My friend Lance used to tell me stories about touring with his punk band in Europe. They'd have the hairiest time loading all their gear onto trains during the few minutes afforded them at stops, deal with customs, and then worry if their contact was going to show up when they got wherever they were going. Our trip was pretty cushy, since there were only two of us with one piece of luggage each and we made reservations online. We also took the high-speed rail. By the time we arrived in Florence from Rome, it was mid-afternoon. After checking in, we had time to walk around at dusk, eat, and walk around some more. The picture above says a lot about the area: cute narrow streets, hoards of tourists, bikes and scooters, gelato. Not shown: high-end boutiques, expensive meals, smoking and graffiti everywhere.
We woke up early the next morning to make our appointment at the Galleria degli Uffizi. Wendy booked several museum reservations so we could walk right past the long lines (or get in at all). The museum is world-class, but is somewhat low-budget when it comes to preservation (you can sneeze on important pieces of work) and crowd flow (we got to the exit and realized we missed Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Spring). When the guard wasn't watching, we walked in through the out door, retraced our steps to the top floor, and found out that we also missed some da Vincis and Michelangos. Astounding. You can see key works by each of the Ninja Turtles' namesakes here.
No photos were allowed inside, but the construction boards showed some of the works. Of course, the oversized canvases were used as canvases by locals…
Just outside the Uffizi were some galleries with classic statues. No, the David is not real but you can't take pictures at the Galleria dell'Accademia, which houses many of Michelangelo's works. (That was later stop in Florence.)
In between museums, we tried to find some food, crossed the town's oldest bridge in an unfruitful quest for a Michelin-recommended gelato spot, and wound up eating fruit from a street vendor. Produce is quite expensive in Europe, but we ponied up since so much of our meals consisted of pasta, bread, and cheese. The pears, figs, and grapes were typically the best. Apples, not so good.
Besides (before?) museums and shopping, the Duomo was the center of action in town.
We decided to climb into the gigantic cathedral's dome, which entailed steep stairs, narrow hallways, and log-jammed corridors. The picture below is one of the nicer, breezier parts of the ascent, which was more often dark, humid, and musky.
There were payoffs, though. First, an excellent view of the mural at the top of the dome–worthy of a Slayer album cover!
Then, a panoramic view of the city.
Besides the old art and old buildings, Florence has plenty of living charm going for it. The architectural arrangements and details make Disneyland look like Magic Mountain.
Below, the site of one of our better meals in Europe. Thanks, Michelin guide. The proprietors gave wine and cheese to folks in line, and there were actually locals mixed in with the tourists. Can you see the meat hanging from the ceiling?
More night scenery.
Small cars and scooters everywhere.
Eight flights of stairs up to our room.
Ancient yet alive. Touristy yet genuine. Next stop: Venice.