Thursday, 1 July 2010


As Rick has pointed out, it is strange for me to complain about 'tourists' since I am one as well but, let me tell you, Florence is crawling with them.  There is often not enough room to walk on the pavement, to get faces out of your camera lens or turn a corner without a head-on collision. If there were shoals of fish-tourists in Venice, Florence was more like a termite nest.  You also took your life into your own hands when you crossed a road.  I can understand drivers being impatient with the endless flow of tourists, but it was very unpleasant after the tranquility of Venice.

We stayed at a place called Hotel Castri which dated back to Victorian times and had a lovely garden at the back.  Unfortunately, our room was at the front, overlooking a busy street and a park that was a popular hang out; the noise was unbelievable.  Italians honk their car horns a lot and there are many Vespas around.  Also, the air conditioner didn't seem to work too well.  It was situated over the top of the door and was inaccessible. 


It wasn't until we were packing to leave that Bill discovered a remote control under my book.  I'd dismissed it as being a TV remote and completely ignored it.  We spent a couple of very hot, uncomfortable nights because of this and though Bill took it pretty good naturedly, I did hear about it a bit!  So what did we do in Florence?

We wandered through endless markets, mainly of leather goods, which I showed you yesterday.  I am sure that there were some bargains to be had and some of the merchandise was lovely, but even had I been able to figure out how to get it into my suitcase, I couldn't convince myself I needed anything.

We walked along to see the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge), supposedly the oldest remaining bridge in Florence, the others having been destroyed during World War II.  

It reminded me a bit of the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, because of all the shops built on one side of it.  These are mainly jewelery shops and art dealers and while there were some lovely things in the windows, I wasn't shopping.  We were interested in how the shop fronts closed up like wooden boxes at night.

A main feature of the city centre is The Duomo (Cathedral) and Baptistry. 


It is very large and the area around it is filled with buildings so I was never able to get the whole thing into a photo, but you can see how striking it was.  

I found it rather like the gateway to the Charles Bridge in Prague:  everytime we passed it (which was often), 

I had to take a picture (or 5) of it.  

We happened to find Dante's House, and spent a good amount of time there.  (Photos were allowed!)


It was probably the best bargain we found in Italy, strangely enough. 

The information there explained a lot about the time in which Dante lived, the politics, the customs and about Florence as the first centre of international finance.  (I already knew this, having read The Ascent of Money last year when we were in Australia; an amazingly readable book).   It was in Dante's house that I read about the wars between Florentine families who were either aligned with the Pope (Guelphs) or with the Holy Roman Emporer (Ghibellines).  I decided it was in their nature to be devisive when I read that the winning faction then split into the White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs who disagreed about how much involvement the Pope should have in politics and other secular affairs.

We also visited the Pitti Palace, which houses several museums.  


My favourite was the costume gallery of course.  


Photos weren't allowed, so I took notes again.  For some reason I had the impression that the museum guards found this unsettling, but no one said anything to me.  

Then we toured the garden which was excellent and also had a nice view of the city.


Our ticket allowed us to see a couple more museums, but I'd used up all my appreciation and satisfied all my curiosity, not to mention worn out my legs.


Jo said...

No matter how interesting the museums are that you are going through you can go into overload. When you just don't think you can take in any more information, no matter how interesting it is. We found the Bishop Museum Haiwii like that. With all you have seen, I thought you did well retaining as much as you have.

Shelley said...

Joanne - Now there is a place I would love to see: Hawaii! I tended to sit down with my notebook and have Bill help me review the last day or two to write down what we saw, otherwise I'd have no chance!