Armed with an alarming capacity for charm so early in the morning, Daniele’s lovely mother drove us to the train station in Bologna. From Bologna we took a train to Florence. I left my bag in the Florence train station for the day, but Strom and Daniele brought with us their backpacks and umbrellas (rain was predicted).
We saw lots of churches.
Also, Florence was a very large city, with broad commercial streets. Somehow, these streets also had the wealth of tourists needed to fill them.
I learned that a cathedral is not just a large church. A cathedral must, by definition, contain the seat (yes, there is a physical seat) of a bishop. Florence has such a cathedral.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore posesses an enormous dome constructed by Bruneleschi, decorated inside with the story of our future fates after the second coming. The people already in heaven sit aloft, bathed in light, adorned in matching bedsheets, while below them, the eternal fates of the mortals play out. Indeed, a small fraction of the enormous dome is painted with idyllic green fields, and prancing, nude youths.
The large majority of this dome not taken up by Jesus and friends, however, is painted with agonizing vividness and creativity concerning the horrors that await those destined for eternal damnation.
Strom and Daniele and I climed up to the inner circle of the inside of the dome in order to see these depictions up close. We found that indeed, they were grotesque and magnificent.
It did rain in Florence, but not until after we’d walked far, accross the bridge of gold, left undestroyed by Hitlers retreating troops and ate a picnic of leftover rice and foccacia (from the second of the birthday parties) on the hot concrete outside of the palace of the Medicis.
Florence is a city of great art as well, and we saw incrdible sculptures like the (outdoor replica of) David, and many depictions of the Roman rapes of the Sabine women.
The churches of Florence were like all the churches of Italy were turning out to be, numerous, old, and beautiful. At the end of our day in Florence, we paid a visit to Galileo’s and Michelangelo’s tombs, which lie near each other in a very ornate old church, In this church, special care was taken to honor the great Italians of history, even Enrico Fermi.
Finally, we proceeded to Pisa by train. We all slept a bit on the train to Pisa, but I mostly spent my time listening to a pretty british girl play a word game with her friends at the other end of the train car. It was such a relief to be able to eavesdrop on something I understood, her long laughter even sounding english, and her london accent was so soft on my ears I couldn’t help staying awake to listen.
We arrived in Pisa near dinner time at 8pm, greeted by math student Alessandro, and we proceeded to eat pizza and drink beer with him and his friends, then we happened to catch the yearly even in which the people of Pisa stage a creatively anacronistic bridge battle between the two sides of the river.
We ended the night by listening to a lot of Italian talk on the patio of the honors dorm (the Scuola Normale) and spent our night in the apartment of a girlfriend of Alessandro, in a room ordinarily inhabited by the curious veteranary medicine student who experiments on her boyfriend…