A Travellerspoint blog

Day 10

Miles & miles & miles...

sunny 20 °C
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Yesterday was not such a great day for me - I had managed to catch a head cold from our teacher towards the end of last week, and the long day on Saturday really took its toll. So I got up very late, went out for a quick lunch and came back and lay on the couch watching TV for the rest of the day. I even cooked my own dinner!

Today was very different. Feeling much better, and because it was such a lovely day, I decided to head over the other side of the river to check out the Oltrarno area - and I already knew the views from over there are fabulous too.

On the way over the Ponte alle Grazie, I couldn't resist another photo of the Ponte Vecchio!

Oltrarno is a little different from the rest of Florence - somewhat stylish and artisanal. Came across this very brown leather shop - everything, and I mean everything, in it is brown - boots, shoes, jackets, hats bags and gloves. Not very welcoming!


Had lunch opposite the Palazzo Pitti, a great stone bastion, which houses a massive museum that I'll check out at some point. I had hoped to go to the Boboli Gardens, but by the time I got there, it was a bit late to get my money's worth because it's a very big garden so I'll save that for another day.

Just had to take a photo of this lovely view from one of Oltrarno's streets

Headed up hill (and I mean up!) to Piazzale Michlangelo, where the best views of Florence can be had.

The start of the up...

And up...

And up!

The African guys selling sunglasses at the top would have done much better with cold water!!

Could have something to do with it being called Piazzale Michelangelo, don't you think?

And it wasn't the least bit disappointing, as you can see - I'll let the photos tell the story!




Taken at sunset

A little further up the hill is the pretty church of San Miniato - marble like the Duomo, but much smaller of course. The views here are spectacular too.

Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte

On the way back I noticed a movement from under the Ponte alle Grazie - two guys with fishing rods. Couldn't tell if they'd caught anything, but not something you notice every day:


And I couldn't resist one last (yeah, right!) pic of the Ponte Vecchio in the sunset:
Well you can't blame me, can you? It's gorgeous when you can't see the hordes of people! (Note the rowers under the bridge too.

I took well over 100 photos today but I'll save you from the bulk of them. Anyone who wants to see the lot can do so when I get back home!

Posted by judesbucketlist 11:00 Archived in Italy Tagged italy florence duomo ponte_vecchio palazzo_vecchio san_miniato Comments (1)

Day 8

A crowd of chocolate!

sunny 16 °C
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Duomo, early morning (a little eerie without anyone there!)

So, Eurochocolate... How do I put this? I got up extra early to walk across Florence to meet the tour at 7:30, no breakfast, sat on a bus for 2 hours, squashed into a sardine can - sorry, funicular car - for 10 mins to go to a crazy, crowded festival completely dedicated to chocolate - & didn't buy any!! Yes folks, you read that right - I bought nothing& ate one chocolate coin I got for free. It was so overwhelming with queues everywhere & there were simply too many people for me.


And what about Perugia itself? It's the capital of Umbria and is actually quite a big town/city. The part that's below the old town is modern and ugly and there was a theme park there, called Luna Park. The old town is on a hilltop overlooking the gorgeous Umbrian hills and valleys.


As you can see, the views are stunning! You can walk up I guess, or take a car, but tour buses wouldn't make it so the best way is on the Mini Metro, small cars on a funicular track that jerk their way up. With so many people headed up to the festival they would have been a lot busier than usual.

A Mini Metro car heading for the hill (taken through the bus window, hence the reflections)

So I spent the 6 hours or so walking around the town and checking out the shops that didn't have chocolate (there aren't many) & had a below-par pizza for a late lunch while I waited for the time to meet the tour group to return. Note: as many before me have stated - the Italians can't make pizza to save themselves. Soggy in the middle, burned on the bottom & not cooked on the top - that's the second one like that on this trip. Not buying another - 'nuff said.

It was a bit chilly out of the sun, and it seems puffer jackets were the order of the day - I've never seen so many in my life, and in all the colours of the rainbow, and some!

As with any of these old towns, the buildings are lovely and I can tell it's a beautiful place when it's not overrun by chocoholics! I found some lovely quiet alleys and spots away from the crowd.


I tried to go into the museum, but they won't let you take your bag in & there was no way I was letting out of my sight, even in a locked locker - not with my passport & credit cards in it.

The police blocked off the exits from the festival at 4:30, because too many people were trying to crowd onto the Mini Metro. People were crowded up against the barriers and were not happy. We finally got away but couldn't take the Mini Metro back down so we walked down quite a long way to the upper bus station & shoved our way onto a public bus to take us to our tour bus. Life is definitely an experience at times!

The return bus trip was quiet with everyone but me stuffed full of chocolate. Took a taxi back to Santa Croce - so happy to be 'home'!

Posted by judesbucketlist 11:43 Archived in Italy Tagged italy umbria perugia eurochocolate Comments (0)

Day 6-7

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As expected, Thursday was a bit of a non-event after class - the weather wasn't fantastic, though there were a few minutes of sun before it clouded over again. However, I did have an extremely delicious lunch at a place called Giubbe Rosse in Piazza della Repubblica - 3 courses including dessert which was a multo delizioso lemon 'mousse' (more of a cream, really). Totally amazing!

Was woken up this morning by a massive clap of thunder, which was followed by a few more big rumbles and some rain. It did fine up quite a bit and the sun even came out in the afternoon. Made my way to the Ponte Vecchio to stare longingly in the windows of the jewellery shops that line both sides of the bridge. It was really crowded with the fine weather and it didn't look like many people were in the shops buying the shiny merchandise.

Shops lining Ponte Vecchio

West side Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Santa Trinita

Ponte Santa Trinita

Ponte Santa Trinita - just along from Ponte Vecchio

There's an exhibition at the church of San Stefano near the Ponte Vecchio with recreated models of some of Leonardo da Vinci's machines. It was pretty cool to see them as he designed them.

One of Leo's machines

Thought of going to the Palazzo Vecchio museum, but it was a bit late in the day for such a massive building so checked out the Gucchi Museum instead. No photos of the collection are allowed but you do get a lovely booklet that shows many of the highlights, including a Cadillac deVille all tricked out with the Gucchi-logoed convertible roof, red & green stripes and the gold double-G logo on the wheels. There are examples of their bags, suitcases and dresses through the years too of course. Not sure I'd recommend it, unless historical designer stuff is your thing. Not being able to take photos is a bit annoying too.

The Gucchi Museum from the outside

The hoardes of tourists flowing down from the Ponte Vecchio!

One of the fun things about Florence is the street art. As long as you keep your eyes open, you can find the odd little piece of modern art in the damnedest places. Here's a bit of a photo essay of those treasures I found today:


Looks like the weather will be good tomorrow for my trip to Perugia and the chocolate festival - the sunset was nice and pink!


Posted by judesbucketlist 13:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 5

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Another overcast, humid day - and not a lot to tell. Today's Italian class wasn't any less confusing - at times the teacher holds long conversations in Italian with a couple of the other students, and most of us can only pick up the general gist of what she's saying. I guess it's good practice for us to listen!

We were informed this morning that our class would be changing from mornings to afternoons for next week & the week after, which doesn't work for me at all, and wasn't what I signed up for. Of course, there is the fine print that says the class times may change - and they didn't waste any time telling me that when I queried the change. So I mentioned the fact that I didn't travel halfway around the world just to take their classes and I have other things to do in the afternoons, that I spent thousands, yada yada... and that I'm their customer! Didn't make any friends, but they came up with a compromise - next week I move to a different class which will be in the morning, but the week after that I'll still have to move to the afternoons.

Just shows you really have to read the fine print!

On a positive note, I've booked a trip/tour to Eurochocolate 2015 - yes, you read that right - Eurochocolate! It's "Italy's biggest chocolate festival", and this is the 22nd one they've held. It means a bus trip to Perugia to visit chocolate producers, including Lindt and also some smaller producers. So that's happening on Saturday. Do you feel sorry for me yet? And the following Saturday, I'm off to do a short hike and some wine tasting in Chianti.

As I was approaching my street this afternoon, I saw the Casa Buonarroti is at the opposite end of my street to the Basilica Santa Croce, and I hadn't even realised it. It's where Michelangelo's family members lived for generations. I was quite excited, being a bit of a fan of ol' Mike, and it's one of the less publicised museums/galleries in Florence. Turns out I'm not terribly surprised that it's not so well known or visited, as it was disappointing, and dare I say it, pretty boring. There are a lot of rooms, which are hard to follow as they don't provide a map. I was expecting a lot of Michelangelo's work, but there's not terribly much; a few drawings and preparatory models mostly.

These are both Michelangelo's work - Battle of the Centaurs & Madonna of the Steps

Mostly it's art pieces that later generations collected over the years - paintings and sculptures mainly. One of the rooms was decorated after his death by various artists who painted panels on the walls and ceilings, showing Michelangelo meeting various popes and other important people. Other artists painted monochrome panels depicting what they saw as his qualities. Basically it's a room that honours his life and times, which is kind of nice and better than a sepulchre or funerary monument. These photos are of that room, as best as I could do considering you're limited to each end of the room because of the ancient tiles on the floor:

Sorry about the reflections - I think they do the lighting like this on purpose to make you buy the books in their shop!

And a couple of shots from elsewhere in the casa:

In the same building is the Forta Mesa, which is dedicated to the various competitions through the centuries for artists/architects to design the facade of the Basilica San Lorenzo, which has never been finished. Michelangelo won the first competition, but his facade was never built. The last contest was held in 1905 but again, never carried through to fruition so San Lorenzo remains unfinished. All in all, the display was a bit ho-hum.

So, not a terribly interesting day (sorry about that), but set up for some cool stuff at the weekend! Once the weather improves (tomorrow apparently), I'll get out to some of the best places to see Florence - across the river & up the hill, and into the gardens. There's plenty of Florence still to see, and even in the 4 weeks I still have left, there's no way I'll see everything but I'll give it a good whack! If there's nothing to report, I won't do a blog - one boring one is enough!!

Posted by judesbucketlist 17:39 Archived in Italy Tagged gallery italy museum florence michelangelo casa_buonarroti Comments (0)

Day 4

A Santa Croce Kind of Day

rain 20 °C
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Second day on the course & while there have been some "aha" moments, much of it isn't sticking. Like English, it seems that Italiano has some very illogical "rules"! For example, with options of la, le, l', lo, il, i and gli for "the", it's no wonder some people take Italian lessons for years!! Still it's great fun and our teacher has a great sense of humour when it comes to her native tongue.

Very grey, muggy and raining for most of the day, although the forecast thunderstorms never eventuated, and it wasn't cold. Umbrellas were the order of the day, and I decided not to travel far afield so thought it was a great opportunity to do some people watching in the piazza and to spend a good length of time in the Basilica Santa Croce, since it's at the end of my street.

So here's a bit of a photo essay of the day - not much to say (which some of the blokes on here at least will be happy about!)

These guys are everywhere peddling whatever's most in demand at the time

And occasionally they make a sale

Tour groups are everywhere - mostly Chinese, and they're out in any weather

Inside Basilica Santa Croce


The tomb of Michelangelo

Corridor windows

This walkway surrounds the Basilica, just below the roofline

This underground corridor is paved with funerary slabs - note the drinks machine at the end!

The dome of the polychrome Pazzi Chapel


The obligatory cute animal shot for the day!

Meanwhile, back in the piazza...
Don't know if this is the same group!

Well, that's all folks! Off to dinner now.

Posted by judesbucketlist 18:52 Archived in Italy Tagged umbrellas rain italy basilica florence michelangelo piazza santa_croce Comments (0)

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