We were out the door at 8:30 this morning, determined to get to the Cupola of Santa Maria dei Fiori before the lines started to wrap around the basilica. Today’s temperatures are going to continue to be on the high side and we had a daunting task to accomplish: climbing the 460+ steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo.

Our strategy worked: we walked right up to the ticket booth and began our ascent. The first stage is at the top of the drum where you are able to view Vasari’s fresco of the Last Judgement, churning with tortured souls and monstrous demons, culminating at the top with Christ, Mary and the Saints amidst a choir of angels.

Continuing up more steps, now passing between the structures of the inner and outer domes, until we emerged at the top and the 360 degree view of Florence.

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Upon our descent, we stopped at the statues of Arnolfo di Cambio and of Brunelleschi and learned about the lives and their work from Emily and DangLan. Then, off to San Lorenzo market to attend to some important errands (cell phones, sim cards and ATM machines.) Lunch was delicious panini from a stand in the Mercato Centrale eaten in a park nearby. We had a few hours to shop before returning to our studio for our first classroom session.

Andrea, who is one of the staff of the Foresteria Gould, gave us a brief orientation and history of the Waldesians, their social work throughout Italy, and specifically the social efforts of the Florentine group. We took a tour of the palazzo’s beautiful enclosed garden and then had a lovely reception with sweets and cold beverages. Then, back up to the classroom to continue our general orientation and to begin our first studio project: book binding.

This evening, everyone was on their own for dinner. Groups headed out to experience the wonder that is Tuscan cuisine.