Tristan and I woke up around 10 and walked the 5 km or so into town to see Michelangelo's David before leaving Florence: I had arrived too late on Sunday night, and it was closed as always on the Monday I took off. Knowing that we would probably be taking it pretty easy to get to Empoli, I wanted to get out of town before noon so that we wouldn't arrive too late. The only problem was that when we arrived at the museum of the David, there was a line around the building which would have added at least two hours to our departure time. The line was slow enough that people were sitting down on the floor playing cards. There was however, a short line (maybe 5 min. wait) for people with reserved tickets, so I went and asked the guy who was guarding the line if I could just buy a ticket on the Internet and then come back to the shorter line. He said yes, so Tristan and I set off to do the smart thing and buy a ticket online in an Internet cafe. It took us about a half hour to find one, and when we finally got there and onto the ticket website, all of the tickets for the day had been sold. I was a little bit stressed, and we were going over our potential options: waiting in line and most likely staying in Florence for another night, buying a ticket for a later date and coming back for a day trip with a train, not seeing the David at all or doing the jerk thing and asking someone in line if we could cut in front of them. We decided to do something along the lines of the latter, and went back to the line to see if a miracle would happen. It did. I went up to the guy who we had spoken to before, and told him (in Italian) that even though he had informed me that there were online tickets available, they actually were not...and without another question and despite how many annoying and demanding tourists that guy must deal with, he moved the rope and just let us in. We didn't wait at all, and after passing our stuff through an X-ray (they found and temporarily confiscated my Swiss army knife) and buying our tickets, we were standing in front of the David. It was pretty awesome, and I had another one of those "wow, I ran here and this thing is actually real" moments. The statue is enormous, and seeing it in photos really didn't give me a good sense of how amazing the thing actually is. In my honest opinion though, I think Bernini's David could destroy this Goliath.
Tristan and I headed out of town around 1 pm towards Empoli, and despite some jogging and walking on big hills, we actually made it to Empoli in a decent amount of time. Tristan is a good friend from school...but hasn't really had the same exposure to running as I. This day was the longest he had ever done...and the next day would be even longer.
When we arrived in Empoli, we stopped in a grocery store and got some fruit and something to drink, and after filling ourselves up, we headed into the center of town to see if we could make something happen. Once again, I found myself in a town with no place to stay...hoping that something would just happen. We did the usual wandering around looking for potential places to stay, and Tristan got to see how difficult it is to cover over 30 km and then spend the rest of the day on your feet with nowhere to sleep making loops of a city. We found a potential last resort in a soccer stadium, and then went back into the center to start asking questions of random people.
After walking through a little street market, it began: "Is there anything to do here?" "Is there an Internet point nearby?" "Is there a cheap restaurant here?"...eventually two nice young women guided us to an Internet cafe...and while they were busy for dinner, one of them (Angela) said that she would give us a call later in the evening if she had time and nothing to do. Tristan and I went to the Internet cafe for an hour and then went to eat at one of the cheap restaurants that someone suggested.
The restaurant had messed up our order, and it was after 10 pm when we finally got our food. It was dark, late, and we had nowhere to sleep...but we casually enjoyed our meal. I'm pretty used to this situation, but it was a bit more difficult knowing that now there were two of us who needed to find a place to stay. Fortunately, at the end of dinner, Angela gave us a call and we agreed to meet by a fountain in town. She was there with two friends, one of whom had a beer for us. We sat around the piazza drinking for a while, speaking in Italian (Tristan understanding some things from past Latin and Spanish classes, but not really able to speak). After a while, someone stood up and said "Ok, we go to the mountain now." I wasn't quite sure if I had heard correctly (Tristan had heard the same thing)...but despite this uncertainty, we were soon packed in a car and certainly on our way to a mountain. When we arrived at the top of this little mountain on the edge of town, we hiked up a little path to a park with an amazing view of the surrounding cities. From there, the night was spent talking under the stars and drinking huge amounts of limoncello. Finally I had another person to marvel at how crazy it is that you can be at one amazing place in the morning (the David) and after going for a run, end up at a completely different crazy place (drinking on the top of a mountain).
At the end of the night, we drove back into town still not really sure where we would sleep. Angela lived with her mother, but offered us this strange storage closet outside of her building. At two am, she unlocked the metal door, rearranged some of the random stuff that was littered all over the floor and said goodnight. Tristan and I layed down some blankets on the floor and went to sleep, packed in a little space that was just wide enough for Tristan, myself and a bicycle.
07 August 2009