We didn’t have to drive too far this morning, which was made even easier by it being a toll-free motorway most of the way. There was car park that allowed motorhomes to spend the night a walkable distance from the centre of town – or right next to a bus stop that for €2 would save 40-minutes walking in mid-30 degree heat.
Today was the first overcast day we’ve had for quite some time. It was a bit disappointing to not have vivid blue skies (I love the polariser), but the clouds did help relieve some of the heat of the sun.
We rode the bus north as far as the river. Our first views of the city proper were of the disorganised, yet charming mess of Ponte Vecchio. There were extensions to the buildings hanging out over the edge of the bridge, all seeming built independent of one another. They were different sizes, shapes, styles, and all jutted out like the teeth of a horrendous smile. I would make a British joke, but I’m not sure the stereotype is quite so relevant anymore.
We pushed our way onto the bridge, fighting our way through the groups of other tourists to learn that the bridge is essentially filled with jewellery stores. The bridge was far less impressive from inside, and not in the market for some (likely) overpriced jewellery, we went to see something a little more interesting.
Loggia dei Lanzi
We walked without any real direction in mind, and we ended up here. It’s a bit of an outdoor (and free) art gallery, featuring some fabulous sculptures. I can’t deny the impressiveness of the work, which was incredibly lifelike, but they’re just not my taste. Except maybe the one of Perseus holding the decapitated head. There was something about the way the light shone on this sculpture, and I could truly imagine it coming to life.
I still don’t understand why the men have no pants – and why they have childlike genitalia, when the rest of the body is so faithfully sculpted.
There was a reproduction of Michelangelo’s David, which saved us the €13 entry fee. The first time I saw a reproduction was in a shopping centre in the Gold Coast. The young me was amazed to see that this famous sculpture was actually here in Australia, and in a shopping centre’s foyer no less. I guess there are no shortage of these reproductions out there…
We continued to walk around with out too much thought about orientation or direction, stumbling upon the atriums of palaces with their decorative walls and columns.
As you could have already guessed, I’m not so interested in the renaissance art, so we chose to skip the museums and galleries that make this town famous. I like to think that I’ve tried to enjoy it, but unlike spinach, I haven’t grown a taste for it yet.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Also known as The Enormous Red Dome of Florence. We’d caught tiny glimpses as we were walking through town, but it wasn’t possible to get a sense of the scale. But, when we were finally staring at it directly through an alleyway, we were both amazed at the enormity. Risa has been here before, and was still amazed at seeing it again.
The front façade was a thing of beauty, but the enormous red dome steals the show. It’s a scale that is difficult to fully comprehend from the ground – and certainly not in photographs.
Much like Siena, there were a combination of tickets available to see the cathedral in full. But, due to our last minute planning, we weren’t going to be able to see the inside of the dome up close – the next available slot was 3PM tomorrow. While we could have probably found enough to do to justify a second day in Florence, I wasn’t really feeling the city.
It was free to enter the cathedral, so we joined the long, but rapid queue. The exterior may have been a thing of beauty, with colourful marble, and a near excess of design and decoration, but the interior was austere. The ceiling was lofty, but other than some geometric patterns on the flooring, and stained glass windows, there was very little decoration inside. OK, I’ll rephrase, there was very little decoration, other than the painted dome, which as a non-fee paying peasant, we weren’t allowed to look at. There were barriers erected to stop you from having more than a casual glimpse. And, this glimpse was such a tease. Photos don’t do the scale justice, but it was enormous, and there looked to be so much to see in the painting.
It would have been nice to have seen the cathedral from above, but I didn’t think it was worth paying €15 (each) for that experience.
After the cathedral, I felt a little lost. I wasn’t interested in the main art galleries, and didn’t know what else to do in town. Risa wanted to visit a perfumery, and I couldn’t think of a good excuse to crush her wishes, so we went. I’ll admit, it wasn’t terrible – it was actually quite a beautiful building, with amazing chandeliers and a small room with some really well preserved 15th century frescos. The actual perfume though… I wasn’t a fan. It was strangely popular with Japanese people though – we saw quite a few groups of Japanese men inside, or on the streets walking there.
The last thing I had on my list for Florence was Piazzale Michelangelo, which I heard was the spot to watch a sunset. Judging by the hordes of others sitting on the steps and drinking beers, it’s no secret. Our problem was it was 6PM, and sunset wasn’t for another three hours. After discussion, we agreed that it was best to see the view of the city in the light – it was a wise decision, as the sunset didn’t really happen.
While the view wouldn’t have been as good as from one of the (expensive) towers in town, it was still nice to look across the river at the bridges, and the enormous cathedral. It completely dwarfs the rest of the city.
I took the drone for a quick flight from the lookout, but Risa reminded me it wasn’t a good idea to fly over houses etc. So, once we’d had our fill of the view from the lookout, we made our way down to the river, and flew from there instead. There was actually a small bar/disco that had been set up on the beach, with dancers doing their best to show how much of a good time they were having.
The footage from the drone wasn’t great, but I wasn’t going to fly too far, or above people/property, so I had to be satisfied with what I got.
Florence/Tuscany is famous for t-bone steak, so we considered buying it for dinner. But, we realised that we weren’t really that interested in it, and didn’t know how it could be that different to other regions t-bone steaks. Instead, we got takeaway pizza – Rome style, with thick yet crispy base.
Overall, I wasn’t so impressed with Florence. It didn’t feel compelling as a whole, and if it wasn’t for the cathedral, I’m not sure I would even recommend it to others for a day trip – let alone more than a night. There is said to be a long standing rivalry between Siena and Florence, and I think that Siena has won my affection – for what that is worth. I just found Florence to be too big, and not all that pretty.
Bonus Round – Street Art
While Florence might be famous for the renaissance art, it was the street art that caught our eyes. We noticed two artists that were quite prolific; Clet, who did some creative manipulation of traffic signs, and Flub, who had a great series of classics, imagined underwater. It was a great game of spotting these little treasures around the city. It was surprising to learn that the artist is from Florence, as we’ve seen quite a few of these on our travels, as well as in London. We actually stumbled upon Clet’s studio on our way up to Piazzale Michelangelo. There was a huge collection of his work, and we realised just how many we hadn’t seen yet…