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Day 2: Florence

We had a whole day to spend in Florence today, but we knew that that wouldn't actually be a lot of time because there is just so much to see and do in Florence. Our apartment was located on the southern side of the Arno, so we decided to spend the morning exploring that side of the river and head to the main town centre in the afternoon.

We starting strolling along the banks of the river. The apartment is very near the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge which is filled with (mainly expensive jewellery) shops. It had been difficult to walk across last night because it was so busy with people, but this morning we had a beautiful view back towards it.


The view along the river in the opposite direction was equally impressive, with wonderful views of the hills beyond Florence.


Our aim was to climb uphill to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a large square in a scenic location above the city. Last time Tim and I came to Florence it was an exceptionally hot day and we really struggled to make it up the hill, but today it seemed a lot more manageable, though still a bit frustrating to get to the top and find busloads of tourists who had been driven there. The view of Florence from the square is incredible.


From this distance you can really appreciate quite how massive the Duomo is. And because it was a Sunday morning, we could even hear the bells from where we were.



The view of the Tuscan countryside from the other side of the square was equally beautiful.


Once we'd spent some time enjoying the view, we decided to climb a little higher to the church of San Miniato al Monte.


The facade was really striking with its geometrical patterns.


There were some spectacular views of Florence from here too.


We walked downhill and found ourselves at the gate to Florence's historic old town.


There are fewer tourists here than in the new town on the opposite side of the river and so we were able to wander through narrow streets that were almost deserted.


Not everyone was walking though. As we got lower down we found that for the bargain price of €36(!) you could pay to be driven around the sights of Florence in something which resembled a golf buggy!!

As we got deeper into the old town we kept seeing the domes of churches appearing tantalisingly on the horizon.


It looked like it ought to be easy to locate the churches but some of the squares were extremely busy with markets of varying quality so in places it was difficult to push our way through.


We did find a few that were very pretty.


We crossed the river to find somewhere to get a pizza for lunch and then set off to explore the more famous bits of Florence. Before long we were standing outside the basilica of Santa Maria Novella.


It's a very unusual church because the majority of it appears to be built from quite plain brown bricks...


...but the front of the church is really stunning.


From the basilica it didn't take us long to find our way to the most impressive sight in Florence, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.


Both the main cathedral building and the bell tower next to it are extremely beautiful.


And, of course, the domed roof of the cathedral is fantastic.


Being the centre of Florence the cathedral square was also incredibly busy, full of tourists who looked like they would be queuing for hours to get inside the historic buildings and Africans trying to sell selfie sticks and knock-off handbags! We did a circuit of the cathedral to appreciate quite how enormous it is and then set off down some of the quieter side streets to get away from the hordes.

When we had been walking along the river earlier in the day we had caught sight of what appeared to be a large church with a striking green domed roof. We caught sight of it again on one of the side streets note far from the Duomo and so decided to walk towards it in the hope of tracking it down. The closer we got to where we thought it ought to be the more problems we had finding it, but after overshooting it and retracing our steps we eventually found what we had been looking for...


...and discovered that it wasn't a church at all but Florence's synagogue. That explained why there had been so many Jewish restaurants and food shops on the street we'd been walking down!

Mystery solved, we turned back into the better known parts of the city. Soon we were standing outside the enormous Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence.


There are seveal large statues outside the town hall, including a replica of Michelangelo's David (the real one is kept safely inside one of the galleries) and this slightly scary one which apparently shows Hercules and Cacus.


A number of the statues in the square seemed quite disturbing. This one was Perseus with the head of Medusa.


As we walked further through the Uffizi complex there were also some less frightening statues though, like this one of Galileo :)


We unexpectedly found ourselves walking out into another square with a church that looked somehow familiar.


For a confusing moment we thought that we had got our geography of Florence all wrong and ended up outside the basilica of Santa Maria Novella again! We soon realised that this was actually the basilica of Santa Croce though and it just looks a little similar at first glance, being brick at the back but with an ornate white and green facade.

From Santa Croce we walked north again, eventually coming to the old gates into the city.


It was after 4pm by now and although we were still happily walking round without jumpers, it was clear that the remaining daylight was going to be limited. There was just about time to cram in one more sight which I was keen to see; the beautiful Russian Orthodox church.


As darkness began to fall we started on the trek back across the city to our apartment. Through a park with a rather crazy fountain...


...past the old fortress...


...and a rather strange modern art installation...


...until we eventually found ourselves outside Santa Maria Novella again.


It looked wonderful illuminated in the darkness.


Even though it was dark now, the lighting on the main streets was good enough to enable us to enjoy a few more of the buildings. We walked past the Palazzo Strozzi...


...and into the Piazza Santa Trinita, complete with a large column representing justice.


From there we were able to make our way back towards the river and the Ponte Vecchio.


We had an amazing day and saw as much of Florence as it was possible to cram into the available hours, but it's definitely a city where it would be possible to stay a lot longer :)

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