Sunday, August 18, 2013

Florence: Day 1

What a day in Florence!

First of all, my Facebook contest fizzled.  I've been outsmarted by the location tracking system on Facebook. So, my first clue was also followed by "in Florence, Tuscany", which made the geography game a bit of a wash.  The delay in posting has been due to difficulties with my internet connection and lack of free time, however.

The hotel I stayed at, Il Bargellino, blurs the line between hotel and hostel.  I had no toilet, but I did have a shower and sink.  The toilet was upstairs, and there wasn't been any problem with getting access to it.  I also had no air conditioning, and Florence is fairly warm, but I'm honestly pretty used to it after spending so much time in Krakow.  Still, some of the museums felt mighty good.  I think visitors coming here would say this hotel is the most amazing hostel ever or a horrid hotel.  The TripAdvisor site on the hotel seems to follow that pattern with reviews.

I had two full days in Florence, and I decided to do one inside the city and one outside the city.  This was inside the day for inside the city.  I had somewhat reluctantly purchased a "Florence Card" which basically prepays a lot of museums for you.  A lot of museums also accept reservations, and the Florence card gets you into the reservation line.  It has some other benefits as well: Wifi access at various points in the city, bus fare, and generally people recognize the card and know what you want.

The card was expensive: 72 Euros.  However, after spending a day with it, it's worth every Euro-cent.  I'm not sure how I did on the admission fares; I think I about broke even or maybe came out a few Euros ahead.  What's really worth it though is the time savings.  Take a look at the line from my second stop, the main cathedral ("Duomo").



I would have had to wait in that line to go up into the dome if I hadn't had the card.  There were other times that lines like this were repeated.  I probably saved at least 3 hours of waiting in line by using this card.

I started with Florence's most famous statue: Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery.  After having to actually acquire my Florence card at a nearby tourist information office, getting actually to David took about 10 minutes once I reached the museum.  This included a metal detector, probably because a deranged guy attacked David with a hammer back in the 90s.  They're really picky about photos of the statue.

Also attached to this museum is a small museum of musical instruments.  I happened to come across a beautiful, stunning viola by Stradavarius, but no photos were allowed.  I believe it's on this page, about 3/4s of the way down.

After getting the Accademia Gallery, I went to the Cathedral, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.  I didn't actually go inside, but rather went and got my prepaid tickets to the dome.  The dome is a striking feature of the city, and you'll see it later in some of my landscape shots.  It was a long way up, but the views were pretty good.  We also got to see the inside of the dome, which is painted with allegories of heaven and hell.




The only bad part about the Cathedral was that I got stuck in the sun for about 20 minutes.  This was supposed to be an "inside day" as far as I was concerned, so I hadn't brought sunscreen.  I appear to have escaped serious damage, though.  I also received tickets to the Baptistry (a separate building), but the line (even with reservations) for it was so long that I skipped it.

After the Cathedral, I headed over to the Bargello Palace, a national museum.  Here I got to see a few more Michelangeos as well as some interesting other sculptures and paintings.






After the Bargello Palace, I realized I had made a critical error.  My next planned museum was, in fact, across town.  I decided to do some switching around of plans, and went to the Galileo Science Museum.  It's really more like a science history museum, as they have all manner of scientific instruments from centuries gone by.  Among my photos, you'll see Galileo's telescopes (two small ones on the wall).  I also saw Galileo's middle finger (yes, really), but do not have a photo of it.  More on that later.




After the Galileo museum, I headed to the Boboli Gardens.  This is basically a garden with a lot of sculptures in it, and a few cool grottos.  It's essentially the backyard to a palace, and the palace has four or five separate museums itself.  The palace did not allow photos, however, so even though I got to see some of the "ducal treasures," I don't have photographic evidence of it.  In some ways, it reminded me of Schoenbrunn in Vienna.  Here are some garden photos:







After the Boboli Gardens, I went to the Uffizi Gallery, which is a gallery of famous paintings.  Again, no photos, but I saw some very recognizable paintings.  The most famous is probably The Birth of Venus.  This museum was enormous.  I am in no way giving the paintings the credit they deserve, and it still took me about two hours to go through what I could.  I also got to see some of their foreign collection.  Spanish students, do you remember that self-portrait of Velazquez that we all see in textbooks?  Yeah, I saw it in person.

After the Uffizi Gallery, I went to the Pallazo Vecchio, which is another palace in the center of the city.  Again, I got to go up in a tower, this time at sunset, to get some awesome scenic photos.  The PalazzoVecchio also has a lot of paintings and sculptures in it.





At this point, it was time for me to make my way back.  But, as I was passing by the Cathedral again, I noticed something strange.  There was still a (short) line for the Baptistery.  I had my ticket conveniently in my pocket, so in I went.  The ceiling is absolutely gorgeous.  Take a look:



Are you noticing a pattern yet?  I'm finally done at this point - after having breezed through 6 museums and 2 Cathedral exhibits in one day.  This would not be possible without the Florence card, which cuts down considerably on the trouble in acquiring tickets and getting through lines.  It's also good for three days, even though I'm only using it for one.  If I were here three days, it would be a no-brainer to get it.

I recognized millions of dollars worth of artwork, and I didn't recognize but probably 10% of what I walked by.  I may well have walked by a billion dollars worth of artwork, sculpture, and antiques, to say nothing of the property.  I certainly got to see a lot of Florence!

The second day will be of the Tuscan countryside.  Yes, I'm doing it via tour, but with only two days to figure everything out, I think it's better that I'm guided around rather than get stuck in some small village waiting for an hour for a bus.

1 comments:

Laurel Blough said...

I'm so happy you got to see all of that; I'm sure it was beautiful beyond words! And yes, I do recognize The Birth of Venus after following the link. It must have been one dumbfounding and awesome moment after another for you on Friday! You're right, though; I don't think I would have been able to keep up with you all day. I would have been exhausted way before you got to the Baptistry. I know you'll be glad you did it, though!

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