THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2009 – 133/12 – FLORENCE, ITALY
Today we leave CasaLena and head for Florence. We visited Florence in 1988, as a shore excursion from a cruise ship, with our then-14 year old daughter and saw all the important sights, but Carolyn wants to see it again minus the “yellow tour-guide flag”! It is only a short trip to the city so we are there a little after noon. Finding our hotel, even with the GPS, is something of a problem and stopping at the hotel is even worse. Actually, the GPS takes us right to the hotel’s street, it was just a block off on the location, but we do drive right by the front door. However, we have forgotten the cardinal rule for European cities…park on the sidewalk if there is no parking! We actually call the hotel and ask how we stop since there is no place to pull in and stop. They tell us just “pull up in front and park”. Well, after two more trips “around the so called block” though the narrow, crooked medieval streets with hoards of tourist (we are following the GPS the first time around and forget the GPS is a block off so turn the wrong way and have to do it again!), Dick is spitting nails!
OK, we do as told and check into the Sofitel Firenze, just down the street from the Duomo, Santa Maria de Fiore. The location is ideal for exploring this area of Florence and it is just as well since the car has disappeared. We are assured that for a mere €35 ($48.90US) per day we can have it back in fifteen minutes.
Florence and the Duomo area are crowded with tourists
and the line to get into the Duomo this afternoon is hundreds of people long. We wander around the Duomo Piazza and take the traditional pictures, but again you cannot getfar enough away from the Cathedral to get a good picture. We then head down to the Piazza del Republica and the old market with the bronze boar, whose nose everyone rubs for luck, and then on to Piazza del Signoria with all its statues. Michelangelo’s David was here until 1873 when it was replaced with a copy. We walk on to the river andcross the Ponte Vecchio over the Po Rivervisit a little church near the river and walk as far as the Piazza de Pitti where we stop while Dick has a beer and we let our feet cool off and people watch in the Piazza.
It is getting late so we head back to the hotel for some refreshment and dinner. We check out the Cathedral one more time, but it closed at 5PM. However, we see the Baptistery is still open and there is no line so we visit. This is one of Florence’s oldest buildings dating from probably the 4th century. Many famous Florentines were baptized here including Dante. It is an octagonal building with three sets of beautiful sculptured bronze doors. Andrea Pisano did the East set (now a copy) in 1336 showing the baptism of St John the Baptist. Ghiberti did the south panels; known as the Gates of Paradise, in 1424. The 13th century mosaic work of the Last Judgment inside on the dome is fabulous. We relax for a while, and then have a very nice dinner in the hotel with good service and good food. After dinner we walk back over to the Piazza for a night picture of Duomo.