Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance

It was a six o'clock start last Thursday morning. We flew to Pisa then boarded a bus for Florence. It was many years since we visited Florence but we thought that the 2013 World Cycling Championships were a good excuse to make a return visit. This time we would visit places that we missed on our last trip.

Since we arrived many hours before check in at our hotel, we set off to reacquaint ourselves with the city, walking beside the brown, very still, River Arno that runs right through the city. It is uncommon to see such a wide river without any boats on it at all.  But of course who needs to look at the boats, when you have all the wonderful bridges crossing the river including the magnificent Ponte Vecchio, our first stop.

The Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345. The butchers, tanners and blacksmiths were evicted in the 1500s because of the noise and the stench they made. The workshops were rebuilt and let to goldsmiths. Today all the shops lining the bridge are jewelry shops, mostly very expensive but what selection, what design. Beautiful. The bridge as always was incredibly busy.

Our walk took us past the Uffizi, originally built as an office for Duke Cosmo I's administration. His heirs used the space to showcase the Medici family's art treasures, creating the oldest art gallery in the world. There are always line-ups outside the popular Uffizi.

We continued our walk, becoming ever warmer in the hot, humid weather. Window shopping in Florence is a feast for the eyes. Every other shop sells beautiful, bright handbags of every colour made of lovely butter-soft leather, while lots of other stores sell gorgeous, very stylish leather jackets.

The crowds in Florence are unimaginable. There are so many people and so many tour groups.You could hardly move outside the Pitti Palace. Florence is definitely one of the Italian destinations. What on earth would the Medici's, who spent so much money on making Florence such a beautiful city, make of all the tour groups? I think they would be horrified.

Dinner was some beautifully tender lemon veal scallopini with roast potatoes followed by a salad. Of course all this was accompanied by some Sangiovese wine and finished off with a lovely fruit salad.

It was much nicer walking after dinner. Many of the day-trippers were gone making the city seem quite magical, especially as we passed the Duomo, the cathedral of Florence, which was beautifully lit. Many great Florentine artists contributed to it, including Giotto and Pisano, Ghiberti and of course Brunelleschi, who designed the dome. Magnificent!

Our walking was made easier by all the barricades along the roads. Much of the traffic was rerouted because of the world championships. It was a quiet walk back along the river to our hotel.


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