It was Monday, a week from when we left home. We actually woke up with the alarm that morning and caught breakfast at eight. We were at the Cathedral bright and early to get our tickets to climb the companile (tower) and the Duomo.
We climbed the 414 steps to the top of the tower first, pausing periodically at each landing in the open air. The stairs were cramped and humid. The ventilation in the old tower showed its age. When we finally reached the top, my breath was taken away (maybe it was from climbing all those steps, but I’m going to say it was the view). The top was caged in, I presume to prevent people from plummeting to their death. We didn’t linger there long as we knew we had another set of stairs to climb. We could see people across the way, gathered on top of the slightly higher dome of the cathedral.
Baba decided she would sit the next one out, as she had accomplished a greater feat than even most young people dare would. Julianna and I entered the Cathedral and went off to the side up a long and winding staircase. It was tight, we had to wait at landings for people going the opposite direction to pass. Sweating and breathless, we finally reached the base of the dome and looked down at the church below. We walked around the rim slowly, taking in the beautiful art on the inside of the round ceiling.
Back inside the stairwell we rose higher, walking between the inside of the inner and outer domes that made this design architecturally possible. It was packed tight with people. We were sticky with sweat, walking at an almost completely vertical incline to the top of the dome. When we finally reached the top, we climbed up a ladder and caught our first breath of fresh air in what had felt like ages. It had been 463 steps to the top. The view from here was even more amazing: it wasn’t blocked by wires. There were rows upon rows of houses with clay roofs, with painted pale pink, yellow, and beige walls. The occasional dome or tower popped out from the sea of old residences. There were hills surrounding the city. It was too beautiful for words.
After almost two hours conquering the two towers, we had to go back to the hotel to shower off some of the sweat. It was hot with 70% humidity. I was terribly disappointed to find out that both the Accademia Gallery (where the original statue of David is) and the Pitti Palace were closed. That was pretty poor planning on my part. I now know that most of the tourist sites worldwide are closed on Mondays.
Off shopping we went, finding some delicious pistachio gelato along the way. We enjoyed our dinner in the square with the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. At night, we packed our bags and headed up to the rooftop of our hotel one last time. We were leaving for Rome in the morning, and sad to say goodbye to this incredible hotel and even more incredible city.