was anything but boring. We met other travelers and shared their stories; like the elderly Englishwoman who had been visiting her brother in Germany and was on her way to see Venice for the first time. Her husband was worried that she couldn’t manage her luggage, but Tim stepped up and gave her a hand.
We arrived in Florence and took another train to Pisa where we were met with a familiar and family face; our Andrew! It had been a year and a half since we saw him before he and his family deployed to Italy. After 2 1/2 weeks of travel it was wonderful to be greeted in a faraway land by a loved one. Props to Annie for making room for the in-laws for 10 days!
We arrived at the Chaddock’s house late in the evening, but 1 1/2 year-old Ender was awake to greet us. Tired from the train ride, we were glad to be there with 2 of our sons and family.
The next day we went onto base with Andrew to meet his “family” at work. The US Army shares a base with the Italian military, it was an interesting arrangement. The sacrifice our soldiers and their families make takes many forms; besides the dangers they face, for some its being so far from family during holidays and special times.
Americans abroad have to dress unobtrusively to not draw attention; soldiers have to change on base, no uniforms in public.
After watching for terrorist attacks throughout the trip, I naively thought we would be safe in Italy (ahem; the Cosa Nostra…) Wrong. We were informed that Rome was one of the top potential targets and it was suggested we avoid going into the Eternal City.
The following day we took a train to Florence to see the artistic treasures there.
The first thing we saw in Florence was Il Duomo, a cathedral built over several centuries ( exterior 1296 -1436.) The facade features multiple colors of marble, statues of apostles, saints and Biblical personages.
Andrew had suggested we make reservations for Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s David. A very wise move for a Saturday visit. We had heard and verified that David would be taken off display for a while due of stress fractures developing in the statue’s ankles . A trip to Italy without viewing David? Inconceivable. There was a very long line to get tickets. People were hawking tour packages to get you into the building faster, at a fairly expensive price. Reservations in hand, we skipped the long line.
Viewing the gorgeous marble statue so elegantly crafted, one could almost forget the Biblical story of the young shepherd about to face the giant impugning the armies of Israel and their God. One look at that attitude and posture and you know how that battle is going to turn out. See 1 Samuel Chapter 17 in the Old Testament of the Bible for a great tale of faith and fortitude. After the Galleria’s collection of Michelangelo’s art, my favorite exhibit was the cemetery art. Young sculptors could get commissions for statues and memorials for wealthy families.
The hall was filled with hundreds of busts and statuary that patrons could reference to create memorials for loved ones. After altering the dimensions of facial features, the piece would look the the intended.
I also appreciated the gilded altar piece collection. In addition to representing the value the church placed on holy items, the gold would glow in the candlelight of the often dark chapels, illuminating the images.
From there, we went out into the afternoon Florence streets to explore. We had some serious souvenir hunting to do for the grandchildrens’ Christmas gifts. We found a gelato shop that was calling our name and a pizza place that wasn’t. Not a fan of Italian pizza.
I love good display and marketing and this shop nailed it. Each flavor of gelato had large slices or chunks of representative fruit or chocolate embedded in the creamy mounds. You can see berry, honeydew and cantaloupe in the front of the case. Did I mention they had coconut? I was a happy camper; we shared a large coconut gelato – my first ever. It was worth the wait.
We discovered a Jewish synagogue that had a distinctive Middle-eastern style.
A Lindt chocolate shop and a fun gift shop with Danish products, I was tempted to buy but was informed that the gift items we buy in Italy should be Italian. So leather it was. Florence is known for their diverse and beautiful leather products; we bought wallets for the older grandchildren.
The evening was coming and it was time to bid arrivederci to Firenze, the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Endnote: Check the Galleria’s website for open days and hours and try to get your reservations at least 4 days ahead off-season. If the lines are too long, you will not be able to get tickets.