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Visiting Florence

Home -> Europe -> Italy -> Travelogue Italy -> 23 May 2004

Sunday 23 May, visiting Florence

We take our time to make a decent breakfast and then we catch the bus to downtown Florence. After half an hour we get out on the northern side of the center and walk through the Via de San Lorenzo (where the tombs of the Medici family are, closed on sunday) to the Galleria dell' Accademia where several statues made by Michelangelo (also his famous David) can be admired. When we see the long lines from a distance we decide to walk on to the archeological museum. We spend more than an hour visiting the Egyptian department of the museum, although the biggest part is dedicated to the Etruscans. But that part is closed. We are just glad that it is relatively quiet in here.
Cathedral, FlorenceThe Duomo, the big cathedral of which we can see the dome from the campsite, is also closed. In our travel book we read that Florence may have many nice buildings but that the true art of this renaissance city par excellence can be found inside. But with so many buildings closed and tourists lining up before the other ones, we are not lucky. Like Venice, Florence is now more a tourist-city.
So we walk from monument to monument and we would like to see something more than just the outside of interesting buildings, but the long lines scare us off.
The masses also make it almost impossible to imagine how Florence must have been in it's best days. Tourism is economically good for any country or town, but when it grows to an extent as we see it here (in the spring) everyone becomes part of the masses and it becomes impossible to take your time to see the things that you want to see.
One beer: € 10,50Then we can better first take a break and we sit down outside a restaurant at the Piazza della Repubblica. We are at Gilli's, one of the better, but not the best cafés of the city. And we notice that when we get the receipt: the beer to the right was the best I ever tasted... it has to be, since it costs us € 10,50! Never have I enjoyed a beer more... In Elisabeth's opinion the cappucino (€ 4,50) is less tasteful than the cappucino they serve on the campsite (€ 1,30), what a waste! The waiter emphatically waits for a tip, but alas, from us he doesn't get anything, not with these prices and bad service.
Fountain, Florence Statues near the Uffizi museumAlong several palaces we walk to the Piazza della Signoria, the nicest square of Florence, to finally arrive at the Galleria degli Uffizi, one of the most famous museums of Italy, maybe even of Europe. In this place paintings of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael are the highlights!
The lines before the entrance seem to be without an end and electronic displays tell us that we have to wait at least two hours before we can get in. We can imagine that once you are inside, you have to walk on in line before the paintings, so there is no possibility to really watch and enjoy the masterpieces that are shown here. This is not the way we want to see art. However vain these masters may have been, they would probably have found it ridiculous that people have to stand in line for two hours just to get a short glimmer of their art. They are worth being studied in detail, or at least being admired without haste.
Ok, maybe we are bad tourists (we never claimed otherwise!), but we rather see a documentary concerning their work with more in depth information than seeing the real works of art quickly walking past them. Here is also the general view we have on Italy until now: tourism is here so big and important that it is barely possible to really become absorbed in the culture. The need to make place for the next tourists makes a visit more into a quick gaping at art than exploring and admiring the famous works from history and enjoying that one can see them in reality. But we have to be honest, that is the way we are now traveling through this country: get a short impression of many places without standing still too long at one place. Every time the masses of tourists scare us away...
Florence, Renaissance city par excellence: we have been there, but the only thing that we have really seen are the archeological items from Egypt, robbed from there and taken to Florence by an Italian egyptologist...
Ponte Vecchio, FlorenceA clown gives a great performance before a large audience outside the museum and we enjoy it, as the rest of the people. When we walk on to the Ponte Vecchio (picture on the right) suddenly all (mostly negroid) street sellers hastily pack their merchandise and walk away whistling after having been warned that the police is coming their way. That is present-day vivid Florence.
Ponte Vecchio, FlorenceWe walk over the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge from the 14th century where, like on London Bridge, houses and shops were build on the bridge for craftsmen. Now there are only jewelers, goldsmiths and other souvenir shops instead of butchers, grocers and sniths which populated the place before. And tourists, of course...
Strange roadsign We need a breakWe see the campsite almost exactly above us, but it is a long climb. We go a bit to the south and then walk straight up to the Piazza Michelangelo. On a path, shared by cyclists and pedestrians we see this curious roadsign: it is no longer allowed to walk and cycle after each other but from here beside one another, the pedestrians to the right!
The climb is heavier than we thought and now and then we have to stop to take a breath. But when we are finally at the top, this road turns out to be much shorter than the route we took by bus to the center, this morning!
View at Florence View at FlorenceDuring the climb up to the top of the hill we have a few nice views on the town center of Florence. The farther we go, the better the view!
Terrace at the campsiteBack on the campsite we are ready for new refreshments and the cheap beer (€2) and a cappucino (1,30) taste much better after this climb than their more expensive cousins in the town center! And from here we still have a fantastic view over the city.
We are quite tired after all the walking we have done today, even when we didn't see a 'real' Michelangelo, Raphael or Da Vinci. But we do spot a peeper on the bikeway behind our tent and have to chase him away. At 7 we already need a sweater, it doesn't feel very warm, colder than the days before. So, we go to bed early and our feet are really glad they get some rest!


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