Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli? Florence is home to many priceless Renaissance art and architecture, but Ponte Vecchio grabbed my attention because of its World War II history. Hitler allegedly loved the bridge so much that he specifically ordered the Germans not to bomb it. The bridge was one of the highlights along the route of the 34th Asics Firenze Marathon 2017.
Richard and I took the 7:05 AM Ryanair flight from Brussels Charleroi Airport to Pisa on Saturday, November 25, 2017. The flight was only an hour and a half. From the airport, we took the Pisa Mover train shuttle to Pisa Centrale Station before switching to the regional train bound for Firenze Santa Maria Novella (SMN). Train tickets can be purchased online in advance from the Trenitalia website. Visitors can also buy tickets at the Pisa airport for buses going straight to the Firenze railway station for 12 euros.
From Firenza SMN, we hopped on board another local train bound for Campo di Marte and walked the rest of the way to the marathon expo at the Florence Athletic Stadium.
The 55 euro registration fee provided me with the race bib, an Asics long sleeved race shirt, a plastic cover, two Enervit energy gel samples, an energy bar, Nuncas sports detergent, and a joint supplement. They were also giving out full-sized samples so I grabbed an Active yogurt drink and two Bavaria beers.
It was back to Campo di Marte station for the train back to the Firenze SMN station and to check in at Hotel Santa Maria Novella. Our room was not yet ready. We left our luggage and proceeded to walk around the area and eat lunch at the one of the sidewalk cafes.
We had to have our photo taken in front of Florence’s most iconic structure, the Duomo, the terracotta-tiled dome cathedral of the city.
We also visited my favorite online retailer’s main store, Luisaviaroma, right by the Duomo. Florence is a dream location for haute couture shoppers. Many of the world-class design houses are headquartered here and thus have huge showrooms.
Florence, among other things, is known for its leather. I could not resist a beautiful leather jacket and cashmere-lined leather gloves! They were not from designer labels but the prices for the quality were unbeatable!
We finally went back to the hotel in time for the 2:00 PM check in. A bottle of prosecco wine, Italy’s answer to the French champagne, was waiting for us in the room. Nice! I love the classy design of our room. Our room had a beautiful view of the Basilica and Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
Breakfast was at the elegant breakfast room. Aha! I immediately spotted the prosecco wine at the center table. Bubbly always put guests in a happy mood first thing in the morning. I am glad the hotel goes out of its way to make guests feel special.
The race started at 8:30 AM at Piazza Duomo with a six-hour time limit. With almost 9,000 marathoners, it took my corral more than 10 minutes just to get to the start line.
It rained right before we started and continued more than three quarters into the race. I had my iPhone ready to take pictures along the route but decided against it because of the water and the wind.
The route provided a beautiful scenery for runners but it was tough going for me due to the weather. Ambulances kept going back and forth, and motorcycle riding race marshals frequently stopped to offer space blankets. I ran with a plastic cover and a wool running shirt but I was grateful for the added warmth of the blanket.
Aid stations provided water, tea, Enervit, bananas, and lemon. Music was provided at different points; most of them were inside buses and under tents.
Richard was fascinated with the door designs and snapped photos while waiting for me at the finish line.
We walked back to the hotel and rested for a few hours. We went out again to do some more sightseeing and have our post-race photo taken by Ponte Vecchio.
We didn’t have time to visit the Uffizi Gallery to see the original David sculpture so we had to settle for the replica outside the city hall, Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signorina.
Our Florence getaway ended on Monday, November 27, 2017. We were up at 4:00 AM to catch the first train for Pisa Centrale Airport at 5:35 AM. Our Ryanair flight back home took off at 9:15 AM and I was back at work by noon.