Utilising the Italian Train service once again, we hopped on a train and made our way to Florence from Pisa, a relatively short journey, gave me some time to try and edit pics too which is always good. Tried to take a chunk out of the inevitably large amount of images I'd have to go through when I got home. Arriving in Florence in the middle of the day probably wasn't the best idea though, as it was roasting, much hotter than it had been in both Rome and Pisa. With our screenshots of Apple Maps in hand, we made our way to the hotel, and had to wing it a little as I may have taken us up the wrong street, even with directions.
Anyway, we eventually made it to Hotel Pendini, which is where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. A lovely hotel sitting right on the Piazza della Repubblica, and next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, with Louis Vuitton across the road too if you fancied a spot of shopping.
DAY 1 -
So you can probably guess by now what we done once we got checked in, right? Of course, we went for a wander to get an idea of where everything was.
Hotel Pendini on the right from Piazza della Repubblica.
Palazzo Vecchio from Piazza della Signoria.
Fountain of Neptune.
One thing I knew about was the Ponte Vecchio, so this is what we would search for first, and after going in the wrong direction originally, we eventually made it to the awesome Palazzo Vecchio which you can see above.
You'll notice a lot of people going in and out of a door at the front of this building, so make sure you do the same, it's worth it. Below are images of what you'll discover when you do!
From here, the Ponte Vecchio is an extremely short walk through the Piazzale degli Uffizi, which you can see below. A busy area both day and night!
Due to the time of day, I couldn't get a good shot of the Ponte Vecchio from the front side, so of course, we'd come back a few times more, but we did take a wander over the bridge which is full of jewellers, and then head to one of the bridges behind it to get a better view.
Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Santa Trinita.
My parents had visited Florence last year, and I swear all they done for the next few months when they came back was just talk about how amazing it was, so this was one of the main reasons we chose to visit here.
In all honesty, although we'd only walked around for a couple of hours, we weren't too impressed with Florence, certainly not in comparison to how we felt about Rome. Maybe the travelling and walking around had eventually caught up with us, so we headed back to the hotel to unpack and get changed.
Some shots from the way back.
Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.
Feeling a little drained, we just planned to head out for some food and of course gelato! We headed to Piazza della Signoria to grab some food at a restaurant we'd spotted during the day, and of course, it was busy, so they probably are doing something right.
How wrong could we have been? They weren't doing anything right. We waited an absolute day and age to just get drinks! I wish I could remember the name so you could avoid them, but I've forgotten.
So off the back of a shitty meal, all that could make up for it was the biggest tub of gelato I could find, and that's just what I got. (Photo not included as I absolutely demolished it!)
Back to the hotel it was!
"Put that f*cking camera away!"
Day 2 -
One of Emma's friends had booked us on a walking tour as a birthday gift, I'll be sure to get the name for you off of Emma. Big shout to our guide Sylvia, in the middle of the day, in the scorching heat, she was great!
However, first, after demolishing some croissants with nutella, I said that I couldn't get a decent shot of the front of the Ponte Vecchio, so off to the bridge we headed as the sun would be at the opposite side.
Now it was time for our walking tour, so meeting outside the Hard Rock Cafe, we got acquainted with our guide, and off we went. We basically toured the historic centre of Florence, while getting all the necessary information about each 'attraction', and trying to find any unoccupied spots of shade. Basically everything you'd expect from a walking tour, it was pretty spot on.
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.
Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze.
Campanile di Giotto.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.
Museo Casa di Dante.
Chiesa di San Carlo.
Now if you didn't know already (we didn't until my mate told me), Florence is pretty damn fashionable. Pretty much every street you walk down will have some form high fashion shop on it, or just a clothing shop in general, so it was time for me to get dragged around... for a little while at least.
We were struggling to find much to do at night to be honest, except for eat and drink, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but we wanted to be able to walk places and check out new things, but literally every thing was closed.
So once we grabbed food, we just headed to the Ponte Vecchio where there was a couple of guys singing and playing guitar, who were amazing, so we spent an hour or so chilling listening to them.
Day 3 -
So we pretty much had two days left in Florence, and it felt like we had done very little, so we figured out what we wanted to do and..... we came up with very little!
However, one thing we definitely wanted to do was visit the cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), it's dome and it's surrounding bell tower, and baptistry, but every day we had been there, it was queued all the way around.
The night before, we spent some time checking opening times, and what not. Also, we had failed to find a ticket office, as we knew we had to get tickets to climb to the top of the duomo, as well as the bell tower, and to enter the baptistry. The cathedral was free, provided you were respecting the religion and had your shoulders and top of your knees covered. This is pretty much standard in Italy, so please bare it in mind, just a simple shawl will suffice for the ladies!
A 7:30am wake up call, we took our bottles of water and baguettes that we had bought last night, made our way to the ticket office, paid 10e each for two tickets, and went to join the queue to climb the cathedral's dome. This was the largest queue, so figured it would be smart to do it first, and even though we arrived there about 9am, the queue was huge, and we spent two hours in it before we managed to enter. Thankfully it was only 11am, and the sun wasn't that strong yet, but we were in the shade for the majority of the time anyway.
Now this cathedral and everything about it, located in Piazza del Duomo is just spectacular.... however, the climb wasn't, but this was mainly due to the poor organisation from staff who failed to stop people coming down various staircases while people were trying to go up. Therefore, you were stuck in these little claustrophobic humid staircases, feeling like there was very little air to breathe! Not a pleasant feeling.
463 steps later and inside the duomo...
And to the top of the duomo...
Now it was time to check out the interior of the cathedral, and once again, another queue... It would have been great if you could climb to the top of the dome, and then visit the inside of the cathedral, but you get shuffled out a door, and then have to queue again.
Next on the agenda was the baptistry, which sadly was covered in scaffolding on the exterior, and this seemed to deter people from going inside, which is a real shame, as this was honestly one of the nicest interiors I'd see since we were away.
Now before we were able to muster up the energy to climb the neighbouring Giotto's Campanile (bell tower), we had to stop for some lunch, in the form of lots of water, and two of the finest crepes with nutella known to man.
Conveniently the cafe was just across the road, in the shadow of the bell tower, almost taunting us while we rested.
But we were finished, and ready.... but oh wait, another queue, yes, you have to queue to climb the bell tower too. Only a half hour wait this time.
We said we wouldn't stop until we got to the top, and then we could stop at various levels on the way back down, so 414 steps later...
Duomo, Cathedral, Baptistry and Bell Tower - Check.
Absolutely exhausted - Check.
One thing I always do is keep an eye on the sky when it is getting near sunset, and the sky was shaping up to be pretty lovely, and since we knew it set behind the Ponte Vecchio, we figured we would head there to see what we could capture!
Rightly so, the sunset was amazing!
Day 4 -
If you didn't know already, one of the main attractions in Florence is the statue of David, which is housed at the Accademia Gallery. We had walked by the gallery the day previous to get an idea where it was and what the queueing was like, but as expected, there were queues of 2+ hours, so we didn't bother.
We were going to check it out on our last day in Florence, but once again, queues queues and more queues, so we really just couldn't be bothered! So sorry for no images of the very famous David.
One of the best ways to see cities when you go away is to use the City Sightseeing Tours which you will find in many cities worldwide. These guys offer informative bus tours, with at least one line running in the city, but sometimes many others. I've used them in Iceland, New York, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and even in Glasgow and London. They also offer a hop on, hop off service, which is exceptionally useful when it comes to getting to certain places which may be a little bit out of the centre, or you just aren't keen on walking too far.
The City Sightseeing Tours in Florence begin at the Santa Maria Novella train station, so we headed there to buy ourselves a day ticket each, and hopped on the first line to do the full tour, which took around an hour.
Buses can be a little bit of a nightmare to take pictures on, so we always just do the full tour first, and decide which spots we want to check out, then go round again and get off. We drove by Piazza de Michelangelo which provides stunning views over Florence centre, so we decided to come back here later on... for sunset, of course.
With the first tour over and done with, we got off at the station and waited until the next line came by which would take us out to the stunning little town of Fiesole, which is set up in the hills on the outskirts of Florence.
The tour which goes up to Fiesole takes a little bit longer, so when we came back down, we grabbed a spot of lunch, and before we knew it, we were back on the first line and heading up to explore Piazza de Michelangelo.
When we were at the Ponte Vecchio the night before watching the sunset, you are able to see the Piazza de Michelangelo from here, and we could see all the camera flashes during sunset, so tonight was our turn to see what all the fuss was about.
Unfortunately, it was really cloudy all through the day, so we were hoping it would clear up a little for sunset coming around.
First footwear shot of the holiday... couldn't go 10 days without one!
While we were on the bus up to Piazza de Michelangelo, we spotted a basilica which was tucked away up some stairs, so of course, we were going to have a look.
Not this basilica.. the next one.
Sitting at the front of this basilica provided the most amazing views over Florence, and we were sure we had found the best spot for the sunrise tonight.
The front door to the basilica was open, so I went inside to be greeted with complete darkness, and only the sound of humming coming from the basement. So I walked over, and the below picture was what I was greeted with.
Easy one of the most eerie experiences of my life so far.
I even had to take the above pictures with a flash, that's how dark it was.
After this eerie experience, we literally just spent the next couple of hours sitting on a wall out the front of the basilica, overlooking a graveyard in front of us, and Florence in the distance, watching the sunset unfold.
Sadly, the clouds hadn't disappeared at all, in fact, they'd probably gotten worse, so the below shots are the best I could muster.
Our time was up in Florence, and our time on holiday was almost up too, so the next day, we headed to the train station, and headed back to Rome, as this is where our return flight was from on the Monday (it was cheaper that way).