Our next stop was the beautiful city of Florence. We left the train station and walked through the rather cosmopolitan city which was full of tall and glamorous shops and delectable looking Italian bakeries. We arrived at our hotel which had an incredible location – right in front of the famed Battistero di San Giovanni (scaffolded, but of course!). We proceeded to relax for a small while, as became our norm after city-to-city train journeys. We noticed in the lobby an ancient painting of Florence, and our hotel was so old that it was actually in the painting. Pretty incredible!
When it came time to tour the city, of course, our first stop was the glorious Il Duomo cathedral, which too was directly outside our hotel. Wow. This was one of my favourite buildings on our trip. The detail of the deep green, pink and white marble is impeccable.
We noticed the Florentine city prices were hefty. After some severe lunch-hunting we eventually settled on a colourful cafe with an extensive menu featuring all the Italian delights you could imagine. I tried an authentic butter and sage ravioli, Alex a mushroom calzone. We enjoyed ourselves. We continued browsing the laneways, seeking out places to watch more World Cup action in the evenings to come.
Our dinner consisted of goods purchased from our favourite Italian supermarket, à la Venice. We had developed an affection for this specific supermarket’s salad, which consisted of orecchiette pasta, arugula, olives, tomatoes and caciocavallo cheese. Rather than buy a huge bag of plastic forks for €2, we decided to eat our salad by scooping up chunks of it with potato chips (the chips were half the price of the forks). Dinner redefined with edible utensils and savvy shopping skills.
That night we watched Brazil v Mexico at a local Irish pub. We were thrilled because this particular bar had free food. This does not happen in Australia.
The following day, Alex went inside the main cathedral without me (I was forbidden due to my thoughtless attire, although I did get a 5-second glimpse of the internal structure). On a positive note, this rejection provided me with more time to admire the outside of the cathedral.
We headed south towards the Arno river until we reached the magnificent square of La Signoria. The square features several impressive attractions. First there is the Fountain of Neptune – an imposing statue of Neptune surrounded by fancy waterworks.
Then of course there is the Palazzo Vecchio. This astonishing palace was built in the 14th century, particularly to show the world just how impressive and powerful Florence was. We entered the palace via the front doors decorated by a replica Statue of David (where the original once stood) and were overwhelmed by the detail in the front courtyard of the palace.
My favourite attraction of the Piazza della Signoria is the Loggia dei Lanzi, an arched structure filled with incredible statues – an outdoor sculpture gallery. My favourite statue is Perseus with the Head of Medusa, because, well, it’s pretty epic. It was created in the mid-1500s.
We continued our journey past the Uffizi Gallery. The last time I was in Florence I didn’t bother going because the queue was enormous and my time was limited. We decided not to go this time either because we’d checked online for tickets the night before and the website stated that they were unavailable. Out of curiosity we decided to have a look to see just how busy it was. Whaaat? There was no queue? We walked straight to the ticket booth and got in within 2 minutes. Very pleased! The gallery was just huge. The artworks featured in the gallery were varied, from severely religious ancient Italian paintings to a little more recent Dutch paintings. My tour guide, aka Alex, informed me why there were such variations of Jesus paintings. Some showed him on the crucifix happy, others sad. Some healthy, others bleeding. Very interesting. Of course, the most famous painting in the museum is Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, which was extremely impressive. A very lovely painting. There were also works by other very famous painters, such as Da Vinci and Caravaggio.
We had a lovely view from the gallery of Ponte Vecchio bridge as well as the top of Palazzo Vecchio. This enticed us to have a bit of a closer look at Ponte Vecchio so we could admire the old colourful structure. (Our Ponte Vecchio day was supposed to be the next day). We crossed but dared not go further. Not until tomorrow at least.
We walked home up the shopping strip Via Santa Maria. We purchased a gelato near Il Duomo and got completely ripped off. It was a big scoop at least.
Our second World Cup match in Florence was supposed to be Australia v Netherlands. We headed back to our Irish pub, bought some large beers and took some free bar food. The match wasn’t on, even though advertised. Alex asked the bartender and we were advised that the Sky TV was down. We sculled our drinks and found another nearby pub playing the match. We had missed the first 20 minutes and Australia was winning. We’d missed the goal! Although disappointed, I wasn’t really expecting us to beat the Netherlands due to their excellent earlier performances. I cheered along with a few other Australian tourists, and avoided the Dutch tourists once the match had concluded. Obviously, we did not beat the Netherlands, although we still had lots of fun cheering whilst drinking delicious Peroni.
We were planning to perhaps do a day trip to the gorgeous Cinque Terre for our last day in Florence, however it was going to be costly and absolutely exhausting for a day trip. So we ended up having an unplanned day. This is unusual for me, but Alex thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our final touristy visit for our last glorious day in Florence was the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. We recognised the same tile work on this cathedral as Il Duomo. Very Florentine.
We continued on our walk until we reached the Central Market. The Central Market was very lovely and was full of many delectable looking gourmet Italian foods. I wanted to buy many food items to bring home, such as pesto flavoured pasta and almond nougat, but as I may have mentioned earlier, my luggage was one small backpack, therefore, there would be no bringing of food home. Very sad. On the way home we stopped at Ladurée for a macaron, seeing though we missed out when we were in Paris. Very happy with our decision.
Later in the day, it was time for a good look at Ponte Vecchio. We returned to the gorgeous jutting yellow-toned bridge, bold over the Arno river.
We continued walking on the south-side of the river until we reached the base of a hill, which we climbed to find the most magnificent view of the city. We spent a good part of early dusk awing over the wonderment of the ancient city draped in terra cotta.