Wednesday, 21 January 2015

It's A-Boot Time, Part Two: Florence

Welcome to Part Two of the Italy 'series' which focuses on my time in Florence. This part will also be referred to as "Dan Brown is a Liar!"

After a relaxing train ride, I arrived safely in Florence. The train itself provided beautiful landscapes (when not in tunnels), while travelling speeds as high as 260km (161.5 miles for my American friends)! If this trip did one thing (and it did many!), it reaffirmed my love of train travel! I had been looking forward to this leg of the trip, but was anticipating some rain. I think you all know by now that I love rain...but I love it a little less when I'm travelling. Nevertheless the appearance of rain - in all of its varieties - had little impact on my ability to enjoy every moment of this city. I'm actually fairly certain that I made up the lost time in Rome!

Once again, shortly after arriving at the hotel, I dropped my things, grabbed a quick bite and got straight to adventuring! Originally I had planned on just exploring the city on my own, but decided upon arrival to book a tour for day two. By doing so, it put less pressure on what to do and see on day one.

My first stop was to find water...the River Arno to be exact, with the aim of capturing Ponte Vecchio. It took very little effort to find it, and throughout the 30-ish minute walk, I passed by some spectacular landmarks! The weather at this point was fair, but it had rained while I was eating lunch, and it was pretty clear that the no-rain situation would not last for long. The fun thing about the presence of rain throughout the entire duration of my Florence stop is that it gave views a different edge that made it almost mystical.

Ponte Vecchio (from the opposite side of the Arno from where I started)
When I was crossing the Vecchio, I witnessed some guys rowing.
A wider view from the same spot, with the boys further in the distance.
This view is of my starting point. The white building with the arches is the Uffizi Museum.
Fun fact: 'uffizi' means offices - so this building was originally constructed to be an office building! 
From here, I made my way to Piazza Pitti and Palazzo Pitti. While the museums within this complex are in and of itself a reason to visit, this was not the target of this stop. Attached to this building is the Bobloi Gardens. Something I really miss with living in Manchester is the presence of trees...and the ability to sit amongst them and just think. The Boboli Gardens is what is referred to as a "philosophical garden" which means there are no flowers, only trees. This is something I learned. It was so lovely to just spend a few hours in and out of rainfalls walking around taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of nature...well constructed nature...but good enough!

Palazzo Pitti
The courtyard inside the Palazzo, enroute to the Boboli Gardens

Inside the Gardens...
A view from the top. 
To the left of that previous view, is this pathway to the 'floating fountain'
The floating fountain
In case anyone was wondering where those creepy dog-like things from
Ghostbusters went... I found the Boboli Gardens. 
Another view of the floating the RAIN!
The final stop I had intended to make on my first day in Florence was to see Piazza Santo Spirito. This is apparently where Leonardo da Vinci studied. I was able to see it from a distance, and that was okay. Unfortunately the rain, made it difficult to keep going...and also it was getting late, and I was getting hungry! A great first day, rain and all!

Day two had an early beginning, once again. I was picked up by a swanky car service and taken to my tour starting point. The driver was from Sussex, and we had a good chat about life in England compared to Italy!

The tour started at Paizzale Michelangelo, where I saw the first of many 'David's.' Next we viewed Santa Maria Novella, before heading to the Duomo. I will say this...Dan Brown did a pretty good job of describing how incredible this cathedral is...but he lied about pretty much everything he wrote about Florence...! The old architecture is simply overwhelming! The last stop for the morning portion of the tour was to Gallarie dell'Accademia, where I had a glance of THE David!

One of many incredible views from Paizzale Michelangelo
Another view...
Part of the old wall...
The first of many David's for the day... this one is bronze. 
A first glance at the Duomo!
As we moved towards a look of the Duomo and Giotto's Bell Tower, our tour guide
 pointed to this section of the city. This used to be the oldest part of Florence, but was
torn down and replaced by these newer buildings...
Giotto's Bell Tower. Why is it separate from the rest of the building, you ask?
Well, it's to take into account the vibrations from the bells, themselves!
Apparently this is an A-1 architecture trick!  
Another view of Duomo

...and another!
So...this is an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo of Saint Matthew. We saw many of
Mike's (yeah - I'm calling him that...we're tight now!) works throughout the day, but this one comes
with a funny story. The tour guide informed us that this piece was lost - no one knew what happened
to it. Then one day, someone was cleaning and found it amongst a pile of here it is now, in the Gallarie dell'Accademia! 
THE David! 
When the tour resumed after a lunch break, we boarded a bus and made our way to Fiesole. We weren't allowed to get out and take pictures, unfortunately. But, the views were breath-taking! What a beautiful area of the world!

Next we returned into the city centre and made our way to the Arno and Piazza Santa Croce. On the way to the old town hall, we found a Pinocchio photo-stop (which, by the way, I learned Florence is apparently where this weird tale takes place!). Here I was transformed into a REAL boy!

A random street shot!
Santa Croce
Piazza Santa Croce
Another view of Santa Croce
Pinocci-me! With a look like this, it's hard to believe I'm single...
The majority of this tour was spent at Piazzo Vecchio, which includes the new town hall and the Uffizi Museum. The area also houses a number of replicas of famous pieces, such as the third David of the day, a bronze statue by Donatello, and many, many more! The Uffizi showcases made great paintings, which was interesting. I learned, however, how little appreciation I have for these types of history and culture. I mean, I have the artistic capability of a banana, so I'm alway impressed with anything above my inability to properly draw a stick person, but to learn the history and inspiration behind pieces isn't my thing. I think that's fair. Had I not been part of the tour, I'd have been in and out of that place in about 25 minutes... BUT, we scored some incredible sunset shots over the Arno, so all was not lost!

Many of the pieces found within the Piazzo.
And another...
...and another! 
And this one, by Donnatello!
And this one...
And this one...
And these...
And, oh look! David number three!
This is the courtyard inside the new town hall...which also serves as a museum.
The cupid in the middle of the courtyard, and some of the incredible artwork!
A different view of the courtyard/artwork! 
This was one of the first important works inside the Uffizi. Children under the age of 18,
should now leave the room. So...this is Venus...and the lady to her left, is holding some
material...but if you look at her right hand, out tour guided kindly and sheepishly pointed out that
it makes a certain female genitalia shape. (It's a vagina!) Now you know! 
One of the rooms inside the Uffizi. It plays into all four elements.
There's a bit of a reflection here, but this was the amazing sunset we witnessed from
 inside the Uffizi, overlooking the River Arno and Pointe Vecchio! Beautiful!
When the tour ended, I spent another hour and a bit just walking around snapping shots, and just getting lost amongst the streets. I felt oddly safe for being in a place so unfamiliar. Not once did I feel like I was in any sort of threat. The locals were all out enjoying the clear, cool evening along with us tourists. It was a really neat mix...which slightly reminded me of home, but in a completely different way!

One last shot of the Duomo - this time at night! 
My last morning in Florence (you guessed it - started early!) was spent taking in as much as possible before heading to the train station. I walked for about two hours, seeing places such as Liberty Square, Independence Square, Piazza San Marco, and an attempt to see Piazzale Donatello (which turned out to not be opened!). It made for the perfect final moments in Florence.

Liberty Square
When I returned to the hotel to collect my things, I said good-bye to my delightful and perfectly quaffed pal Fabio (yeah - actually!) and cabbed it to the train station in time to catch my ride to my final stop - Venice!

No comments:

Post a Comment