Florence and the Machine

The train ride from La Spezia was steadily making it’s way south. As it turned out the toilets on board were essentially a hole in the carriage, not quite what we would we were expecting in this part of the world. Resolve; to only go while the train was moving.

Going past Pisa without a short stopover would have been a bit rude. We wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Italians have a lot of famous inventors and engineers. Unfortunately some of their structural exploits are famous for the wrong reasons. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one such feat. It’s tilt began when they were building it without enough foundations on one end. The tilt increased over time and eventually it stabilized as we see it today.

This doesn’t stop numerous tourists having a laugh on the lawn pretending to push it over. It’s all a trick. They are actually about a hundred metres away and pushing on nothing. It’s all down to perspective.

 

After watching this go on for half an hour we ran back to miss the train. Waiting at the statio n for the next train (an hour away) we contemplated more poses to do in front of leaning buildings, trees, signs, elderly…anything that lists more than three degrees is fair game.

Seamlessly arriving into Florence we strolled into the narrow streets, heading east on rough directions to our accommodation. When we came into the main square, the impressive mass of the Duomo or, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, towered over us, high and with its impressive hemisphere of burnt orange.

Dropping the bags off we got a long list of things to do in Florence from our helpful host. As we were leaving the next afternoon, there was no way we would get through it all…or so we thought.Florence was one of the richest cities of medieval Europe, built on the riches of trade and finance it is acknowledged as the birthplace of the renaissance. Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo – all the ninja turtles were educated and honed in their craft here.

We made for the Piazzale Michelangelo, a lookout over the Arno River and the cityscape to watch the Tuscan sunset. Joined by plenty of other romantics we couldn’t help notice the incredible number of American twangs. As it turns out – 17 United States universities have courses in Florence, so about 5000 temporary students make up the population at any one time, or so we were told.

The Piazza Santo Spirito was the locals favourite area for food, only tables were full with patrons having much to fun to give up their space for us – a stone baked pizza held us over. Mitch lamented not having to get some teeth around a Florentine T-bone steak – the price of 50 euros changed that.

Heading north, we were keen to check out the Mercato Central. The flea market itself downstairs was closed, but the real gem was upstairs. A modern food court with almost every morsel imaginable. For desert we had amazing sweets and cannoli, a tube stuffed with ricotta which was ridiculously good. We’d have to come back tomorrow. Mitch still hadn’t had enough. On the way back he had to go to the “best gelato in Florence” – Epic!

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The morning was about trying to get as much else as we could in. Tam had to do a bit of a fashion shopping run and Mitch had to do a few museums and historic sites. To start with however, a trip to Florence wouldn’t be complete without getting inside the Duomo and a bit of a view. We were huddled with a Japanese couple who shoes that looked like poodles – a real “his and hers” combo. Once we got inside (early to avoid the queue), we were greeted with Vasari’s great fresco of the Last Judgment. Here, little children could be shown the direct consequences of being godless. In a world without T.V, internet and modern scientific reason, these images of angels, demons torturing souls with sticks in their posterior and a three headed Satan devouring bodies, would have appeared to be quite real. The top of the cathedral was no less impressive – the views of terracotta tiles and deep alleyways was a tapestry in itself.

 

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Scoffing down another gelato and making our way to the airport we prepared for our trip back home, or so we thought. Meanwhile a slight breeze picked up. Due to this wind and the short runway, Vueling, our aircraft carrier found it necessary to jettison about one tonne of weight in passengers and their luggage from the machine as it could affect a takeoff. As we were unfortunate enough to not be EU citizens and capable of online check in, we were relegated to another night in Florence…could be worse places to be stranded. However, the whole event was a real sham, the staff didn’t know what was going or, or make any effort to tell us in English or Italian of their ignorance otherwise, leaving us stranded about 6 hours. Eventually we made our own way back into town, being put up for the night at a local hotel.

So for our actual last day in Florence we managed an 8km run, followed by a walk through the Medici Gardens and another visit to the Mercado Centrale. In all it sounded really short, but we got to scratch a bit more under the surface of Florence. A place to recommend and definitely visit again.

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