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Climb Something and Enjoy the View!
When in Florence, health/fitness allowing, you should climb to the top of the Duomo or to the top of the Campanile (or both!).
Once you make it to the top you will be well rewarded with the view of this beautiful city spreadout below you.
Once you get your breathe back (from both the climb and the beauty) you will stand and gaze in all directions, and no doubt take a photo or five!
One of the great things about the view from the Campanile is that you get a close up view of the Duomo as well, as pictured here.Related to:
- Historical Travel
....perhaps the greatest artist the world has ever known! In Santa Croce you will find the tomb of Michaelangelo. You will also find the eternal resting places of Machiavelli, Galileo, Ghiberti, Rossini....
How amazed and humbled are you when you stand at the foot of these tombs? For me it was indeed an incredible moment. So much genius.....
Tourist Passes: to buy or not to buy?
Most destination cities offer tourist passes and Florence is no exception but whether you’ll save any euros on one depends on a number of conditions:
• The amount of time you’ll have to use a pass: you often won't break even unless you can cover a lot of ground in the time that you have
• How many of the sites included you are interested in: are you really THAT crazy to see a bunch of dead animals, and is your 8 year-old REALLY wild about art? Add up the individual prices of your must-dos and compare that to the price of a pass.
• Whether those sites are open on the day(s) you wish to see them: national museums are closed on Mondays and major holidays
• How many other useful perks (such as transport) the pass offers: are they worth the extra cost?
• How many people you’re traveling with, their ages, and from what country: some museums offer free or reduced entry for all children/seniors, or only to students/children/seniors from the E.U.
• What time of year you’re traveling: line-skipping perks may not be a necessity during low season
Florence offers two different passes: The Firenze Card, and Friends of the Uffizi Pass. Here are the differences:
Firenze Card: good for 72 consecutive hours from first use; includes a single visit to any of 50 attractions; line skipping; use of public transit within the city; free entry for one person (EU citizens ONLY!) under age 18 with each card purchased.
Friends of the Uffizi Pass: good until Jan 1 of the calendar year purchased; includes unlimited visits to 22 attractions; line skipping; nice family rate
We ended up with a Friends of the Uffizi family pass (same price as 2 adult Firenze cards) as it covered most of the attractions we wished to see, allowed us more time to do them than the Firenze Card over our 5 days, allowed us to go back to a favorite site more than once, and worked out to the same or less than pre-reserving individual tickets for line-skipping privileges. We also didn’t need the transport piece offered on the Firenze Card as central Florence is relatively compact and we’re good walkers. The card may be purchased at the Galleria Uffizi Welcome Desk through door number 2: ask the attendants to point you the way.
One caution: Neither pass covers the the baptistry at the Duomo, the church of Santa Croce, or a number of other attractions so expect to shell out some extra $$ for additional stuff you may wish to see.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Museum Visits
A Guided Tour
When I started mixing up churches and art collections, I knew it was time for a tour outside of Florence. First I was considering taking the train and going on my own, but then I saw a flyer from a company called "Walking Tours of Florence". They offered a Tuscany tour for 120 Euro, quite a lot! I thought it over and decided to book it. I didn't regret it.
We were a very small group, just six people, plus the tour guide and the driver.The tour took us to San Gimignano and Siena and included wine-tasting and a Tuscan lunch. I had feared that this would be a tourist trap, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was one of the best meals I had during our whole stay in Italy. I'll write more about it as a restaurant tip.
I can really recommend this tour company. Our guide was great, we talked the whole day and learned so much about Florence, the Tuscany and Italy. It was worth the 120 Euro.
While we were waiting for our tour to depart, another tour guide took an American couple on a walking tour. Nobody else had signed up, so they got a very individual tour of Florence.
While in Firenze I took the City Sightseeing ‘hop on/hop off’ bus tour. I bought a 24hr ticket and felt that it was a great way to see Firenze.
Unfortunately there were a few problems with the first bus I hoped on, after about 5 minutes on the bus the commentary (available in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese – through personal headphones) stopped working. No matter, we were given the option to stay on the bus, or we could just jump off and get on the next one (which is about every 30 minutes). But I stayed on – which ended up being a good choice, because my friends and I decided to jump off a bit later when we got to Piazzale Michelangelo (on a hill overlooking the city of Firenze) we got to watch a storm pass over the city. There was rain, thunder and even a bit of lightning. My friends and I sat under cover eating lunch (hot dogs and pizza from a street vendor) – it was pretty nice.
But back to the tour. The buses are comfortable, with an option of sitting downstairs or upstairs (no roof), plus you get a free map of Firenze as well. There are two different routes, both go through the main parts of the city (for more details of the routes – check out the website below) – but one goes up to Piazzale Michelangelo and the other out to the Stadium and up to Fiesole.
It is a good tour – and I definitely recommend it.
Children (5-15): 10€
Tickets are valid for both tours.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
More Pergola Theatre
The concert was superb. This is the perfectly designed space to hear a piano recital.
One tiny problem. Four cubicles in the toilette - one of which in the Donne was guisto (out of order) and as the audience was mostly composed of very old slow moving ladies, I missed out. The usherette came and told us the concert was about to start. Matt said there was no urinal in the Gents and only four cubicles - but it worked out better for him because none of them was guisto.
The whole experience was perfect - I loved it when the very old lady sitting next to me asked me to read her her programme - which I stumbled through as best I could.
A small cultural difference. When a few people clapped in the wrong place the audience hissed.
I have never heard that before. People are always clapping in the wrong place - but in Australia the audience lets it go. Then of course the keen but ignorant keep on clapping in the wrong place because they never learn the error of their ways.
Teatro La Pergola
After 3 days in Rome we needed refreshment, a pick me up. We went looking for music in a church in the Via del Corso but were transfixed by a notice for a solo piano recital by Alfred Brendel. So off we went to the prettiest little theatre in the world , dripping with ivy fronds - and of course - no tickets available. Full house. But the girls said maybe!!!! if we came by an hour before the performance at 5 there might!!!!!!! be some returned tickets.
So we fronted up. And joined a likely queue. But the queue did not seem to be behaving in a proper fashion. People were coming and going. Names were being called out.
One has to get one's name on a list.
Now - when I asked to put my name on the list the girl said - there are 30 ahead of you, there is no hope, go home, do not bother.
But I got stubborn and wrote my name in big letters on the list and told her how to pronounce it because Compton is difficult for an Italian speaker.
The queue was mayhem. We were waiting on people ringing saying they couldn't come. The odd issue of tickets happened from that. But mostly we were waiting on 10 to 5 by which time those people who had telephone reservations had to pick up their tickets. If they didn't pick them up they would be sold to us.
Names were being called out. Happy people were being sold tickets. I got to the front of the queue. I could see my name on the list and slowly the names above it being crossed out. Then when she got to my name she turned the sheet over and skipped me totally.
I made a fuss. Oh yes - she said - Compton.
We got our tickets.
I'd heard her telling other people there was no hope. And she was wrong. So if there is something you really want to see - insist on getting your name on the list and write it in big recognisable letters - get to the front of the queue - and watch them like hawks.
Looking down on Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo you can see the tall building of the Synagogue with its greenish cupola. It's a beautiful building from the 19th century.
You're only allowed in side when there is a guided tour. The entrance fee covers both the tour and the entrance to the museum in the same building.
When we entered the synagogue, there was a tour going on, but it was in Italian. A few American tourists were there, looking around on their own, and we did the same. Once the tour was over, everybody had to leave the synagogue and could spend some time at the gift shop. Then the museum was opened.
This is a very small museum, basically just one room, with lots of items on exhibition. Explanations were in English, plus the very friendly tour guide told everybody that she'd answer any questions.
Due to security reasons, all cameras, cell phones, umbrellas and bags have to be left in lockers outside. If you happen to have too many coins in your wallet, this has to stay there as well. (I'm not sure though, how the owners of the gift shop inside like this rule.)
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The Beauty of Siena
Siena was supposedly founded by a son of Remus, who together with his brother Romulus - the founder of Rome - had been reared by a wolf. This is why all over Siena you see images of the wolf and the two boys.
I was very much impressed by the cathedral of Siena. There are the most beautiful mosaics on the floor and when you look up you see very colourful frescoes. On the left side of the cathedral there is the Piccolimini Library with a simply stunning ceiling.
Entrance was 3 Euro. I've been to museums which cost more and show far less.
While the Duomo in Florence is larger, I thought the one in Siena is much more beautiful.
Mille Miglia historical car race
The Mille Miglia (1000 miles) is probably the most famous and most important event about historical cars. It was held the first time in 1927, as a street race along a distance of 1000 miles, from Brescia in northern Italy to Rome and back to Brescia (via Siena and Florence). This race has become a "must" for antique car enthusiasts. It's usually held in May and you cannot miss it!
San Frediano in Castello
The church of San Frediano in Castello is one of the most beautuful examples of the Firentine late Barocco style. The church was built on the site of an previous 15th century sacral object, the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli, pull down by the order of the Cistercensi order. The monastery was closed in 1628 and the Cistercensi commissioned Gherardo Silvani to built the church of San Frediano. According to Silvani's plan the church was turned into the direction of San frediano quarter. In 1680, Antonio Cerruti continued the work on the church turning the front facade in the direction of Arno and the city. Unfortunatelly, the facade of the church was never finished.
Calcio in costume - 2007 TOURNAMENT SUSPENDED
Calcio in Costume (that means that players wear fifteenth-century costumes) is very similar to rugby, even if definitely more "violent". In Florence is something like the Palio of Siena. Peolpe really feel the match, often following players during the parade that starts in Piazza Santa Maria Novella. We have 4 different teams corresponding to 4 different districts of Florence: red for Santa Maria Novella, Green for San Niccolò, Blue for San Giovanni and White for Santo Spirito. Every year 3 matches are played in Piazza Santa Croce in the month of June. When the game start you will hear the cry VIVA FIORENZA that means LONG LIVE TO FLORENCE!Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
La Rificolona is very typical from Florence, I don't think something similar exists somewhere else (if you know please inform!).
On the 7th of september children usually stroll through Florence's street at night carrying paper lantern and singing:
Ona, Ona, Ona,
Che bella Rificolona,
La mia l'é coi fiocchi,
La tua la c'ha i pidocchi!
Florentine slang that means:
(Ona, ona, ona,
What a beautiful Rificolona,
Mine with bows is tied,
In yours do lice reside!)
There are then kids with peashooter trying to extinguish the fire of the lanterns or attempt to knock over the candles and set the paper of the lantern burn.
Everyone can decide to be good or bad ; )
Maybe the historical origins of the rificolona date back to the arrival in Florence of the farmers for the autumn market.To light their way they brought lanterns. Their arrival represented a fun attraction for the Florentines, who made fun of the farmer's unsophisticated dress in particular the women, who were called fierucolone, fair girls. Rificolona is still used today in Florence to make fun of a woman dressed in a ridiculous way.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
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Museo San Marco - Where My Heroes Live (2 photos)
Located between the Duomo and the Accademia is this amazing museum, the largest collection of sacred art in Florence. The design is by Michelozzi, the house architect of the Medici family, who expanded an original site for the Dominican monks between1438 and 1446. The monastery was consecrated in 1444. It is dominated by my Renaissance heroes, Beato Angelico and Girolamo Savanarola. On the ground level, surrounding the garden pictured, the Alms House and Chapter house are filled with the frescoes and altar pieces created by Fra Angelico including the Crucifixion and the Annalena altarpiece. . The Refectory contains the Last Supper by Ghirlandaio, a work of incredible power. The cells of the cloistered monks are contained on the first floor.
As one turns at the landing, the beautiful Annunciation, perhaps Fra Angelico's most renowned work, is looking right back at you. This fresco, with its simple yet elegant design and textured shaded pastels, is simply breathtaking, and among my favorite Renaissance works. The cells and the passageway are lined with more frescoes including the Transfiguration and the Crowning of the Virgin.
At the far end of the bank of 42 cells, the three simple rooms occupied by the Apocalypse-preaching Savanarola are located and accessible. They contain momentoes of his life including the Crucifix designed by the school of Fra Angelico he used in his sermons as well as his bible. Sadly, photography is not considered good form here, but the works of Beato Angelico deserve direct visualisation - no picture can do them justice..
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Basilica della Santissima Annunziata
Florentine brides have a tradition of visiting this church on their wedding days and leaving their bouquets as offerings to the Virgin.
The original was founded in the mid 13th century by a group of Marians - a faction holding St. Mary in particular reverence and who had a hand in the proliferation of Madonnelle in Italy - and was once outside the city walls. The chiesa you see today is a 15th-century rebuild with some later alterations including a Brunelleschi-inspired facade I mentioned in a previous review. Its most treasured relic is a (rumored) Fra Bartolomeo ‘Annunciation’ reputed to have been partially completed via divine assistance.
But art lovers will find treasure in frescoes adorning an unusually positioned cloister at the entrance to the basilica. Largely executed in the 15th and 16th centuries, there are some lovely and very old illustrations by Andrea del Sarto, Cosimo Rosselli and Jacopo Pontormo.
Inside are more works by Sarto, Lippi, Matteo Rosselli, Daddi and the amusing ‘St Luke painting the Virgin’ by Vasari with the artist portraying himself as Luke. Bit of cheek there, eh? Giambologna is buried in a side chapel of his own design, and the adjoining Cloister of the Dead and Cappella of San Luca has more frescoes and the tombs of artists Tacca, Bartolini, Cellini, Pontormo, Franciabigio, Bandinelli and others, many of whom contributed their talents to the decoration of the church.
This website has the most complete catalog and history of the architecture and artwork. It is, unfortunately, only in Italian but some painstaking copy/pasting into google translate will unravel enough to make yourself a nice guide:
- Arts and Culture
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