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Florence

 
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The cathedral from the Uffizi terrace The old town from the Boboli gardens The Palazza Vecchio and the Uffizi The Arno and the Ponte Vecchio
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The cathedral dome from Giotto's Tower Giotto's Tower from the Dome

One day spent mainly traveling to Florence and two days very touristy sight-seeing. We did what we set out to do:

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see the main tourist attractions: Uffizi, Duomo, Giotto's Tower, Ponte and Plazza Vecchio, Piazza Michaelangelo and the Boboli Gardens. We didn't see the David (although we saw lots of copies) because we couldn't stand the thought of queuing for the Academia - we'd done it for the Uffizi and once was enough.

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eat out in the streets. We opted for side street rather than posh square on grounds of cost but this experience is better if you leave it later as you can't see as much of the downside of the side streets.

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shopping in street markets, although I didn't buy any water colours from the street artists. I thought they were a bit pricey and didn't see anything that really took my fancy (plus I'm running out of wall space)

Overall impression. It was well worth doing but two days was enough to be cooped up in the city. It is also much more expensive than the mountains. It was strangely tiring, a combination of muggy heat and having to do a surprising amount of climbing. The Duomo and Giotto's Tower are very special, helped in our case by getting there at unfashionable times of day. 

The Uffizi is also unique but I got most pleasure out of the less publicised bits. There are lots of paintings of the great people of Florentine history and knowing a little of the history of the period that gave me a buzz. Beryl even spotted Macchiavelli staring down from a ceiling at us (I actually own a copy of The Prince) However you can have too much of religious imagery. Admittedly my knowledge of art is such that I can recognise the great names but I can't tell why their paintings are better than that of those I hadn't heard of. Raphael looked really two-dimensional in a lot of his. The paintings that gave me most pleasure were thrown in almost as an afterthought at the end; the two famous Rembrandt self-portraits and two Canalettoes of Venice. Their secular nature might be what I found appealing.

Al these time I was building up an unprovable theory. If you took every painting and effigy of the Virgin Mary and lined them up side by side, would it take you longer to walk past them than Her lifetime on this earth?

I liked the Palazza Vecchio. It has a host of PCs with an interactive presentation on the palace, the Medici and renaissance Florence. This explained the architecture  of the palace which was amazing and this made walking round much more enjoyable. My favourite part was the map room; absolutely fascinating but then I love maps. W arrived on the battlements just before 12 o'clock and sat down to take in the view. At noon we were suddenly surrounded by chimes from all directions. It was marvelous. As the clocks were otally synchronised this went on for some time.

Where not to go? The Boboli Gardens; very disappointing

 

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