Florence

Florence is both the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and was very much as the centre of the Renaissance, which makes it fairly large and packed with treasures. As usual, I tended to stay outside rather than wander around galleries.

I found that the easiest way to get into town — not fancying the drive into the centre of a major Italian city — was to first go to Fiesole, park there and take the number seven bus straight into Florence. The bus goes practically straight past one of the major sites — the Duomo — so this is where I started.

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Your first glance is just around a corner as you approach from the bus stop. It’s an impressive building from a distance and gets no less so up close.

Inside is, as with most Catholic churches, elaborate, showing no expense spared in its construction. So much for charity.

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[photopress:IMG_4827.jpg,thumb,alignleft]It’s also possible to climb to the top of the Duomo. It’s not easy, requiring the ascent of 463 narrow and steep steps. Nearing the top it gets very busy as people try to go up and come down at the same time. At one point I could see sun-light but couldn’t progress as a long stream of people tumbled down the stairs. The wait, annoying as it was, built suspense but was worth it in the end.

The dizzying journey to street-level was much quicker.

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Back in the Piazza del Duomo I decided to make for one of the other major sights, the Ponte Vecchio, or, as I knew it before I boarded the plane to Italy, “that bridge in all the photos with the shops on it.”

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En route I found the Piazza della Signoria. Here there are many statues including a copy of Michelangelo’s famous David. The Uffizi Gallery is also just off the square. I decided to stay in here for a while, people watching and checking out the various statues and fountains. I couldn’t, however, recommend any of the cafes. The one I ended up in served poor coffee and a partially frozen cake. Stick to the gelato.

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The Ponte Vecchio is quintessentially Italian. It’s pretty and old, popular and somehow at one with the modern country. It’s there and maintained yet the locals seem to have no problem scrawling graffiti over the whole bridge — there was barely a square centimetre free of a name or a romantic teen message.

I know that I barely scratched the surface of Florence. The problem, if you can call it that, is that much of what the city has to offer is inside galleries and out of bounds to my camera.