We arrived in Florence yesterday, checked out our new home for the next two days (which is a snazzy pad with above average amenities) and hit the streets. Armed with the iPhone MAPS app, Lonely Planet and Rick Steves’ guide books and comfortable shoes away we go. Initial impression: busy, crazy scooter drivers, a shopper’s mecca and an artsy, cultural paradise. It is a place that kind of grows on you after a bit!
Leather is the big seller here. Vendors, whether it be the shady ones in San Lorenzo’s Market or the authentic shop merchants will try their best to send you home with new leather shoes, gloves, jacket, purses or any other leather trinket you can imagine. One dude fitted be in a jacket and lit it on fire and jabbed it with a knife to try to get me to buy it. No – I did not buy it !!
The beautiful domed Duomo cathedral (above) is a huge, Gothic structure that defies enginerring as there were no temporary support structures installed during the building of the dome. How did it not collapse???
Today we toured two of the most famous museums here in Florence – the Ufizzi and the Accademia. We spent about two hours in the Ufizzi in the AM followed by a visit to the Accademia in the afternoon. The big draw for the Accademia is the grand statue of David. The Ufizzi has a beautiful collection of Renaissance art – including Laocoon and His Sons shown here.
The Ponte Vecchio aka “The Old Bridge” is a famous Florence landmark spanning the Arno River. It has a crazy number of gold and jewellry shops that attract the shoppers. We were fortunate to arrive there as the sun was just going down and the Arno River was as calm as glass. To be truthful, while my travels mates were shopping I was more interested in taking a few pics.
Visitors are able to climb to the top of the Duomo but unfortunately for us – they are fully booked until Sunday. The other option is to climb the tower adjoining the Duomo called the Campanile Bell Tower which is 400+ steps. It offers pretty awesome views of the city after a little investment in sweat equity. The pic above shows a scenic view of Florence stretching towards the Tuscan hills.
Oh – the food. Tonight we stopped into a spot for dinner and I had the best gnocchi I have ever eaten. Try to imagine a family run business who dish out excellent food and wine and seem to have fun doing it! Our waiter even came around and topped up our wine glasses (no charge!) when our jug had mysteriously appeared to be empty. It was my kind of place!!!
Tomorrow we take a bus to Siena for a low-key, relaxing few days in the old city. We may even get to sleep in!
(Pictures can be clicked to enlarge to full size)