Florence, Here We Come!

Mikos had warned me about traveling light. Did I take that advice? No, because I am my own stubborn person. I paid for this with a lot of guilt as I watched my son lugging my two suitcases on the train. The train ride from Rome to Florence was wonderful, but it brought back memories of the time we traveled with our friends Larry and Helen by car. Mike did most of the driving, but when we arrived in Florence, we did not realize that only permitted vehicles are allowed to park in the city. By the end of the trip, Mike had unknowingly racked up over 800 euros in fines. He had to pay the fines or risk losing his passport. So both Mike and I were truly enjoying the train ride.

The Florence Flat

Mikos had already made arrangements for us to leave our luggage at the flat because of our early arrival. This flat was on the fourth floor and could be accessed by stairs or elevator.

Elevator instructions

This elevator was by far the slowest means of transportation, and it was a lot smaller than the one in Rome. We had a beautiful view of the Duomo but it was from the bedroom that the kids were sharing. Again, Will took on the responsibility of making sure I was safely transported on the elevator. Prayer helped Will and me figure out how this hyper-sensitive elevator operated. I would not be exaggerating to say that I could have prayed an entire Rosary from start to finish!

Room with a view
The Ponte Vecchio

We took a long stroll down to the Ponte Vecchio and acclimated ourselves to our surroundings. Florence is a small cosmopolitan city, offering tourists one of the best  Renaissance artist experiences – all with in walking distance.

The Dinner

After we settled in, it was time for dinner. I made an announcement, “I will not be using the elevator to come down, I will use the stairs instead.” Believe it or not, this was welcome news because I was inconveniencing my family by having them wait for me.

Our dinner was at Buca Mario, known for their Florentine steaks. I normally order my steak medium well, but this type of steak is served almost raw. Mikos and Jenny shared a steak, but in reality we all ate from their portion and had enough to bring back to the flat. On the second night Mike and I had dinner together. We could not get enough of the Florentine steak so we ordered it again! It was heavenly, and the best part was that this restaurant was located in front of our flat.

The Uffizi And The Accademia

Though I have been here several times, on this visit we purchased earphones to follow commentary along each gallery. To see a masterpiece with an explanation is a lot more memorable. We can all have an interpretation of art, but when you get the artist’s point of view, there is a greater appreciation for the work.

Uffizi Gallery Our Blessed Mother writing the prayer found in Luke 1:46-55
Blessed Mother Mary interceding for others

There were several paintings of our Blessed Mother interceding to her Son on behalf of others. One painting depicted the Blessed Mother composing the  prayer found  in (Luke 1:46-55).

The commanding sculpture of Michelangelo’s David is a beautiful depiction of the Biblical story of David and Goliath. These Renaissance artists were familiar with the Bible, so I believe that is why God amplified their gifts.

We ate at a swanky, LA-type eatery called Shake Café. I felt like I was eating at my breakfast table with Ezekiel Bread smothered in avocado. Since this popular cafe was less than a block away, we made this our breakfast stop.

The Duomo

Mikos made reservations to climb to the top of the Duomo, but there was no way Mike and I were up to that task. We attended a Mass in the Duomo while they made their way to the top of the Florence world. Our Italian Mass, as usual, was beautiful.


The following morning we took another train ride to Pisa. This was going to be a long day trip because it also included Cinque Terre. Two memorable moments in Pisa: the restrooms were spotless, and we ate the best sandwiches on the way back to catch the train.

Cinque Terre

From Pisa to our next stop was about an hour, and from there we were going to Riomaggiore, one of the five cities in Cinque Terre. We had train tickets to this small seaside village but, while we were sitting waiting for our train, it came and left without us. We had to take a 50-euro taxi into the village. The taxi left us at the top of the village, and when I say top, I mean it was a hike down! Riomaggiore was beautiful, but the shop owners were indifferent and unwelcoming.

Its was time to catch another train to Manarola, another seaside village. We were told that these train rides were less than 10 minutes. Once everyone settled in, all of a sudden I saw my family getting out their phone cords for charging. I said to myself, “Why are they doing this? The ride is so short!” When we arrived they were all getting their gear together and we jumped off the train. Then it happened! All hell broke loose! Mikos started feeling his pockets for his phone. “My phone! I left it on the train!” He jumped back into the train and frantically made his way back to retrieve the phone. In the meantime, Jennie was holding the train doors open so that it would not leave him behind. Maddie started yelling, “Mom! Mom, let go of the doors!” She jumped back just in time to see Mikos leave for God knows where! I’m sorry, but this was really hilarious! Mikos had his phone the entire time, but we would not see him for another one and a half hours.

By the time Mikos arrived, we were sitting down for dinner. The dinner was as bad as the day. To make up for his lost time, Mikos and Will hiked up to the Manarola Vineyard trail and Cemetery. Mike and I made it back to the train station and waited for them. We wanted to purchase tickets, but were uncertain of the time; so we waited for Mikos to give us a directive.

The Train Ride From Hell

The entire time we have been on and off trains, no one had ever checked our tickets. As the train was pulling up, my family was running to catch the train! Mikos yelled, “Get on the train! Get on the train!” So we did. We did not purchase return tickets. Mikos was confident that they were not going to ask for tickets.  He had a plan B, “I read in some tour guide books that many times they don’t bother checking for tickets; so if they ask, just pull out the old tickets. We’ll be fine.” Then it happened: the conductor opened the door to our car. I was sitting facing Mikos and Mikos was facing the conductor. I will never forget the look on my son’s face when the man asked for our tickets. His eyebrows clinched together and his eyes turned into a deeper shade of brown. “Tickets,” said the man. I saw Jenny reach deep into her purse as she pulled out the fake tickets, and one that looked like a museum ticket. Mikos tried to talk his way out of this debacle, but it not only got lost in translation, it was a lost cause. “You must pay a fine-e-e!” said the conductor. “How much?” Mikos asked. “55 euros” he answered. For a moment I saw a sigh of relief on Mikos’ face. Then the conductor added, “You must pay a fine-e-e of 55 euros each.”

The Shakedown

The conductor stopped the train and asked us to step off onto the platform. For a moment I thought we were going to be arrested. “You pay now!” We humbly gathered our euros and handed the man the fare of 330 euros! So what was originally an eight- euro charge turned into a life lesson. No one talked the rest of the ride home. As bad as the day was, it was yet to get worse.

We were so frazzled that we missed our train to Florence. We had to purchase new tickets for that as well!

My Prayer

Dear Lord, thank You for allowing is to experience this journey.  I praise You for taking care of us and leading us safely back to Florence. May we always keep You deep within our hearts. Amen.

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