Meanwhile, at the tail end of my 1993-1994 adventures, we’re in Italy. Having just experienced the Carnival of Venice, we’re now en route to Firenze.
Welcome to Travelling in the 90s…
[Saturday 12 February, 1994] It took over three hours on the train to reach Florence, through lovely rolling hills with villages nestled in the valleys. An accommodation scout brought us to the funniest little place — the kitchen and bathroom appear to be those also used by the family (or whoever lives here), but at the same time there are seven or eight rooms. It’s on the top of a four storey building with three other similar hotels in it. Our room is very comfortable with two beds, heater that works, table and two chairs, with lots of space.
[Sunday 13 February, 1994] Today was our introduction to Florence, and it was not a particularly auspicious beginning. Personally I find Florence rather dull and depressing. This may have something to do with the fact that, being Sunday, all the shops were closed. But what city’s museums are only open until 1:00pm? Just what is one supposed to do after that time?
Of course Florence has other attractions (such as the Uffizi Gallery) that are open until later during the week (just not Sundays)… HOWEVER, absolutely nothing is open on Mondays.
We didn’t pick very good days to come to Florence, I’m afraid.
Admittedly we started off badly, missing the 8:30 alarm and surfacing at around 10:00. This resulted in a hasty departure by 10:30 without breakfast and coffee. We went to the Pitti Palace, which houses about 8 museums and adjoins the Renaissance Boboli Gardens.
We chose to see the galleria del costume, which proved to be extremely interesting, as apart from various dresses of different periods, it exhibited reconstructed garments of the Medicci family. This included an account (in English) of how they reconstructed all the pieces — fascinating. We then wandered around (up and down) the Boboli Gardens for a while, viewing the red rooftops of Florence from a number of vantage points.
After the Boboli Gardens it was 1:00pm, so of course nothing more was open except for the Duomo (free). So while on the south side of the Arno River we checked out the “piazza de Michaelangelo”, named for the huge copy of David in the midst of a carpark on top of a hill (which we felt compelled to climb) offering a lovely view of Florence.
By this time we were starving and it was at about at this point (2:00pm) that disgust with Florence seeped in. Surely there must be a market for relatively cheap food in Florence? All we could find were heaps of cafes with table service etc… We wandered around for about an hour, until we finally found a snack bar just around the corner from our lodging, and ate heartily and wholesomely within the warm cocoon of the cafe.
I should mention here that today was FREEZING. The wind was bitter.
After lunch we of course came across three other snack bars — that’s how it goes. We then wandered into the Duomo — all rather impressive on the outside with its pink/white/green marble facade, but typically churchy and almost dull on the inside.
Thoroughly freezing, tired, grumpy and bored, we got lost on the way back to our hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon in bed with books. Our “home”-cooked dinner of spag-bol was delish, and there’s enough for tomorrow night as well. yum yum.
[Tuesday 15 February, 1994] Yesterday we had lots of fun. Since Florence is dead on Mondays we went shopping — although it turned out that the only reason the market itself was open on a Monday was because it happened to be Valentines Day. In any case, we wandered around in the freezing cold, trying on leather jackets. I was after a brown-ish suede blazer-style jacket — and the first one was gorgeous! But I could hardly buy the first I tried on. Even though the man seemed very concerned that we understood he had NOT doubled the price of the jackets just so that he could halve them. Hmmm.
One guy at one of the stalls said: “Australian? You’re looking for something in brown suede.” I stared at him blankly until he said that all Australians wanted brown suede. Very amusing.
Eventually H tried on one she liked, then they finally brought out one I liked, and offered us a good deal for two. I checked the seams and the leather and the button-holes and the way it hung, and was satisfied. It’s impossible to say whether we got a good deal or not, but I don’t think we were ripped off. We are both feeling very pleased with ourselves.
This morning we went to the Uffizi Gallery. I had been especially looking forward to this because Florence is supposed to be the art capital of the world. When we got there at about 10:00am we waited in a 20 minute queue and it cost about aus$10.
We were disappointed to discover that owing to the bombing a while ago, only the top floor of the gallery was open. This took all of an hour and a half to see. They showed us some of the paintings that had been restored after the bomb, but most of what we saw were marble busts and statues, and paintings of the Madonna and Bambino or the holy family — too much of the latter gets rather tedious.
Nevertheless, we DID see the Botticelli room which was fantastic, brilliant, marvellous. I’ve decided I’m a big Botticelli fan. I crashed an English art history class and learnt about the “style” of his “Annunciation” compared with Leonardo’s — fascinating. I also saw “Birth of Venus”, “Allegory to Spring” and various others — a whole room devoted to him! Unfortunately only one Titian and a Michelangelo. Very sad.
Ah yes, methinks I need to go back to Florence in nicer weather, because I know so many people who love it and I just… didn’t.
Please share your Florence stories in the comments, happy or sad.
(Always apologies about the crummy photos from back then.)