Saturday, November 24, 2012

Florence and Venice with Mom and Dad

After we saw Jon off on a train to Naples, my parents and I took advantage of the last hour and a half of daylight left in Florence. We walked to the Duomo, known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The Duomo stands tall over the city with a striking Renaissance dome. The outside of the church is decorated in a mix of pink, white, and green marble and is stunning to look at. Compared to the outside of the cathedral, the inside isn't as decorative, but is nicely adorned with mosaic pavements and large frescoes painted in the dome.

The dome

Of course we had to climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome (was there any question?) On our way up we were able to see the inside of the dome up-close and admire the frescoes. We kept climbing up... and up... and up... and just when we thought that we might not be able to squeeze through another narrow staircase or climb one more step, our legs pushed through the burning because we knew what awaited us at the top. The final step had us exiting out onto the lantern of the duomo and extraordinary views of the city welcomed us at once.

Now we just had to go down...

That night at dinner we had a fantastic meal near our hotel. During dinner the owner made an announcement to the restaurant, turned on Mozart, and began playing the french horn for the table next to us. Many people were taking pictures and going up to the woman at the table kissing her hand. Confused, we asked the waitress if she was famous. As it turns out the woman who was sitting next to us was a very famous French actress (Sabina Azema) and her husband is in charge of the Florence French Film Festival every year. We struck up a conversation with her and she even posed for a picture with my parents.

The first thing we did the next day was go to the Accademia in order to see Michelangelo's David. David stands 17 feet tall and is an impressive sight to see! We admired the magnitude of it and the painstaking effort that must have gone into making this amazing piece. Even though I've seen it before, I couldn't help but marvel at the statue once again. We also spent a good deal of time looking at the many plaster molds of different statues, as well as the paintings in the museum.

Afterwards, we walked back to the Duomo complex and went to the Bell Tower, also called The Campinele, to climb it (what else?) Mom was not too happy with our decision to climb another tower (this was our third one), but she was a trooper the whole way up! Once again there were beautiful views of the city at the top as well as the duomo we climbed from the day before.

After climbing down the steps and exiting the tower we walked over the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and towards Piazza Michelangelo to see a panoramic view of the city. We had gorgeous weather and the sun was shining down on the beautiful city.

In front of the Ponte Vecchio

Our last stop of the day was to the leather market where we made a few purchases and tried to avoid the pushy sellers attempting to unload their items. We did our best not to buy too much since we had to drag our luggage to the train station the next day and from the train station in Venice.

When we arrived in Venice the next day, my parents were enamored with the sight of the canals and small narrow streets around every corner. Our hotel was situated near the cruise port (since that is where they needed to be the next day) so we walked about 30 minutes to St. Marks Square. We were very lucky with the weather that we had as the week prior to our arrival the area saw a lot of flooding in the square. And as it turns out, two days after their cruise left Venice, the city saw the worst flooding in 20 years. We wouldn't have been able to walk around anywhere without getting soaking wet!

November 11, 2012. Taken from 
November 11, 2012. Taken from

The famous piazza overlooks the water and is home to St. Mark's Basilica and government buildings. The basilica has a separate bell tower that Dad and I wanted to see, but Mom was not too keen on climbing. She decided to stay in the square and shop at the stores while we checked it out. It was of course, the only tower that had an elevator up to the top. We enjoyed the views of the city and even saw their cruise ship coming in from afar.

The ship they were boarding the next day, making its way into Venice.

We took a gondola ride through the quiet back canals as well as through the Grand Canal of the city. While this is a very touristy thing to do in Venice, it's one of those things that you have to do while here and I was happy to ride in one a second time (I did offer to let my parents have a romantic ride on their own). We had a relaxing time in the gondola and it was a nice way to spend the time with one another. The quiet canals provided refuge from the busy streets, and at times the only sounds heard were the gentle dip of the paddle into the canal. We passed other boats, gondolas, and even the hotel that Jon and I stayed in last year.

The next day, before my parents went on their cruise we visited the Jewish Quarter of Venice. The Ghetto Vecchio (Old Ghetto) is where all Jews were forced to live from the 16th to 18th century. It's now a very charming neighborhood where Venice's small Jewish community still lives. While looking at the buildings we were welcomed in by a rabbi who offered us cake and coffee. While my mom and I snacked, they invited my dad to put on tefillin (a set of small leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with versus from the Torah). They were very hospitable and friendly and it was nice to connect with Jews from the area.

Part of the Holocaust Memorial

The main square of the Jewish Quarter

It was soon time for my parents to board their cruise so we made our way back to the hotel, grabbed the luggage, and headed to the port. They were about to embark on a 12 day journey to Croatia, Greece, and Turkey. I was thankful for the time that we spent together before their trip and I was happy that I was going to see them at the end in Rome and then in Naples. Buon Viaggio Mom and Dad!


  1. I loved reading this blog! Like I said before, it's so weird reading your blog that talks about us and has pics of us! Anyway, we had a spectacular time with you before the cruise! (We wish that Jon could have stayed too.) Florence is an amazing and very beautiful city! Yes, I did make it up to the top of the dome, even though it felt like more than 463 steps!! But getting to the top was definitely worth it! What a gorgeous view! I can't believe the pics of the flooding in Venice, only 2 days after we left! We were so lucky! I had always wanted to go to Venice and ride in a gondola and that's exactly what I did! It was so much fun and worth every penny! Venice is a beautiful city and it's so cool how people get around there! Wouldn't it be great to get around a city by boat instead of a car?!! I love it!! And then there was the Jewish Ghetto in Venice! The first word that comes to my mind is Amazing! Seeing the synagogue and the Holocaust Memorial was very moving, especially when the Rabbi asked Alan to put on the tefillin. It was wonderful to see that there were still Jewish people in Venice. Then it was time for our cruise and Cheryl walked with us to the cruise terminal and waited till we boarded the ship. Thanks, to Cheryl and Jon for an amazing first week of our vacation in Italy!!