Home Up Florence 2

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I spent a week in Florence with my daughter Sarah, an Art History student, at the end of the summer, in order to expand her knowledge of Renaissance art - and mine. We booked flights with Thomsonfly and after many hours spent researching the web, arranged to spend the week at the Hotel Casci, right in the city centre. I don't propose to add too much text to my report, as it could easily extend to dozens of pages if I start on historical facts, but there is plenty of info available on the web for anyone interested in further detail. I recommend this guide book, the AA Spiral Guide, which was tremendously useful. I took it everywhere with me. It's divided into useful sections and includes maps and lots of information about the city and the sights, both famous and lesser known. Museum opening times can be quite complex so make sure you read the info properly, especially if you are on a short trip and want to pack in as much as possible. Click here to buy the guidebook. 



Our flight was between Bournemouth and Pisa, direct flights into Florence being very few and far between. The flight was fine and we arrived in Pisa at 3pm, where we caught a bus into Florence. The hotel, part of a 15th Century palace, lived up to all expectations, very well located, exceptionally friendly service and spotlessly clean room (if a little small). It was once part of the home of the composer Rossini and still has some original frescoed ceilings. We went out in the evening to find somewhere for dinner and hadn't appreciated quite how central the hotel is. We ate a lovely meal at the Ristorante Accademia at the Piazza San Marco and took a rather lengthy walk back via the Duomo, not realising until a few days later that we were actually only a few hundred yards from the Casci! I tend to rely on my husband Martyn for map-reading but this time had to cope with it on my own, Sarah being even worse than me at that particular skill. I certainly improved during the week. 


After breakfast, which is included and is a fairly basic but adequate buffet, we picked up some brochures and spent an hour or so planning our week and some excursions further afield. These were booked for us at reception, which made it much easier for us. We had already booked tickets for the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries. We then set off to explore the city, first going to the Duomo, the magnificent cathedral at the end of our road. There were long queues so we carried on walking to the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge across the River Arno. It's lined with shops, especially jewellers. 

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Ponte Vecchio

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From Piazzale Michelangelo

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Piazzale Michelangelo

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From San Miniato


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From San Miniato

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San Miniato

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Across the river, in the Oltrarno district, we had a light lunch and then went to the Pitti Palace, hoping to visit a couple of the 6 museums housed there. However, the ones which most interested us (Modern Art - 1784-1924!! and the Costume Museum) are both closed in the afternoons so decided to change our plans. Opening times can get very complicated and I hadn't studied my guidebook closely enough. So we took the longish walk up to San Miniato It was incredibly hot and a relief to reach the Piazzale Michelangelo, from which there are stunning views across the city. We carried on, up more hills until we reached San Miniato. It was worth it - the church is beautiful, cool and peaceful and the views from here even better. And we treated ourselves to sorbet on the way back down. 


We had 10am tickets for the Uffizi Gallery - fortunately, none of the main sights were more than 15 minutes walk from our hotel, and found the streets very quiet at that time of the day. The Uffizi is full of religious paintings, and after 3 hours, you do wonder if you really want to see yet another Madonna and Child. It was a treat to see Botticelli's Birth of Venus, for a change! It's certainly an incredible treasury of Renaissance painting and a must-see for anyone with an interest in the subject. We had ridiculously expensive drinks on the rooftop terrace but felt we deserved them. We then went through the Piazza della Signoria, with its huge statues and on to Santa Maria Novella, passing some very exclusive shops on the way. The church was beautiful and full of incredible frescoes. Then back to the Duomo, which still had a huge queue - so we had ice cream instead. After a rest back at the hotel, we went back out to climb the Duomo's dome, the rest of the building now being closed for the evening. We climbed 463 steps to the top, taking a breather to admire the inside of the dome with its frescoes. Looking down into the Duomo, we agreed that even if we never did face the queues, at least we had seen the inside. Once at the top, we could see for miles, despite it being rather hazy. Unfortunately the dome is covered in scaffolding at the moment, which detracted a bit from its beauty. 

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Florentine street

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Uffizi roof terrace

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Santa Maria Novella

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Santa Maria Novella

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Duomo & Campanile

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View from Dome

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View from Dome

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At the top of the Dome

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We went hunting for markets today, not having realised there was a really good one just yards from us, down a road we'd frequently crossed but not looked down properly! Sarah indulged in a little retail therapy and then in the afternoon we set off on one of our trips, to Pisa. In retrospect, we would have been better off arranging this ourselves as it wasn't very well organised and not cheap. The drive is just over an hour and then we walked to the Piazza dei Miracoli to see the Duomo and Leaning Tower. We only had a few minutes in the Duomo (bad organisation) but it was stunningly beautiful and then we were whisked through the Baptistry and on to the large Campo Santo cemetery, full of Roman sarcophagi.  

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Duomo & Tower, Pisa

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Campo Santo

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Campo Santo

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Campo Santo

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

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From a café

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Sue & Sarah at ZaZa

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Damian & Lynne at ZaZa

After a drink and time spent watching the world go by, we went back to the coach - the journey took nearly 2 hours this time, half of that getting through Florence. 

In the evening we had arranged to meet up with my Australian niece and her boyfriend, who were backpacking around Europe. It was a bit of a rush, but we got a reservation at ZaZa, arranged by the hotel for us. The place was packed so we were lucky to get in at such short notice. But it was worth it, great food and reasonably priced. A lovely evening and great to catch up with the Aussies' travels. 


Home Up Florence 2


Site last modified on 2nd October 2011

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