Florence is just an hour and a half by train from Rome and we decided to spend two days there before all the hotel rates went up in April and the city became jammed with tourists over the rest of the spring and summer.
We were lucky to get a good deal at a lovely hotel, the Palazzo Guadagni in the area called Santo Spirito, on the opposite side of the Arno from the Duomo. Up on the third floor of an old building wih a terrace on two sides and gorgeous views of the city, it was a lovely start to our visit.
Florence is a small city and all the sites are within walking distance. We explored the Boboli gardens of the Pitti Palace which were close to our hotel and then walked down the hill past Galileo’s house where he carrried out his astronomy observations. Florence is Renaissance capital of Italy and just walking around looking at the buildings is a pleasure.
The side of the city which houses the Pitti Palace is full of antiquarian shops, little artsy stores and is less touristy than on the opposite side. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio which now houses mostly jewellery shops and made our way to the Uffizi Gallery.
The gallery itself is vast and quite an overwhelming experience with room after room of the most beautiful paintings by all the Renaissance masters and more. Too much to really take in all in a single visit. After a couple of hours there, all we had the energy for was to return to our hotel for a rest and go for dinner.
Florentine cuisine is quite ‘meaty’ with items such as wild boar and other game. Nice if the weather is cold but the temperature outside was 20C and the first official day of spring was March 21st so I guess they will be switching to a switch to a spring/summer menu soon. Anyhow, we ended up in this rustic restaurant and as soon as we sat down, they planked a large bottle of Chianti on the table and told us to drink whatever we wanted. My meat dish could have easily fed a family of four! At the end of dinner, they brought us Vin Santo, a dessert wine, and biscotti on the house and when the bill came, we were only charged for a glass of wine each at 3 Eur even though we had knocked back a few glasses.
The next day, I wanted to see inside the Duomo which dominates Florence’s skyline and the Baptistry. Even now, in low season, there were line-ups for the major sites so we spent almost the whole morning lining up to get in. Perhaps we shouldn’t have spent so long dawdling on the terrace of our hotel eating breakfast! The Baptistry was spectacular. Converted from an old Roman temple with 13th cent gold mosaic work covering the dome, photograps don’t do it justice. The orignal gold plated doors by Ghiberti are now in the museum but the copy is actually very good and one can’t tell the difference.
We fitted in a few more sites after lunch but there’s so much to see in Florence that it’s impossible to do justice to it in two days. I’m looking forward to returning.