Sue drove this leg of the trip and thank goodness as once again we found ourselves trying to find our hotel through the one way streets of Florence. Noted for next trip, get the GPS unit no matter what the cost! We literally found ourselves right in the centre of Florence that had streets big enough for just one car. We knew we had to get out but how? Between Jane and I, we managed to eventually get close to our hotel, where we then parked the car on some side street and walked in to the hotel. Once we checked in we asked if we were allowed to just park on the streets. Makes sense that they are just for residences but that meant we would have to drive again to try and find parking. The last thing I wanted to do was try and navigate our way through Florence streets again.The concierge told us she would have the parking attendant come and get the car for us. Yes!!!
With that taken care of, the three of us set off to explore Florence mainly the markets. Oh the leather!!!! Leather shoes, bags, wallets everywhere. We had only been in Florence like an hour and I had already seen about 10 things I would love to buy! But didn’t want to rush into anything so we just wandered through the stands, looking at everything, trying not to get sucked in by the merchants.
Jane only had a few hours before her flight back to London so we grabbed a bite to eat before we said goodbye to her. Sue and I wanted an early night so we went straight back to the hotel.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel which consisted of the usual… tomatoes, cheese, yoghurt, granola. My regular Italian breaky. Might have thrown a croissant here or there into the mix. The agenda for today was busy. The morning we had tickets booked to the Accademia, then to the Uffizi, then to Pitti Palace.
The Accademia is a small museum which is home to Michelangelo’s David, another bucket moment for me. How can you not be in awe of this Renaissance sculpture? The sheer size of it alone makes you wonder how someone could have ever created something so beautiful and perfect. And again you are not supposed to take pictures but I got one off before I realized you were not supposed to. Really they need to put those signs bigger! Ok, so I took two pictures. The second, I did feel badly about! 😉
We did wander through the other halls of the museum but our visit to this gallery was all about seeing David.
We had some time before our Uffizi Gallery visit so we went down to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore which was just about to open up for the day. The lineup was not that bad so we stood in line. Before we knew it, the lineup was about 200 people deep. Glad we got in it when we did! It is another beautiful, Gothic style church. The cathedral, along with the Baptistry and Giotto’s Campanile are a part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage site.
Another church on our list to see was the Basilica di Santa Croce. It is the principal Franciscan church in Florence. Legend says that this church was founded by St Francis of Assisi himself. It has 16 chapels and has tombs & cenotaphs throughout.
For lunch we went to a little cafe with a waiter who would speak to us in Italian really fast and only speak english when we looked at it him with these confused blank eyes. It became a game with us and was actually quite funny. When we left we turned to him and in unison said… Ciao… which made him laugh out loud! So great!
The cafe was just outside the Uffizi Gallery so we were close to our next destination. The Uffizi houses a world-class collection of paintings like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus which was a personal favourite of mine. Some of the other notable paintings were The Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt’s Self Portrait as a Young Man and Titian’s Venus of Urbino. We spent a lot of time there taking periodical time outs so I could sit down and rest my back. I don’t know much about art but Sue and I both enjoyed looking at all the different paintings and talking about what we liked, what we didn’t like, the colours, the styles etc. I think we managed to hit every room!
We were both getting tired at this point but still had the Pitti Palace to go to. We wandered over the Ponte Vecchio to get there. You are basically on the bridge before you even know it. With all the shops lining it, it is hard to tell until you get to the mid point where you can stand and enjoy the view of the river.
Arriving at Pitti Palace earlier than our ticket time, we thought we would see if we could get in early and did so without any issues. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and in the late 18th century was used as a power base by Napoleon. In the early 19th century it was donated by the King to the Italian people and that is when its doors were opened to the public. It was so interesting going from room to room discovering what each room was used for and by whom.
At one point you could look out the window and see the Boboli Gardens which we did not buy tickets for. And at another point you looked out and saw all of Florence. Truly spectacular.By this time it was about 5pm so we walked across Ponte Santa Trinita so we could get a better look at Ponte Vecchio, walked through the market and grabbed all the leather goods we had been eyeing the day before and then went back to our hotel for a siesta.
Oh siestas! How I wish I could have you every day! Sue and I still had a bottle of champagne left from the wedding so we thought we might as well have it pre dinner. We were the only room in our hotel to have a balcony so we drank our champagne with our little plastic cups as we people watched and enjoyed the Florence evening.
I looked forward to each and every meal in Italy because I knew I was always in for a treat. Our last night in Florence did not disappoint. More wine was to be had to accompany another great meal.
Before we turned in, we asked the concierge about our car and how were to go about getting it in the morning and was so pleasantly surprised to know that they would just bring it around in the morning for whatever time we wanted. In the morning, right on time, the car was waiting for us outside and we were on our way to Pisa.
Pisa was easy to get to. The Leaning Tower, not so much. We eventually asked a few people who pointed us in the right direction but by this point we were so turned around that I never thought we would be able to find the car again.
It was still fairly early in the morning so the crowds around the tower were not too bad. It was another bucket list moment but I guess I was a bit underwhelmed. Maybe I was just tired or maybe I just really wanted to get on the road to Vernazza. But regardless, I was still grateful to have been able to see it.
And I was right about not being able to find out car. We eventually did but only after asking for directions once again. And we were off! This time to the Cinque Terre.