Today we went downtown Florence to check out the area. We were going to take the bus so we could leave our car here by the hotel, but we have no clue how to figure out the bus system. They don't really have signs up telling you the bus routes and it's much harder than figuring out a metro system. So we decided to just drive downtown Florence, which was kind of a mistake. We made it to downtown fine, but trying to find a parking garage was a different story. I thought the streets in Paris were narrow, but they are NOTHING compared to the streets in Florence. Some of the back streets here are pretty much a double wide sidewalk, with stone buildings on either side. I'm glad Mark was driving because things were really tight. Plus I'm pretty sure most of the drivers here are blind because there might as well not even be lane lines painted on the road. People just randomly drive down the middle of the road and half the time you can be right next to them and the next thing you know you're both sharing one lane. This happens ALL the time with the stupid mopeds and motorcycles (they're obviously exempt from any driving laws that might exist anyway), but it happens with big huge trucks, buses, other cars, etc, too. It's crazy. Makes me really nervous, so half the time I just close my eyes.
So we finally found a parking garage and marked it on our map and our GPS so we wouldn't forget where we parked... That would have been bad. They have tons of street vendors here in Florence. Everyone and their mother sells Italian leather products - very nice jackets, purses, wallets, belts, you name it - if it's made of leather, they've got it. If the exchange rate wasn't so bad, and I actually had a job, I would be VERY tempted to buy one of the jackets. They really are very nice, but they're also at least 110Euros, which is $170ish. (AKA out of my price range at the moment.) They also sell lots of scarves here, which I love. Every type of scarf you could ever hope to see, they have them all over the place. Again, if I had money, I'd probably buy one of each, but since I don't, I just bought one.
We first went to see Piazza del Duomo, which is a big church with Michelangelo's paintings in it. The line was really long though, and we didn't feel like waiting, so we just took pictures of the outside and moved on. Next we went to Galleria dell Accademia - which is where Michelangelo's "David" sculpture now resides. After waiting in line for an hour and 40 mins and paying 12Euro to get in, we saw "David". The thing is monsterous! One of his legs is probably taller than I am. It was quite amazing to see him up close and personal. There were other sculptures of Michelangelo's in the building also, but they weren't finished because he died before he could finish them. And there were lots of big paintings too, but the Louvre paintings were much more impressive than the ones here.
Next we wandered around for a while and then went to San Lorenzo - another church - but again, we didn't go inside, just took pics outside. After that we went to Ponte Vecchio - which is a bridge that is lined with these rickety looking buildings on both sides. From the back side of the buildings it looks like they're ready to crumble at any moment, but went you walk down the middle of the bridge, you find they're a bunch of ritzy jewelry stores, which is kind of funny. The entire bridge (between a block or two long) is lined with very expensive jewelry stores. Kind of funny.
So then we ate some good italian food and went to Piazza Signoria, which is the original place the "David" was, until they moved it to the other place. There are also a bunch of other sculptures outside this church. It was pretty neat to see. Then we tried to go into yet another church - Santa Croce (where Galileo and Michelangelo are supposedly buried), but it was closed. Oh well.
We (barely) survived the crazy traffic on the way home, but we made it. It's 8pm here and I think we're going to go to bed early tonight so we can get up early in the AM and head to Rome. We have a bunch of laundry to do and there's a lot to see in Rome so we wanted to leave early. We're staying at a hostel in Rome for $150 for 3 nights. Hopefully it's decent. That's really cheap - by far the cheapest lodging we've had here so far.