04.09.2008 - 05.09.2008 36 °C
Florence! What a stunning city. We drove in, mightily unimpressed with the "grot" as we navigated the back streets in the car. TomTom once again threw a spas and coupled with my ability to miss turnings, we ended up in a loop of one way back streets. At one stage I thought we had driven into Morocco... We had planned to park at the main train station, which is apparently a good location to walk to all the main sights. We abandoned this plan and ended up parking under a huge market, which turned out, was near the station. Yay!
The thing with Florence is this... you are walking down an unremarkable street, when BLAMO! - WOW! - you are confonted with a gothic masterpiece of a church, or a monument, or a random building. Every turn has an architectural surprise. The streets are so narrow it's always a surprise.
(Detailed or what!?)
After gawping for a while (and buying the worst lunch I've ever eaten) we wandered down to see the famous Ponto Veccia.
(Pretty , though I thought it was a shame all the shops are jewelers)
... Then much more walking around and gawping. I have too many pictures of churches to show. Best you google them. The main one we encountered was "Duomo" - you can't miss it - it's made of marble in pink and green and white (The one above where I zoomed in on the statues, and below).
We found it was free to go inside so we had a nose around and noticed a very impressive dome..... (no wonder it's called Duomo!)
Suitable awe-struck I immediately noticed something... people were walking round the balconies up top! - Gotta do that! :-) So we popped back outside , found another side entrance and paid to go up!
Wow did we go "up"! flight after flight of super steep and narrow stairs. Spiral at 1st, then long, long straight ones...
(steep, hot, and cramped - we'd frequently have to stop and breathe in to let people pass in the other direction)
(Fortunately there was a little access to air here and there)
Eventually, we reached the 1st balcony level.... well worth it....
(Pretty stunning I have to say)
And we were a loooong way up already....
After more gawping and picture taking, we headed to the next balcony, up again....
(More stairs, and yes, that's not an illusion, they are THAT steep! - I love this kind of thing! :-) )
... but we found that the second balcony was on the way down, after we had reached the summit of the dome itself. We had no idea we'd end up there! Right in the very top :-)
And what happens when you are high above a city... yep - more views!
(You can go up that tower too, but our dome was higher :-) )
After yet MORE gawping, we headed down, and hit the top level balcony inside the dome. Breathtaking....
(I loved the trickery with perspectives)
Then it was a long trek down to the bottom.
We saw a fair few things, but I think a lot of the museums and galleries are wasted on us, so we enjoyed the moment and moved on. The main reason we skipped Sienna today. More of the same really - I know, the arty / cultured will cuss, but we have Rome and Pompei yet, and we felt Sienna could be done another time.
We cruised down to Rome today, arriving at our latest hotel...
As you can see, we have our priorities sorted. We are out in the sticks though, right on the ring road, so it's a train into "town" tomorrow. Both very excited. We are planning to take the hop-on, hop-off bus round Rome, taking in the major sights, then the next day, concentrate on the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel.
One a side note, a thing or two about Italian driving... Some tips....
1) Don't indicate. Ever. And never, ever, ever on a roundabout.
2) When you overtake someone on the motorway, make sure you leave it until the very last second, missing the car in front by 1 mm as you change lane. Repeat the same when pulling back in.
3) If someone in front is "only" doing 130K's, pull up, about an inch behind them, and flash your lights. They'll move.
4) When passing a car on the motorway, move in from your lane, straddling yours and the next lane inside, thus skimming the cars on your right by the width of a hair. I'm guessing there is a reason for this. But it surely can't be to frighten the crap out of the cars on your right. Kirstin has aged 5 years in one week.
5) When approaching an intersection where you have to give way / stop - don't decrease your speed gradually, looking to see if it is safe to proceed. Instead, approach at full speed, then slap on your brakes leaving the nose of your car poking 1/4 the way out into the path of the oncoming traffic. This method sends a clear signal that you have arrived and fightens the crap out of everyone else.
6) If you are driving a lorry, weave about, use the hard shoulder, and again, generally frighten the crap out of everyone else.
7) Just for fun, indicate once in a while, but only AFTER you have executed your turn. This one bemuses me.