Falling in Love with Florence Italy
After two weeks of relaxing with house-sitting in the Italian hills, we are ready to see a bit more of Italy – on our tiny budget.
We have just had to pay for both the cost of the exhaust and muffler to be replaced in our vehicle, and there is still a faulty light, so we decide to go early to the mechanic (we had three – yes three – visits to fix this light unsuccessfully on the Saturday). But on arrival to the mechanic, he is having the day off.
So we start our drive to Florence. The rain is bucketing down. The car wheel spun on the edge of the steep hilly edge as we turned to leave our house-sit, and it was a few moments of concern for me, as I thought out a solution to avoid either being bogged or to plough either head first into a fig tree, or to go over the hill edge. None of those appealed, and I managed to manoeuvre the car out.
I was tempted to stay another night but time was not with us, as we had a bit of a loose plan in our head with people to see, and places to go.
We worked out that for 10 minutes more we could take the side road and avoid the cost of the toll into Florence. It is not always that much more in time or fuel and the saving usually outweighs it. We also get to see pretty towns, and take more stops.
We have booked into Hotel Rita Major right in the heart of the old city, and it has a deal on parking for only fifteen Euro for twenty-four hours. This outweighs staying further out of town and bussing it in. We have a huge room with separate entry and en-suite and it opens into the courtyard. Even though the weather is only overcast in Florence, we still set off with jackets ‘ just in case’ and armed with a map.
We manage to get three sets of wrong directions. We do the highest “U” to try to go and book tickets to see the Statue of David. Not to worry as we get to explore the city centre. We also get two slices of pizza, and so that helps as we munch and walk.
It is a case of ‘jackets off’, then ‘jackets on’. We finally locate the information store and then find out that we have completely passed where to buy the tickets half an hour earlier in our adventure walk. I explain to the lady what happened and she talks to the manager and they kindly phone for us – which is not allowed. I am profusely thanking them both, and could have jumped the counter and hugged her. Sometimes small acts where some-one goes out of their way to help you, really makes such a difference.
We then somehow join a queue and next thing I know we are in the middle of Basilica de San Lorenzo.
We stand in awe of the painted ceiling. What is great too, is that entry is no charge. It really is a beautiful place. You can head downstairs or upstairs for a charge, but instead we decide to head for some ‘retail therapy’.
On the way we had wandered past a few interesting homewares stores. There seem to be a plethora of One Euro stores, and stores selling kitchen gadgets. We spend a couple of hours selecting some unusual Italian gadgets for the family back in Australia. We also find a few items that will suit camping if we do any.
Then Explorason spies a Gelato store, and so armed with a gelato for him, I get to spend the next half an hour wandering through some old markets. I just love this. I find an antique Venetian glass vase for two Euro !!!!! I also find an ornate Florentine gold cross for the wall. Little things like this mean more to me than a bunch of the same souvenirs of t-shirts sold in the city centre. It is also a joy that I can make a parcel and ship it off and we are not so limited having a vehicle.
After this we have to take all the shopping back to the hotel. So we go back for a rest.
We want to head out for sunset in Florence, so after some food from our cooler pack I have prepared, we are able to find we have new energy and excitement. I can see the two weeks rest is exactly what Explorason needed to recharge his travel batteries. He is wonderful today. I’m constantly telling him how great he is. No complaints from him !
We have our bearings of Florence now, and so our timing is perfect – well maybe five minutes late.
We stand on the distant bridge, and look to see Ponte Vecchio where we are headed for sunset.
The sky is changing colour. The streets are filling with tourists, all headed to the same place.
We get there just as the sky is finishing its colour change for the day.
And then Explorason tells me to put the camera away.
It is time to enjoy the moment. It is hard. Everyone is pushing for a photo on the bridge. We find a corner and we stand and watch the changing of the colours in the sky. The end of a happy day in Florence for us. We hug and stand and enjoy the moment. Travel should not always be from behind the lens. It needs to be seen with the eye. It needs to be felt. For me, this few minutes were a really special time as we stood on Ponte Vecchio.
With the stores on the bridge now closed and the hawkers moving in, Explorason suggests we head to Piazzale Michelangelo.
We pass the most amazing restaurants, and even though our tummies were full when we left the hotel, they now seem to be hungry again.
We pass so many restaurants and as we enquire most are full. We decide to go for the view at the top, and head back for food at the hotel. Explorason picks me a flower for my hair as we ascend the staircase up.
I am so blessed to have such a wonderful son to travel with. He is loving Florence, and so am I.
I have been to this city before thirty years ago, and the memories are always good. We sit for about thirty minutes and watch the twinkling lights. We are getting hungry and cold, so we decide to venture down.
Be aware that if you take the zigzag path it is really dark. It is shocking lighting, or there is none, and we stick with another couple for safety. Do not walk this alone.
We stand below the statue of David and realise we will see the original art piece tomorrow. Just amazing.
We head back and in no time this boy is asleep.
I get some time to sit in the quiet in the morning in the courtyard.
I really do love Florence. I hope we get time to come back and spend some more time here. It is not a cheap city, but it can be done on a budget.
Our tickets are booked for Galleria dell’ Accademia for 10:00 a.m. and we do not want to get lost today. We just make it. We were told to arrive ten minutes prior. This should have been thirty minutes. Most tourists are confused where they should be lining up and getting tickets, but the communication is good between us. We show our booking number and pay for the tickets. We then line up for about half an hour. We meet a teacher ahead of us and she is lovely.
So once we are inside we make a bee-line for the Statue of David.
But then we head to the plaster room. Here there are videos and hundreds of pieces of plaster and Explorason and I spend a long time learning. The teacher we met in line joins in. So this is a great educational time. I feel like this has really made Florence come alive for him. We talk about how they take measurements and pins, and we watch as we learn how they take moulds of the artwork from Masters of the World.
We then take a look around at some other famous art pieces including this well known cross.
Unfortunately we have to leave. The car park needed us out by 1:00 p.m.
This is OK as we walk back and see a couple of city sights on the way. When we get to the car park the man is lovely and gives us a Louis Vuitton walking stick style umbrella with wooden handle. Not sure that it is authentic, but Explorason was ever so pleased !
We drive back and collect our items from the hotel – they kindly stored them for the morning.
I cannot fault the last 24 hours in Florence. I have – in fact we both have – FALLEN IN LOVE WITH FLORENCE.
I already want to come back.
So far it is definitely one of my favourite cities.