Sorry for the silence. Our internet went out yesterday, and I didn’t want to bother anyone about it…my phone has data, so my family in the US can still get in touch with me, anyway.
But we arrived back from Florence today to find everything was back up, so I’ve cleaned the kitchen, repacked all the souvenir purchases, Instagrammed a bunch, so here I am.
We are staying about 10 miles outside of Florence at an apartment in the country that I booked on AirBnB two days before we arrived. It is a nice little apartment with all that we could want, but just a *little* more remote than is ideal, plus it’s been too cool to swim, so the advertised pool is of no use. That’s okay. I could maybe stay at a Motel 6 in Birmingham for what I’m paying to stay at an apartment amid olive groves in the Tuscan countryside, so it remains A Deal.
Before we actually got here, I wasn’t sure how much time we would want to spend in Florence – which is why I didn’t even attempt for us to stay in Florence, proper. I had heard so many conflicting things: Florence is great. Florence is my favorite. Florence is crowded and dirty. Florence is teeming with tourists and poseur American art students.
So I figured…stay outside of Florence, have the car, give it a day, and if a day was enough, we’d have other options.
(You are saying…um…philistine? You think “a day” in Florence might be “enough?” Well…just remember that I have two kids and we are at the end of almost three weeks here. I didn’t know if they would just be at the point of Enough with museums and cities and such, so I was ready to be flexible.)
Well, we’ve ended up spending both days in Florence. I won’t say that I adore it, but one day definitely wasn’t enough, and of course two still just scratches the surface, but given where we are on this trip…two days is good.
I’m not up for narrative, so I’ll bullet point.
- We are not driving into Florence. We go to Scanducci, park at the big grocery store (not kidding – biggest grocery store I’ve ever been in, including Super Wal-Marts), then go to the tram that runs right into Florence. Free parking, no city driving, very easy.
- After much research and internal debate I ended up getting a Firenze Card. I’ll write more about this in a separate post because it’s a popular topic among travelers, but I’ll just say that for me, it was worth it. No, the dollar value of the tickets I would have bought was less than what I paid for the card, but the convenience of not having to reserve specific times at the Accademia or Uffizi is worth that extra $20. Everyone values different things, and I value flexibility and freedom.
- Tuesday, we got off the tram and went straight to the Duomo area. We went to the baptistry first, then the Duomo. Climbed the campanile. Which was enough to make me decide I was *not* climbing the duomo dome itself. So far this trip, I have climbed a Bologna tower, up to St. Peter’s Dome, the Siena duomo and still have Pisa to go. Plus a zillion other stairs. I’m good.
- Then meandering and a sit-down lunch, which was nothing special.
- More meandering down to the Ponte Vecchio. Talked about it, crossed it, walked to the Pitti Palace, which I sped-read about and decided we would not be interested in. So we walked back across the bridge, I talked to them about the 1966 flood and pulled up some photos of it on my phone, and then we made our way up to the Accademia.
- On the way, spent time in San Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world. Much wonderful art, Michelangelo and Galileo buried there.
- Then to the Accademia, to see David. The line for unreserved tickets snaked around the block (this was at about 5, and the museum was open into the evening). With the FC, we went to the ticket office, I had to pay a 4E “reservation fee” for each of the boys (showing J’s passport as proof of his under-18 age, which pleased him), but then got that done and waltzed in. See, I told you it was worth it.
- Saw David,which, like the Eiffel Tower, no matter how iconic it is, is still astonishing at first sight.
- More moving, though, were the Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures in the hall leading up to David.
- Poked around a bit more, including in the musical instrument museum. Made our way back to the train, got back to Scanducci, bought a roast chicken and other things at the grocery store and drove back …to no internet. #Sad.
- They explored the property, found scads of snails and some horses amidst the olive trees.
- Up this morning, same routine: park at the grocery, tram it to Florence.
- Started at S. Maria Novella, which is near the train station. Some fascinating art, including a Giotto crucifix.
- If you have traveled to Catholic sites, particularly in Italy, you know that they can be strict about clothing. Once in Sicily, I was wearing a sleeveless shirt and was handed a shawl when I walked into a church. I’ve heard it’s one of of the reasons there used to be so many scarf-vendors around St. Peter’s (didn’t see *any* this time…mostly selfie-sticks). I visited a Hindu temple outside of Atlanta and even though my skirt was barely above the knee…nope. Had to wrap up in a big black…wrap they hand out. S. Maria Novella has a solution I’d not seen before: Robes. They are mass produced, thin robes packaged in plastic. You waltz in wearing short shorts? Here’s a robe.
- Then back across the Arno to a branch of the Natural History Museum that is there. We like animals, I thought it would be a nice break, plus they have a collection of 18th-19th century wax human anatomical models I wanted to see. Bologna has a similar collection that I could never seem to get to, so I was particularly keen on this.
- It was a good idea. A quick walk-through, yes, but they enjoyed it – the animals, that is. It is an old collection (the kind of thing I really appreciate – seeing older, quirky museum collections) and with many of the specimens, you could see the taxidermist’s seam lines and so on.
- The anatomical models were FANTASTIC. The boys were skeeved out, but I could have stayed much longer. There were a number of people there sketching, so the collection still has great value, obviously.
- Then a quick counter lunch here, which was far superior to yesterday’s lunch. That is usually the case, I have found.
- Up across the Arno. The Galileo Science Museum is right next to the Uffizi, so we hit that first. Great, great exhibits. It’s not huge, but is certainly dense, centered on a couple of collections of historic scientific instruments including, of course, Galileo – a couple of his telescopes and other instruments, as well as relics – a finger bone and a tooth!
- They advertise an “interactive” section, but don’t go thinking that it will be anything like your typical American science museum (about which I have mixed feelings, btw). It’s all of two rooms, with maybe 5 “hands on” activities.
- Then the Uffizi – the FC card got us through within minutes, and without that 4E kid fee either.
- More on the Uffizi later (as in…next week). I enjoyed it, but it was mobbed and a couple of times it was challenging to see the art because of the tour groups.
- ….and back.
- Of course remember that all of this is interspersed with regular gelato stops. Always.
Check out Instagram and Snapchat (amywelborn2) for more…and here are some random pics.