Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Italy Part II - Florence

Happy Easter!

Leaving Rome on Friday and traveling by a very fast, efficient train to Florence left us wondering why the US has not invested more in high speed trains. We digress...Florence is a jewel and we were more than happy to spend Easter weekend in the city that is home to the Duomo, David, the Uffizi and much more.

Florence is also the final resting place for 4,202 American soldiers, including mAdd Imagey grandfather, who were killed in World War II. On April 21st, 1945 my grandpa was shot down and killed outside the city. He is buried at the American Military Cemetery in Florence. Deb and I had the honor to visit his grave on April 2nd which marked the 67th anniversary of his marriage to my grandmother. The cemetery is just outside the city and sits on the side of a beautiful wooded hill that overlooks a small river. It is quiet, incredibly well kept and run by a very friendly expatriate named Angelo. He was very interested in my grandfather's life and was helpful in our family's attempt to find the actual site of my grandpa's plane crash. American Military Cemetery's seem to be overlooked in many guidebooks (except Normandy), but in reality they are a really great place to visit as you are able to gain insight into history of a place, pay respect to those who defended our freedom and are Visiting his grave has been on my list of the things to do for many years and it will go down as one of the highlights of our trip.

Saturday was spent wandering aimlessly through the ancient streets of Florence, with a stop to see David completed by Michelangelo in 1504. Hands down the most impressive piece of art we have ever seen. Fueled by another delicious Italian pizza and red wine we continued on our way around the Duomo, up to Fort Belvieder (which is no longer open but is not marked anywhere to inform travelers of this), over the Ponte Vecchio and back again. Every corner brings a different church, a new alley to explore, a new gelato shop that is just waiting for Deb to taste test.

Sunday morning began with a lovely parade outside our hotel with Italians in traditional clothes, trumpets and drums galore. Next came fireworkers, a dove rocketed down the aisle, clapping and more fireworks were not a show we attended but the beginning of the Easter Sunday mass. It was quite the spectacle and unlike any other mass we have ever attended. The mass itself was beautiful inside the green and red marbled Cathedral. Unfortunately brunch is not a meal over here in Italy so we sat down to a traditional Italian meal for our Easter dinner together, which happened to be the best meal of our trip. Delicious homemade fettuccine for Deb and Spaghetti with mussels and a veal loin for Joe. Of course there was a stop at yet another Gelato shop to top of the delicious meal and to make-up for the lack of Easter candy. An Easter Sunday that will not soon be forgotten.

Tomorrow we head to Cinque Terre for a hike through the five villages before forging ahead to Switzerland on Wednesday. Our days are quickly dwindling before our eyes and although we are looking forward to being home, visiting with friends and family, and not living out of a backpack we are sad to see our time abroad coming to an end. Italy has been a magnificent stop along the road, one that has quickly won our hearts, and a place we hope to return to because seven days is not nearly enough.

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