Saturday, June 17th (a day late)

Sorry this was delayed,  but I didn't have much time in Florence to keep up.  Think of it as a tv time lapse...

A number of us woke up bright and early Saturday morning to climb the bell tower of the Duomo.  We were hoping to beat the heat and the crowds.  We had hoped to climb the Duomo, but we found out Friday that all the tickets were sold out this weekend.  The next best option was to climb the bell tower.  So, instead of 463 steps in a spiral pattern we had to accept only doing 413 in nice even flights of steps (until the very end where it becomes spiral,  but nothing like the spiral steps at St. Peter's Basilica that needed a rope hanging down the middle to hold onto).  It was worth every step I took.  The view from the top was spectacular- a 360 degree view of the entire city and the surrounding hills.  Please see pictures on the AP Studio Art tab.  I do think the walking down this time was harder for two reasons:  the first was because the going up staircase is also the going down staircase.  It made it a little tight in places.  The second reason was because the steps were pretty steep.  My legs were shaking by the time I got down.  There's nothing like starting out your day with 826 steps.  We then visited the Baptistry and the inside of the Duomo.  I have also posted pictures of both of those places on the AP Studio tab.  

From there, we met up with the rest of the Xavier group at the Uffizi Art Gallery.  We spent the next 4 hours looking at the 1500 or so masterpieces that are housed in the former offices of the Medici family.  It has the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art.  We saw works by Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and many more.  It was an overwhelming day.  We ended the tour around 3:30 and I was able to go visit the markets one last time.  Apparently I am a glutton for punishment.  Actually, it was a little better this time around.  It was very nice to be off on my own just taking in the sights and sounds of Florence.  And the best part, I was able to find my way back to the hotel on my home!   

We all got a short rest before we had to be ready for the anxiously awaited banquet held for the Xavier Rome program.  We had a heard a lot about it.  It had a lot to live up too.  We walked to the restaurant.  It was about 40 minutes from our hotel.  Here I was hoping to have one meal that I wasn't sweating to death by the time I got to a restaurant.  Oh well!  SIDE NOTE:  It was a good thing that we had to walk that much because we had not hit our average mileage that day yet.  I will say that Andrea is keeping the mileage for me and she did not go to the bell tower and Baptistry with us, so I think we probably were there.  Talk about a dinner!  The food, the water and wine just kept coming.  I think we ended up with at least 4 or 5 appetizers, 3 different pastas (one being an unbelievable butter and sage ravioli- WOW!), chicken in lemon and butter sauce and then finally, the biggest serving of tiramisu that I think I have ever seen.  Along with good company and several bottles of their house red wine, it was a really lovely evening.  I think it was the most hydrated I have been in three weeks!  The meal ended at 11:30 pm-yes, it really did last 3 and half hours.  Good thing we had to walk home (or roll)!  It seems fitting that we end our time here in Italy with an authentic Italian meal- great food, great wine and great company!