We thought we’d have the city to ourselves but we were very surprised to find the streets PACKED with tourists – mostly American and French. Florence is a stunningly beautiful city, but we could never live there because of the throngs of tourists. It’s a wonderful place to visit, however, and we’re already planning to go back.
We made our way to our favorite museum (in the world?), Museo Galileo, which for better or worse is not listed in most guidebooks. Tucked in behind the Uffizi Gallery, it’s a collection of all kinds of scientific instruments from the 15th through the late 18th century. The pieces are not only precise scientific instruments but also exquisite works of art – this perfect combination of art and function made Henry tear up with joy. An example is this precise depiction of the solar system built in the 1550s: http://catalogue.museogalileo.it/gallery/ArmillarySphereInv714.html. They don’t make stuff like this anymore.
After the museum we ambled across the Ponte Vecchio (so named because it is the only bridge that was not destroyed by bombing during World War II), watching the other tourists and ogling the very high end jewelry shops that line both sides of the bridge.
|Henry with the Ponte Vecchio in the background.|
On the other side we found a small enoteca (wine bar) for lunch – we each had a delightfully fresh open-faced panino and a glass of Chianti, all of which was quite tasty. From there we hiked up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo, which provided us with a beautiful overview of the city.
As you can see the Duomo (cathedral) dominates the landscape – and we headed straight for it. It is a huge and breathtaking masterpiece.
This very brief video will give you a quick overview of the front of the duomo.
After admiring the majestically adorned exterior we made a quick tour of the inside (which is really rather plain in comparison) and then climbed to the top of the Campanile (bell tower) – all 414 steps. From there we had another stunning view of all of Florence and the surrounding hillsides.
|This is the bell tower as seen from the ground. Yes, we really did climb all the way to the top!|
|We took this photo while standing at the top of the bell tower. To get a sense of the scale, note the people standing at the top of the dome. Yes, those are people up there!|
[N.B. from Henry: Seeing the dome of the cathedral from up close like this reminds me of the book Brunelleschi’s Dome, about the building of the dome, the politics involved and the revolutionary techniques that were used to build it. A fascinating book if you’re interested in that type of thing.]
After wandering around and admiring the festive displays of Christmas lights we stopped in a little bar for something warm to drink. In big tourist areas, like Florence or Rome, when a foreigner tries to speak Italian in a store or restaurant it’s common to get a response in English, which for us is very frustrating. So when the cameriere (waiter) spoke to us in Italian we were delighted. As we made our way to the station to catch the train home, we both commented that this final experience at the bar was a nice end to our wonderful day in Florence.