We rushed back to the hotel where they'd allowed us to leave our luggage, and rushed to the ferry, and rushed to the train station. We sat there in sudden calm, watching people wash around us like a laundromat.
The train was very civilized, with seats grouped in fours around teeny tables. Outside, the farmland was just starting to sprout, probably wheat. Trees with white flowers and one that might have had green flowers. Farm buildings like cubes of cement.
Florence is lovely, lots of tall buildings and something that we now recognize as Italian.
We had a reservation at a youth hostel, five flights up a stairway with threatening notes pinned up at various places it indicating that the hostel's patrons might be a very very rowdy bunch.
A burly African dude greeted us and led us to a room marked "private," which was crowded with silent people texting, and mysterious stacks of things like mattresses, suitcases, bedding, bookshelves, and stuffed plastic bags. "Please wait," he said. We waited. Occasionally, people would bustle in, move a mattress or take a towel out of a bag, and leave again. Out the open window you could see down a narrow chute to a filthy alley.
The dude came back after about twenty minutes. Very nervously, with much hemming and hawing, he said, "I must inform you ... the website said ... it was quite clear. Quite clear."
We stared at him, sensing impending doom but, in our exhaustion and foreignness taking a sudden dislike to him, the mysterious goings-on in the room, and the silent zombies texting all around us. He might have bad news for us but he was getting no help from us. He couldn't do it. He shifted stance and said, "I must talk to my manager," and left again. We waited.
He came back. "The website was quite clear."
We stared at him.
Finally, he blurted out his news. "There is an age restriction. Eighteen to 35. Because it gets noisy. We are going to have a party, it's Friday night, surely you can understand that."
We could not. We thought about the five flights of stairs, and of our luggage, and the fact that we wanted dinner and wanted it at once, if not sooner.
After some bickering, he allowed Martin to use the "staff only, this means you!" computer to find another lodging.
We walked back in the direction of the train station and up four flights of stairs and into a narrow hallway painted green with arabesques over the doorways. A computer screen displayed something in Arabic script. Martin spoke French to the lady, who led us across the hall, through a doorway and down another hall to a family room with five beds, a kitchenette, and the only fully functional bathroom we had or would encounter in our travels. Out the balcony we could see the Duomo and red tiled roofs. All right then!
The Duomo (where we met one of the rose sellers again) is a fantastic confection of a building, enormous in its impact. White, green and pink marble in smooth or ornately carved sections, and the famous brick dome, a marvel of contemporary engineering, that rises over a wooden interior dome.