The Liberated Travel’s weekly Travel Journey is Florence. This is another place that I’ve visited, albeit very briefly. Florence was the last stop on our nearly two week bus tour around Italy in 1996.
Because we were using a budget company (Cosmos, a subsidiary of Globus travel), our hotel was actually 30 minutes away by train, probably the worst location of any of the cities we stayed in. You don’t mind so much when it’s a small town overnight visit but if you are in a larger city like Florence, it would be nice to wander on your own and be able to easily make your way back to your hotel. “Easily” being the operative word here. When we were in Rome, we were in the suburbs and there was a public bus nearby. We took that once, and took a taxi one other time. With Florence, we were not taking any chances. More on that later.
Florence! Too bad in a way that it was the end of our trip because I know I didn’t appreciate it as much as I would have had we started there. It was a case of information overload and homesick as well. Three weeks away (this included nearly a week in London at the beginning before the tour) is a long time with so much to do and take in. As a first impression, I liked the feel of Florence even though on our initial arrival we weren’t in the city centre. We headed straight to the Piazza Michelangelo which is on a hill that affords an amazing view over the city. There is a reproduction of Michaelangelo’s David and we had a group picture taken.
Then to the center of town where we had a look in a leather factory first (one of those factory visits where they encourage you to buy and the tour guide most likely gets a kickback). We then met a local guide for a walking tour around the main squares of Florence, the political centre and the religious centre by the Duomo and saw the amazing bronze doors on the Baptistery which are only reproductions as the originals are being restored.
D. and I escaped before seeing the Duomo museums (where the walking tour ended anyway) so we could go to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David which is so beautiful and so real looking you would think he would take a breath and step right down off the pedestal. Very very large too! We left there, found a bar and had a light lunch and made our way past the San Lorenzo market to the Uffizi Gallery about 1 p.m. Good timing as we didn’t have to stand too long in line. We bought our tickets and a lovely book on the gallery.
We went through the Uffizi Gallery although the best rooms are closed for restoration. The gallery was bombed 3 or 4 years before so maybe that section had more damage. This meant we didn’t get to see the paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, among others. We kept missing Rafael because the quick tour through the Vatican in Rome bypassed the Raphael rooms as well! We did see Botticelli and one beautiful one by Leonardo da Vinci though his main room was closed.
There was a couple other art galleries I would have liked to see, the Bargello and the San Marco but we did go into the Santa Croce church which has a lot of tombs and memorials to Italy’s top geniuses like Leonardo, Rossini (composer), Michelangelo, Galileo and I also saw one small one to Marconi. Santa Croce is quite old in its origins too.
D. was really getting tired and though I felt like I might have my second wind, I didn’t want to leave her alone to go wandering and go across the Ponte Vecchio so we found our meeting point for the bus and waited for about an hour, resting our feet and chatting to the other tour members as they arrived back as well. By the time the bus came, I was losing what was left of my energy too. And really, after two weeks of it, I really didn’t want to see another church, painting or statue. We had classic burnout and were tired of living out of a suitcase.
Most of us went back to the hotel tired that day. The meals in that hotel were cafeteria style and we felt rushed. There were several groups in the hotel and the staff in the restaurant seemed a bit cranky trying to move everyone along so the next group could get on with things. We just wanted to go home by this time! We had a very early start the next morning to drive cross country and fly out of Treviso airport near Venice and the bus was very quiet with most of the tour group having a nap.
Florence is a city I’d like to see again with fresh eyes and more energy. We thought about going to Florence along with Rome last year but decided that we always try to do too much and never see enough of one place. I’d rather take my time and have more than a couple of days there, even if it’s just 3 or 4. It’s on the list.