Toronto to Boston to Zurich to Bologna to Firenze

photo: The Duomo doors

The Duomo doors, Firenze

"Firenze" is better known in the English-speaking world as "Florence" in Italy. But come on: "Firenze" sounds so much better! (Remember to pronounce the final "E".) Besides, it's the name the Italians gave it, so let's use that.

My biggest decision after choosing to go to Firenze was what to do about my camera. I have a Canon SX10is that has served me well for seven years, but in the past year it's got cranky about opening the lens when I turn it on. If you tweak the lens gently just as you turn it on ... yeah, let's get a new camera and just not deal with that. I chose the Panasonic FX1000, a superzoom like my previous cameras, but it also has a significantly larger sensor - this makes it more sensitive to light, able to shoot in darker locations. Given that modern digital cameras are essentially a computer that happens to have a lens attached to it, it's also got a number of very interesting tricks up its sleeves. And about 600 pages of documentation spread across two guide books, one paper and one electronic. Best tricks: built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) multi-shot pictures, and multi-photo night shooting that makes hand-held shooting at night in the city ... easy (for non-photographers: that's major). Worst practical joke (although they didn't mean it that way): if you set the camera to "Silent Mode" (always one of the first things I do), opening the flash won't turn it on. And you'll have no explanation as to why. The fact that this is an issue is explained on page 550 of those 600 pages of documentation, but was initially solved by my co-worker Louis' amazing Google skills. The in-camera panorama doesn't quite work to my satisfaction, so I'm less pissed that it won't work in Silent Mode - and at least it tells you why it's not working, unlike the flash.

I tried out the "UP" - a nifty name, but more comprehensible by its complete name of "Union-Pearson Express." I've always used the Airport Rocket bus from Kipling station, but getting to Union is easier and faster. The UP costs $9 with a Presto card ($12 cash ... but since the TTC is going full Presto as fast as they can, I bought the card), and is much, much more comfortable than the bus. And ... it's got both Wifi and electrical outlets by every seat.

Through foolish booking on my part, I got a grand four airport tour: Toronto, Boston, Zurich, and Bologna. Wait, what? I thought I was going to Firenze? Indeed, bad weather in Firenze sent us to Bologna, where we had a long wait for our luggage along with everyone else who hadn't landed in Firenze, and then on to a large tour bus that drove us to the Firenze airport. This (mis)adventure inspired the passengers to talk amongst themselves, and I ended up spending the bus ride with Bill Cook, a history and art history professor from the Rochester, New York area who also has an apartment in Siena, Italy. And whose world travels make my efforts look like the pathetic beginnings of a novice. So we traded travel stories, and he gave me some tips for the area. I admit to feeling slightly relieved that there were a couple places in the world I'd been that he hadn't (Vancouver Island, Newfoundland, the Maritimes - notice a theme here?), but, just to show how much he's travelled, he's seen considerably more of Myanmar than I have. It's extremely rare for me to meet anyone who's been there at all.

I got to my room around 1700 and cleaned myself up a little, then headed back out for a walking tour of the city - mostly along the Arno. The famous Ponte Vecchio (literally "Old Bridge") has buildings almost the entire way across it, and they're all jewellers. It's also densely packed with tourists.

I went by the Baptistery and the Duomo, distinctive in their multi-coloured marble. The Baptistery is clad in dark green and white, and the Duomo and its Campanile in dark green, white, and pink.

I had dinner at Il Contadino, where I had "Pasta with Wildboar (sic) sauce," "Sausage and beans," and roasted tomatoes. That was a lot of food: as the Rough Guide promised, basic, cheap, and pretty good. And now for an early evening to catch up on my sleep.

photo: "Rape of the Sabines" by Giambologna, one of the sculptures in the loggia in Piazza della Signoria

Sculpture, Firenze