I have just spent two tiring days in Florence and am not really ready to leave to go to Pisa tomorrow. Yesterday I began with a wander around the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. I had been here before but this time decided to take my time with the audio tour so I actually knew what I was looking at! Not the nicest of the churches I have visited, but interesting none the less. I decided to climb to the top of the bell tower beside the Cathedral and continued my unintentional but pleasant habit of being near or at the top of a bell tower at midday and getting to hear the bell toll from close up! This particular bell tower does not have that lovely invention, a lift, so I got my workout from climbing the 414 steps. The view, and even more so, the breeze, made the effort worth while.
I walked down towards the Arno, passing the Uffizi gallery and taking a wander along the Ponte Vecchio to admire all the jewellry stores. Frankly all a bit bling for my taste… although perhaps if I could afford something… I had yet another icecream (so far I have tried melon, strawberry, pannacotta and chocolate chip… lots to go yet!!) and then made my way to what is probably my favourite church of all the ones I have seen in Europe, Santa Croce. I love it because of its design, its history and its features. Again I did the audio tour and learned ever so much. I can’t always be bothered with the audio tour, but occasionally it is worth it. This church was built by the Franciscans and has a lovely simplicity about it: terracotta tiles on the floors and a simple gothic structure. The frescos were planned to teach the illiterate people of the community the Bible stories, and Florentines chose to be buried under the floor so their tombs could be trampled on, a symbol of humility. Several notable Italians are buried here, including Machiavelli, Galileo and Michelangelo, and there is a memorial to Dante, who is not buried here. There is a lovely relief by Donatello called the Annunciation. Its all a bit overwhelming really!
Today I decided to tackle the Uffizi Gallery, and the rumours of three hour waits are no exaggeration, I can assure you. I was thankful for my novel and a few text messages from my dad (thanks for the brief respite Dad!). However the wait is well worth it. I was able to see ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli, ‘Annunciation’ by Da Vinci and paintings by Raphael and Caravaggio. I think that means I have done the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with a few hangers on! Its all a bit overwhelming really, seeing these paintings ‘in the flesh’ that you are sure are only in books. I had forgotten to mention in my earlier posting that in Venice I went to see the Peggy Guggenheim collection, so got to see works by Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon and Picasso, although I think I needed someone to explain their significance to me to better appreciate what I was looking at.
So I have run out of time. I would liked to have explored a little beyond the city centre, but nevermind. Perhaps another time. So tomorrow, its off to see that dreadful architectual bungle, the leaning tower of Pisa!