Italy travel diary/travelogue

Out and about in Florence

Day 7, 25 Aug 2001

Florence landscape We had another baking hot day for our tour of Florence. It began with a walking tour around some of the major sites aided by our able guide for the morning, Giovanni. Like most of the guides, Giovanni was very knowledgeable about the history of Florence (and Italy in general) and really kept you interested in what you were looking at.

Florence: a compact city

Like Rome, we seemed to walk everywhere. But like Rome, Florence is quite a compact city, and it is actually quite easy to walk around the whole city. Just watch out for the local emergency services that seem to buzz around the city quite frequently. Or at least, they make their presence known quite loudly (I recorded the harsh sound as a keepsake, and have used it as an alarm in the mornings. It works, too.)

While we walked around, I drew the route that we were taking on a free map from the tourist information centre. As the day continued, the route would crawl, spider-like, all over the map, occasionally doubling back on itself. Looking back at the spidery mess on the paper, it appears that the route we took was roughly as follows:

First stop: Santa Croce, another of Italy's great churches. Can't remember what was inside though (dufus). Might have been some sculpture by Michelangelo, it might have been the church that has a massive tidemark from a previous flood. In all honesty, I can't remember. There is a limit to how many works of architectural art you can take in and remember the details without carrying a notepad with you.

Climb up the dome

Florence Cathedral clock tower And so, without notepad, we moved on to the cathedral, atop of which sits one of the world's greatest domed roofs, otherwise known as the 'Duomo' (which strangely does not actually mean dome!). As with St Peter's Basilica, there was a route to the top to get a great view over the city. Unlike St Peter's, there was no lift to the halfway point, so it was a case of using leg power. At the base of the dome itself, you head inside and go halfway round the dome. At this height, you can see just how huge the Michelangelo paintings on the interior are. Very, is the answer. Then it's back into the ever-decreasing alleyways between the internal and external linings of the dome until you emerge, hunch-backed and blinking wildly, to the sites of Florence stretched out below you.

Manda in front of the famous Pontevecchio bridge After a slightly more relaxed descent from the dome, we continued on towards the Uffizi Gallery (but not stepping inside), before walking over the Pontevecchio Bridge. The bridge is one of Florence's most famous landmarks, and from the east looks somewhat ramshackle, like the bridge was built first, then the shops/housing added as an afterthought. However, to my eyes few bridges have anything of its character.

A load of old Boboli

To the south, Palazzo Pitti (or Pitti Palace). As palaces go, it was a pretty dull affair. It was not one of Italy's finest. Behind the palace are the Boboli Gardens which we also took a look at. Again, nothing to sing and dance about. There was not much to look at here, except for when you climb to the top of the gardens and look out over the top of the palace and beyond across the whole of Florence.

Heading back north, with a few detours around the south-west of the river that needn't have happened (nothing much to see, honest), we once again crossed the bridge just in time to catch the sun setting behind it. Then off past the cathedral and north towards the Galleria dell Accademia. Not sure what to expect - we were simply picking off targets on the tourist map based on their size. We were in for a treat of sorts though in Annunziata Square (or Place or something ... the Annunziata bit's definitely right though!). There was a temporary stage and bar set up for a jazz festival, and the band were just warming up for the evening's show. We didn't stay long - just long enough to sink a couple of drinks while we soaked up the laid back beatnik atmosphere, man.

Pontevecchio at night We headed back in to the centre as night finally set in, where we met up with Sharon and Nicholas to share a taxi back home, or rather to Prato, and back to the damp-infested hotel.

I finished the day with another late swim - an 11pm dip in the grotty - and very much unlit - swimming pool. Well, when in Rome. Actually, make that Florence. No hang on, I mean Prato. Whatever ...