Make It Or Break It

Defeat of the body can never overpower the spirt of commitment. We tested this theory today with feats of physical strength and endurance. No, we did not participate in an ancient Roman gladiator match. And no, we did not hike through the vast Tuscan landscape. We did, however, climb to the top of the Duomo and take on some intense shopping. And it was not pretty.

The Duomo, or Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (its formal name) is Florence’s most identifiable landmark, as its strikingly beautiful marble tower and dome decorate the Florentine skyline. A popular tourist site, the Duomo’s main attraction is climbing atop its dome, enticing travelers with unparalleled 360 view of the city below. And because Rick Steves says you should go.

Not wanting to be “those people”, we thought that surely our youth would be enough to get us to the top without too much trouble. We even joked on Day One about how all our walking was training us for this event. Little did we know that aaaaaaaall that walking — up and down cobblestone streets, stairs and hills — would cause our bodies to go on strike because they hate us so much for what we’re doing to them. I know I’m being dramatic, but GOOD GRIEF do we all ache. Not only are our legs, knees, shins, etc. crumbling under the strain, but our feet are so blistered — due to the usual “I’m not wearing the right socks” or “I didn’t realize we would be walking so much today” reasons AKA rookie mistakes — that we wince with every step. I thought we were better, smarter than this, but sometimes you just don’t realize that one day of wearing the wrong shoes will mess you up the whole damn trip.

Goal in mind, we woke early this morning and dressed for success — for me and Alex, that meant wide skirts with mobility and for Jordan, that meant yoga pants. We purchased our waters and began hydrating on the walk over. Bring it on, Duomo.

Arriving at the church, we waited in the hour long queue to go up, bracing ourselves and stretching for the imminent climb. Finally, it was our time. We turned the corner into the stair case, and up we went. The first few flights were fine. Having climbed up to the top of York Minster, I was pleasently surprised with how many windows there were, giving us the luxury of gauging our height. Then things started getting tricky

As our breathing became heavier and heavier, our pace never slowed. For some reason, we had the Olympic track team ahead of us because the people in the front of the line kept going and going. Finally, climbers started dropping like flies. We’d approach a landing, and there’d be a group leaning against the wall, taking a break. Eventually, we joined up with them, catching our breath and heaving in deeply. With multiple stops in the final turret, we reached the roof in one piece. And my goodness, was it worth the climb. Florence is stunning from the street looking up, but above the buildings is the picture of European urbanism. It made me fall even more in love with Florence, which made the trek worthwhile.

Afterwards, we walked to the famed Basilica of Santa Croce, where we sat on the steps and ate lunch at a nearby trattoria. We then ventured to the San Lorenzo Market where leather vendors sell Florence’s most notable export. I did some experts haggling (Jordan and Alex can vouch for me) and walked away with some cool souvenirs. Strolling through the streets, Alex lovingly asked if we might go back to the hostel for an afternoon rest, to which Jordan and I eagerly agreed.

That evening, our trio went to a traditional Tuscan restaurant that our hostel hostess recommended. Our hostel, Tasso Hotel, has been great (except for spotty wifi in our room). There’s a stage in the lobby with couches and a bar, if that gives you any indication of the demographic of tenants. But this hostel is not at all one big party: every host has been very friendly and helpful, and our room and the bathrooms have been clean and comfortable. I definitely recommend it for young travelers in Florence!

Before calling it a night and heading back to Tasso, the three of us got gelato (as we’ve done each day), and sat in the local park while we leisurely laughed and talked about ridiculous things. The perfect ending to our time in perfect Florence. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Venice, so check in later to hear about the water city!

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