Published: May 30th 2009May 30th 2009
We’ve just left Florence, and I’m sitting on the Eurostar Alta Veloce to Naples, on our way to the Amalfi coast. Not bad, Italy, but not as good as the Shinkansen! OK, it’s a far cry from anything we have in Australia…
After leaving the Cinque Terre via a few trains, we arrived into the hustle and bustle of big-city Florence on Wednesday afternoon. We booked into our little hotel that I found in the printed Bible (Lonely Planet), as opposed to the online version, Trip advisor. Hotel Cestelli is located 30 seconds walk from the Arno River, 3 minutes from the Ponte Vecchio, and smack bang in the middle of the high end shopping districts. Gucci, Prada, Cavelli, Bulgari, etc etc. Which is quite odd, because it’s a one star hotel, but a really cute one. The room was huge, with a tiled floor, antique furniture, and a sink in the corner behind a screen. We had a shared bathroom, which worked out well enough for us. Alesio the owner took the time to show us which places to visit and where to eat.
We went to the Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s statue of David. There were
lots of people and schoolkids sitting around it attempting to draw what they saw, and a few attendants shouting “No photo!” every few seconds. I guess you’re not allowed to take your own picture so that you have to buy one of theirs. Or the cooking apron. Or the post cards, the boxer shorts, the print, the bottle opener… Bugger them, I snuck one in anyway.
Not being much of an art fan, I didn’t go to the Uffizi Gallery, which apparently has instant one hour long queues from 7.45am. Oh well. The intention was there, but we didn’t make it out of bed in time! (Actually that was the only one-star aspect of the hotel; the bed was outrageously hard).
I did however, climb the Duomo, which was a pretty spectacular thing to do, with a great view at the end of it.
Clare and I went shopping (just for a look) at the markets yesterday, where they sell the leather jackets and handbags. The area is full of stalls in the streets, and if you stop to look at a jacket hanging there, you are instantly ushered “just around the corner to my shop”, where there
is another 500 to choose from. The problem with joining this circus is that if you put on a jacket that appeals to you, invariably it looks good on you. Rate it 7/10. After trying on 50 jackets, you very quickly forget which ones you really liked (9/10), and which shop it was in. At the end of the day, both Clare and I left the markets with lighter wallets and heavier loads, rated 10/10, to carry in our backpacks.
I have to admit that after the peace, beauty and tranquility of the Cinque Terre, Florence didn’t really appeal to me. Sure there were lots of impressive and beautiful old buildings that provoked a few quiet “Wows”, but it was noisy and busy there. Scooters playing chicken with pedestrians. Ambulances and police sirens trying to be louder and more constant than the scooters.
I wish I’d made the time to visit Siena, or had the time to go to Perugia, where a friend of mine lives (but wasn’t there at the time). I think I would have seen some even more “old school” Italy. Next time.
I did manage to find some funny t-shirts, and a great calendar
featuring someones idea of the pin-up boys of the Roman Catholic Priesthood. Very attractive looking priests (apparently). Some reading the bible, others looking remarkably uncomfortable being photographed for a calendar, and a techie priest sitting in front of an Apple notebook. Whether it was actually turned on is another point for discussion at mass next week. A steal at 7 euro, but I don’t have the room in my pack, so I didn’t buy one.
There are more photos below