Follow my adventures while living in Italy with my husband and our two dogs Moose the whippet and Ruby the Australian Terrier. It's sure to be full of fun, frustration and cultural confusion.

Friday, 3 May 2013

What I forgot to write about yesterday

So I've come down with some sort of cold thing this week so yesterdays post took me a really long time and I missed out some key points. Not about visiting Florence per se but you know how the thing that makes your trip special and memorable are the things that you accidentally stumble in on (ok that sounds like you accidentally surprise the people in the hotel room next door, not what I meat).

So for us there were a couple of things that were particularly memorable about Florence.

The tiny bus.

We wondering around Florence on our first evening and I saw a tiny bus, like really really tiny, maybe it could take like ten people but it was still a bus. We then saw another bus the next morning outside Santa Croce, Joe was like "tiny bus!" and I was like "no the other one was way more tiny" at first he thought I was being my silly stubborn self but then we saw the tiny bus again! We then spent the next two days trying to get a photo of the said tiny bus, one that showed both the whole bus and captured how tiny it was.

the key to recognising how tiny this is is to look at the doors, they take up like a third of the bus!

Fiat Bambini Convoy

We were on our way back to the train station from the hotel on our final day in Florence. Suddenly there is all this honking and we pay attention to the road and there is a convoy of Fiat 500's, 595's etc all tiny little cars in various condition of repair. Then we realise they have numbers on them with a sticker saying something like "International Fiat Road trip" or something, the highest number we saw was 103, there must have been at least 103 fiats!!

so many fiats!!

Luckily I have so much to say about Florence as I have not done much this week, mainly stay in bed and feel rather sorry for myself. This Wednesday was also a holiday so at least I had Joe to keep me company for part of it. This weekend we are staying around Bolzano (hopefully we will go hiking weather permitting) and then next weekend is PARIS!! Will keep you posted on the adventures.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A weekend in... Florence

So at the last minute we decided to go to Firenze (Florence) for the long weekend. I've had an idea to report on all our weekend aways as a kind of mini travel guide, this is the first one so feedback on the format is welcome.

Been here before?
Nope, both Joe and I were Florence virgins.

Time of Year
25 April (Liberation Day). This is a National Holiday in Italy so public transport was very busy. Spring weather, it was mostly warm but not too hot, we had a little bit of rain on Saturday.

How long did we go for?
We spent three nights in Florence, arriving on Thursday evening and leaving on Sunday afternoon.

What we saw
There is so much to do in Florence, as we'd never been here before we settled on some of the main sites

The Duomo
The view of the Duomo from across the river (The Bargello is the tall tower in front of it)

The front of the Duomo

The Campanile 

The Duomo from the side (with my lovely husband). As you can see the marble facade goes right around, it's not just for the front like a couple of the other Churches

The Duomo is a major feature on the Florence vista, almost all paintings/photos of Florence have the spectacular Domed Cathedral featured. It is an enormous building made pretty much only from pink and green marble. The entry into the cathedral is free, however you have to pay (and queue) to get into the dome, the baptistery and the campanile separately. We decided to climb the Dome but not the campanile. The queue was large, thankfully it was a warm but overcast day and not raining, i bought the most expensive gelato from a nearby shop to keep us going, in the middle of summer the place must make a killing. There are four hundred and something steps up to the top of the Dome, you get to see the frescoes of the inside of the dome up close ad look down on the church below, however at times it can get a little claustrophobic...

The view from the top is totally worth it, worth the wait, worth the price (eight euro each!) and worth the climb. 

Palazzo Pitti across the river

Panorama across the roof of Florence

Santa Croce (Dante, Donatello and many other artists are buried here)

Another panorama this time looking out to the hills of Tuscany North of Florence

San Lorenzo (the Medicis are buried here)

 On the way up in down the Duomo one thing made me quite said, the walls were covered in graffiti, it really upset me that people felt they had the right to deface an historical building in this way. 
Sara hearts Serkan (at least she did in 18 Aug 06)


Spencer + Colty + Lesley forever (yea in Spencer's dreams)

Not sure what this says

Even writing on the sign telling you not to write on the walls

2 Finger Fun  Gun, clearly worth defacing the Church to get this message out there

We did not go up the Campanile or into the Baptistery due to prices and all over feed upness with queuing. We did however visit the Duomo on our nightly walk the night before. This gave us a chance to admire the "Gates of Paradise" on the Baptistery without crowds of people. Ghiberti was awarded the job in 1425, he cast and re-cast the doors over and over until in 1452 as an old man he conceded he could not make them any more perfect. They are quite remarkable, however no photos as by this time it was getting dark.

Palazzo Pitti

This was originally built by the Ptti family when they considered themselves the most powerful family in Florence (apparently the Medici who were actually the most powerful at the time found this very convenient, they preferred to stay out of the public eye and manipulate people from behind the scenes). Later when the Medici were Dukes of Florence they bought the Palazzo and enlarged it (no longer needing discretion), when the Lorraines and the Savoy took over as Dukes they continued to use it as their Royal residences. It is made up of seven galleries and gardens and this being Italy you need to buy tickets of entry for all of them, there are a couple of combined tickets that give you entry to everything. A lot of the collections belonged to the Medici and the succeeding Dukes and were opened to the public in 1833. The main attraction is the Galleria Palatina which has an enormous collection of Raphael as well as works by Titian, Filippo Lippi and Caravaggio to name but a few.

The appartamenti Reali are the Royal apartments decorated as they were for the last Duke and Duchess of Tuscany. If you are nosy like me and like poking around in other peoples houses the are fascinating. 

We also visited the Museo del Costume which was interesting, it had a few historical pieces but mainly a collection of amazing dresses by italian designers in the 20th century. They also had removed what was left of the clothing that Eleanor Cosimi I and one of their sons were buried in and reconstructed their clothing, interesting but also kind of ew. 

There is also the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, I didn't go to this but Joe did when he lost me (god knows how as I had the tickets), the Museo degli Argenti (jewellery museum), a porcelain museum, a carriage collection and a collection of art on long term loan that is strong on spanish painting. We didn't have time to see all of this (the place is huge) but we did go into the gardens. The ticket gets you entry into the Boboli gardens which are attached to the Palace (these were underwhelming and in serious need of attention from a gardener) and the Bardini gardens (these were lovely with beautiful views of the city). 

View from the Boboli gardens looking back at the Palazzo

Sculpture in Boboli Gardens

spring is definitely here

admiring the view of Florence

Bardini Gardens

more of the Bardini Gardens

Beautiful wisteria at the Bardini Gardens

Galleria degli Uffizi

This is the largest gallery in Florence. The building was originally the government offices (uffizi). These are the complete works that were collected by the Medici and left to the people of Florence on the condition they never leave the city. The collection is still growing. This is where you'll see some of the really famous works such as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. We booked tickets for an allotted time and still had to wait to get in. Actually getting into this place was quite a process, we had to wait to collect our pre-booked tickets, then we had to wait to go through the security scanners, then we showed someone our ticket and walked upstairs, through a couple of rooms and assumed we were in the gallery, but no there was yet another person we needed to give our ticket to before we actually entered. The collection is enormous and one of those places you could go to again and again. What I love about this gallery and Florence in general is that the art is part of collections established and kept here. The people of Florence were passionate about art. The wealthy citizens were patrons of artists often allowing them to live in their homes. They actively sponsored works and amassed art collections. The portraits are of citizens of Florence and often the religious scenes have well known citizens inserted into them (as well as the artist!). By looking at the art here you are also seeing a history of the place, I loved it. If you really don't enjoy art though you may not be so keen - it was expensive (nearly twenty euro each to pre-book tickets).

The City of Florence

As well as seeing the sites above we also did a fare bit of 'wandering around the city' as a way of sight seeing. Florence is excellent for this, it started as a small medieval town so all of the sights are centered in a small location, everywhere you turn there is a piazza, a church or a palazzo waiting to be admired. We went to the Ponte Vecchio, the Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and Santa Croce, 
Joe and I on the Ponte Vecchio

A replica of the statue of David in Piazza della Signoria 

Santa Croce

The Food
Tuscan food is renowned for being excellent and we definitely ate well if not all that authentically. As Florence is a fairly major stop of the tourist trail there is quite a variety of fare available, this was quite a nice change after being in Bolzano where there is the standard italian food of pizza and pasta or authentic tyrolean cuisine of sausage and dumplings. So the first night we had italian, I had a delicious calzone. Then on the second day we had a late lunch at an american style dinner and a small dinner of baguette and salami and cheese. On Saturday we went to a steak house and I had florentine style steak and Joe has a quesidilla, oh and we had nachos (we were starving!). Lastly on the Sunday we found somewhere to have brunch before we left. All the food was pretty well priced which was great. 

The verdict on Florence?
An amazing art city, even though we are still technically on the fringe of the tourist season it was very busy, there is no way I'd recommend going anytime from May - September. I will definitely be going back though, there is still so much to do that we didn't get time to, it would also to be great to go with someone more interested in fashion than my husband, both Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci started in Florence, Ferragamo has a shoe museum beside their flagship store and Gucci have a museum on the piazza della signoria of all things Gucci. Another point to mention is even though there is so much to do in Florence almost none of it is for free, if you want to visit all of the phenomenal galleries you will have to pay for every single one so best to pick the ones you want to see most and then see where your budget leaves you.