The top things to see in Florence

Going with the flo in Florence. 

At the end our dreamy Venetian adventure, we planed the canals on the vaperetto looking at the most beautiful and surreal architecture until it was time to hop off and take a new mode of transport. We boarded the super lux Italian train seated in first class, no less and settled in for a comfortable and prompt two hour journey to Florence. 

It is no great hardship to sit for two hours on a train through Italy, especially passing through the Tuscan countryside, as it offers up the most stunning scenes. 
Especially when you are offered free Prosecco and snacks on a very regular basis. The Italians have got the travelling lark sussed!

On arrival, we navigated the beautiful streets of Florence until we neared our accommodation on a bustling street, where restaurants were beginning to set up for their evening diners. Immediately across the way from our accommodation we stumbled upon the most stunning sight - the humongous Duomo cathedral. 

The Gothic basillica dates back to the 1400's and really is very impressive in the flesh. It is easy to see why its three buildings form part of a UNESCO world heritage site. I heard people complain that it was a shame that road works and conservation was going on around the sites during our visit but it's wholly necessary to preserve these wonders and a small price to pay.
It really is large so we couldn't make it all the way round before dinner but we marveled at the stunning architecture for a while and then went to the room to freshen up. 

I had booked us in at Pensione Canada for our stay, having read various reviews that commended the location. Given time was of the essence for us, being ten minutes walk from the train station and five from all major attractions was the biggest benefit. Much like other accommodation in Italy, pensiones are guest houses usually located several flights of stairs up and are characterful rather than modern. On arrival we were taken to our en suite room (one of the only ones in the hotel) by the owner. The room was light, airy and very clean. There wasn't much in the way of amenities but for our purposes it was just fine.

After a scrumptious Italian dinner at one of the neighbouring restaurants, we explored the area a little and took in the rest of the fabulous Duomo including these exquisite gilded doors. In contrast to earlier in the day, by evening we had the place almost to ourselves and in celebration we treated ourselves to gelato and sat outside to take in the atmosphere. As I mentioned in my Venice post, we used Rick Steves free audio guides to learn more about the history of the basilica.

The next morning we woke bright and early to the ringing of the Duomo bells, which was a fabulous way to be greeted. After a light breakfast of pastries and some strong espresso, served at a standing coffee bar, as is the Italian way, we headed off to explore the city. First on our list was the Uffizi Gallery to see some amazing works of art. We need not have worried because every street corner has some fantastic sculpture or art to look at, which meant it took us half a day to make our way to the gallery. Inside the amazing space, Bottecilli lines up next to Michelangelo and Da Vinci works of art - it is a spectacle to behold, even if you're not massively into fine art. *
For lunch we grabbed a delicious pizza slice from the square and basked in the sun before heading off for more culture vulturing.
We couldn't visit Florence and not see Michelangelo's David and it is even more impressive in the flesh than I expected. As you meander down the corridors of the Galleria Dell Academia looking at various sculptures and paintings, you become lulled into calm state until you round the corner and there under the cupola, a narrowed beam of sunlight coats David and shows his full glory. 
As evening fell, we had a quick turnaround and headed out into the romantic light of the main square to find some delicious morsels to eat. You needn't look far in Florence, although it can be a little pricey but for around £40-£50 per couple you can eat well.
We visited a couple of very nice bars for cocktails afterwards, watching people come and go around the square. 

As a new day dawned, it was time see more of what wonderful Florence had to offer. There are numerous sights and museums but with a couple of days here, we had to prioritise. The things we didn't want to miss I had pre-booked online. However, we found that going to the ticket office around 4pm the day before was ample to get tickets for most things and often cheaper, so if you're prepared to take a little gamble, it can pay off. 

We wandered down to the Ponte Vecchio to catch the fabulous views and soak up the sun. The shopping is amazing in Italy with designers of all types nestled in between independent leather specialists. If this appeals to you, leave room in your luggage as you'll be spoiled for choice. 

It's a bit of a scrum on the bridge with tourists brandishing selfie sticks with abandon but we managed to get some nice shots from different angles. 
With a bit of time to pass, we gambled on visiting the Museo de Galileo which is a smaller, less crowded space than the big tourist attractions. We saw some early telescopes which our fore-fathers used to search the night sky for inspiration and answers.
You ask how I know this? Galileo himself told me.

Florence is a place that is small enough to walk around, which means you get to see so much more detail but it can be tiring after several days, so we spent the afternoon in the sun under a big shady tree, snoozing off a feast of pasta, crusty bread and mediterranean salads. Bellisimo!

source: national geographic

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