Today started with a ride on the fastest train I have ever ridden: The high-speed train from Rome to Florence. It topped out at 250 km/hr (155 mph). Traveling at those speeds did not feel too different than traveling at 60, 70, 80 mph as I commonly do in my car. However, it was definitely noticeable that the scenery was going by faster than what I was used to, and that we were moving much faster than all the cars we saw on an adjacent highway. There are also a lot of moderate size mountains in Italy. I think we spent about 25% of this trip underground, in tunnels under mountains.
Our hotel in Florence was much nicer. Mainly, it was a lot bigger, our hotel in Rome was really kind of small, but I guess that is what to expect in such a crowded area. Luckily, our hotel room was ready for us when we got there, which was before 11 AM. So, we were able to drop off our bags and go straight to the Galileo Museum. This museum is actually not very well known, but it was our choice to be unique and go somewhere different. This paid off for us, as the place was much less crowded than many of the other sites in town. The museum itself was a really good deal, for only 4 Euro each, and it is quite stacked with ancient scientific instrumentation. The museum also contained a historical narrative of the history of science.
After visiting the museum, my mind was fixated on the Renaissance. Specifically, why it happened. Why was it that people suddenly became interested in this stuff after nearly a millennium of seemingly not caring about any of it? From sometime in the 1400s onward, there’s been a cascading of scientific discovery and invention; new instruments to measure the weather, directions, proof the Earth is round and not the center of the universe, observations of other planets, electricity, the steam engine, etc. All of this made our lives much better than those that lived 1000 years ago. But, what triggered it all? There seemed to be an interest in navigation after European Nations discovered and started colonizing the new world. But that was discovered in a quest to find trading routes. So, was it all just a quest for cheaper cooking supplies, and spices in the aftermath of Marco Polo’s epic journey to the East? Or, was it a new “age” of sorts, as explained by both Western and Eastern Philosophy/ astrology where humanity undergoes cyclical trends both long term and short, where thinkers like Aristotle and Socrates lead the emergence, or Renaissance out of the previous dark age (in the aftermath of the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization), and Galileo and Copernicus leading the emergence, or Renaissance being discussed here.
Florence is a beautiful city. We went out ourselves exploring it, after going to the museum and eating lunch. First, we climbed some outdoor stairs to the top of the Michelangelo Garden. Then, we climbed the indoor stairs in the Duomo. That is where we encountered the most annoying American tourists of the entire journey. This family was climbing the stairs (there are a lot of them) to the top of the Duomo. The mother and the oldest son were behind us, and the father and the younger daughter were in front of us. The mother in the back was getting claustrophobic and kept complaining- over and over again. On at least six occasions, she threatened to turn around and go down. The last one was after the father/ daughter had informed her that they saw the top! The only one in that group I respected was the little girl. She was like 6 years old maybe, and she actually taunted everyone else. The older son kept asking the Mom is she was okay. I bet she had expected climbing this Duomo to be exactly like going to the top of the Empire State Building, with a nice fancy elevator. These people probably give American tourists a bad name.
The Arzo River, all day long, was filled with rowers. No other water activites were going on.. NO … NINE! No boats, no cruises, only rowing. It is like a local law. Also, the tops of the buildings looked like Mexico/ New Mexico (red clay). We kind of enjoyed walking around here more than Rome.
Finally, at the end of the evening I got to try two Italian beverages. Grappa, which I thought tasted like a combination of Vodka and bread. The beverage is drank by Italians in a similar way that that one beverage in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know, the tall one that Ian’s parents get drunk on, is drank by Greeks. Also, Martini, a sweet vermouth beverage. I enjoyed this one very much. Both of these beverages were given to me for free. How’s that for Italian hospitality.