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Published: July 25th 2011
Saturday 25th June 2011
A wonderful drive this morning to the outskirts of Florence through the stunning Tuscan countryside. Afternoon by pool followed by a very competitive family whist evening with Max and Ben eventually taking the honours on the last hand.
Sunday 26th June 2011
A bus ride into Florence to ‘do’ the sights. The city was allegedly founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC during the April feast of Floralia ( hence the name Florence ) in order to give land to his veterans.
It became a beacon of civilisation in the middle ages rich in works of art with powerful families accumulating great wealth due to commerce and banking the most famous of these being the Medici’s in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Our first stop is the Ponte Vecchio the only city bridge over the river Arno to survive the second world war - although it was mined and ready to blow the Nazis spared the historic bridge home to the city’s gold merchants since 1594.
On to the Uffizi gallery one of the most important art galleries in the world where the heat and the queue discouraged us from a
visit. Instead Ben and Jack had their caracatures done by one of the many street artists – masterpieces no, priceless yes.
Lunch in a small restaurant ( ouch ! - the Italians have fleecing you down to a fine art ) and then on through the city admiring the magnificent mansions once occupied by the city’s powerful families.
In the Piazza Della Signoria the centre of the city’s political life for eight centuries we admired Neptune’s fountain nicknamed Il Biancone ( the big white one ) because of its large central figure. This square has seen many important historical events – Machiavelli worked here, Bonaparte’s troops planted the Tree of Liberty and Hitler made a speech here during the second world war. Here also stood Michelangelo’s David until 1872 however today we were able only to see a copy in marble outside the Palazzo Vecchio ( this was the nearest we would get to the real thing as the heat and queue length at the Galleria dell’Accademia where the original now lives once again discouraged us from waiting in line )
Next the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore with Brunelleschi’s famous dome dominating the skyline. Inspired
by the Roman Pantheon it is colossal at 114 metres high and was completed in 1436. It is still an unexplained feat of Renaissance structural engineering having been built without a wooden supporting frame using building apparatus invented by Brunelleschi himself.
Across the way the octagonal Baptistery ( 1128 ) in green and white marble with its eastern bronze doors by Ghiberti. These took 25 years to complete and were called by Michelangelo 'the doors of Paradise'.
Florenced out we made our way back by bus to camp and yet again a cool swim in the pool.
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