[D] is for [il Duomo]

It's Thursday.  Let's throw it back a little bit to last July.  

Imagine me sitting at a Panera Bread 15 minutes before their close, frantically trying to upload a scholarship paper.  The internet connection was down at home, so I was praying that their website would get its act together [who am I kidding? It was probably bogged down by 2,483 other applicants  submitting their entries with minutes to spare like I was doing.] and hurry up on the photo uploading process before Panera closed.

The scholarship in discussion here was a teen travel blog contest.  Umm, I'm a teen. And I travel.  And I conveniently have a blog as well.  It was meant to be, obviously.  

As the last photo finally spun its way to 100% uploaded, I breathed a sigh of relief, hit submit, and got out of there before any more annoyed glances were shot my way.  

Fast forward to the present.  I had completely forgotten about that scholarship and became really anxious to see what had happened with it.  Not to toot my own horn here, but in terms of writing and grammar, I generally know where to put commas and stuff which leads to a large advantage over a lot of my peers.  So I got excited, hoping to see some prize money with my name on it, just waiting for me to swing on by and claim it.  

However, what I found was completely different.  

Instead of the best case scenario of "Congratulations! You're a winner! Here, take $1,000!" I found the word "disqualified." 

Why? Because I hadn't uploaded a stupid profile picture, that's why.  

This really bugged me all week long and to be honest, I was a little upset with myself for most of the day after I found out. Not being one who enjoys to dwell on the negatives though, I figured that since I had been disqualified, I can at least share my story here now!
And get this: my A to Z Europe series is now on letter D and I had written all about the Duomo in Florence, Italy.  See?  Every cloud has a silver lining! So without further ado, I present to you my disqualified essay travel blog!

location // Florence, Italy
I glanced down at my watch for what must have been the third time that minute.  The line wasn’t getting any shorter, but time was certainly ticking. To take my mind off my watch, I looked up to take in the intricate detail that adorned the Cathedral of Florence. That view was much better than the one of the seconds flying by.  

After we had passed about an hour admiring the Cathedral from the line, the chance that we had been waiting for finally presented itself.  We were next in line to take a stab at climbing the 463 steps that wound their way up to the viewing platform of il Duomo. 

We had been told that the ascent itself, not including time at the top to drop our jaws because of the view or the climb down, took 45 minutes.  Our group meeting time was slotted for 5 pm which was less than 40 minutes away.  We had to move! 

Directed into a narrow, concrete stairway, I stepped up onto the first stair.  

“Good news, guys! Only 462 steps to go!” Sometimes I’m funny. That wasn’t one of those times.  

Placing one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again, we were climbing.  Attempting to keep track of where we were, I counted the stairs in my head, updating everyone every fifty steps.  At one point, a constant spiral of 150 stairs in a row made my head spin, but I kept going because I was determined to make it to the top.  No way was I going to stand in line for about an hour only to miss out on the view! 
Part of the climb takes you right up close and personal with the frescoes in the dome.  It was incredible!
Eventually, I lost track of what step we were on and my legs were definitely not feeling as fresh as they had before I had bounded up the first 200. Luckily for me, this is when the waiting game started.  Due to the less than abundant width of the staircase, there was barely enough room for a single file line to pass through, so even beginning to imagine that two-way traffic was possible could be considered insane.  

One of the more spacious stairwells. 
Facing a steady flow of descending tourists, we were doomed to stand on a crowded landing for eternity.  Well, at least that’s how it felt.  When there was finally a large enough break for us to claim our spot on the stairs, we were headed up again. 

Soon, the stairs got even steeper.  After one final mini-stairwell, we hit step number 463 and all of a sudden, we were on top of the world.  

Literally stopping in my tracks, I breathed “wow” over and over again.  The entire city of Florence stretched out below me and the hills undulated in the distance.  The bell tower, which had completely dwarfed me when I had my feet on the ground, was now like a little kid that I had to look down to see. 


Taking advantage of the opportunity to see the view from all 360°, I slowly made my way around the platform, never taking my eyes off the scenery.  

After I made my rounds, I regrettably began my descent back to the real world. As I stepped down, down, down, I mused over the incredible display of beauty I had just taken in. After 463 more stairs that were a piece of cake compared to the first set of 463, I stepped into the sunlight.

My jaw dropped for the second time that day when I learned that we still had ten minutes to spare until we met our group.  Wow. 

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