Firenze

Majella had her presentation scheduled for Thursday afternoon so she needed to be at the conference all day. She had breakfast at the hotel and headed off on the bus, a little later than on Wednesday but still reasonably early. I let Emily sleep a little longer but we we needed an earlier start than Wednesday if we were to carry through our plan to spend the day in Firenze (Florence).

After breakfast we headed out to pick up daily bus tickets for Prato. Those would get us to the stazione from where we would catch a train to Firenze. At the stazione we managed to buy tickets for the outward and return trips and to board the right train. The train ran late and slowly but we eventually arrived in Firenze and stepped out into the city centre. McDonalds was just across the road. Emily was ready for a second breakfast and her first McDonalds meal in Italy. That done we were ready to see Firenze.

We walked through the narrow, winding streets lined with market stalls selling all sorts of goods. Our first stop was the Gallery of the Academy where Michelangelo’s David is displayed. There were two queues – one going back about 50 metres for those with reservations and another at least 3 times as long for everybody else. We didn’t think we could handle the wait so we moved on down the street towards the Duomo. The entire square around it was packed with tour groups and every open entrance had its queue. We were content to look at the outsides of the buildings and move on towards the river Arno.

We reached the Ponte Vecchio, walked across it and then turned back towards the city. Perhaps it was the sight of a bridge lined with shops or just that we had completed as much sight-seeing as I had planned but Emily kicked into shopping mode. She bought a leather bracelet for herself on the Ponte Vecchio and then we started to work our way back through the city checking most of the street side stalls along the way.

The big difference to this day of shopping by Emily was a focus on buying gifts to take home for family and friends. She made some good selections and managed to buy a fair number of the gifts she needed before my funds began to run dry. We avoided the expensive stores but Emily did manage to look in a few windows and did a little dreaming.

Majella had mentioned that we should be looking for references to the artist Donatello, the source of the name of the street in which the Bathams live. I’d been looking through the day but had not noticed any copies of artworks or other references. Just after we finished shopping and turned for the stazione we stepped between two stalls onto the footpath and saw an awning on a store behind marked with the name of Donatello. It was a fine leather goods store. We looked inside but the prices dissuaded us from buying anything.

We arrived back in Prato in time to stand in the corridor and listen to the last few minutes of Majella’s presentation. That was despite a slow train from Firenze to Prato, a quick change to a wrong bus, a walk to find a bus heading in the right direction and a fruitless wait in a bank seeking to exchange a cheque. Once we had checked in with Majella, Emily and I slipped off to the Internet point to check email and update some web pages. When Majella was done we all took the bus back to the hotel to drop our bags and then caught another bus towards the city to find dinner. Along the way we stopped off to visit Via Donatello, which Majella had spotted from a bus on one of her trips to and from town. We took a close look at number 14.

We had dinner, pasta all round, at a cafe on the Duomo piazza from where we could admire the building and watch the people walking in the piazza. There was time to check out some more shops before we took the bus back to the hotel and prepared to pack for our departure next day.

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