Click on the photo for a slideshow of photos we took in Florence.
Friday the 14th September was the date of my first scan since my second liver operation back in March. Well that was yesterday and now it is “kick my heels time” while we wait for the result of this scan. We should know something in the next two weeks at the latest, so fingers crossed while we wait.
This then is the end of our first six month plan, which we hatched to have a bit of fun in the first 6 months post the operation. The plan saw us holidaying in Port Cogolin back in May, followed by a weekend at the Le Mans Classic before continuing on for a week in the South of France in July. The Edinburgh Festival was next for a long Bank Holiday weekend and finally we had 11 days in the South of France in September, which included a three day break in the middle, where we nipped to Florence in Italy. This then is the blog of our three days in Florence…
We packed a weekend bag on the Sunday evening and we left the apartment in Port Cogolin at 7.30 on Monday morning. Overnight a storm had begun to brew and we set off in light rain and took the view that this was a good day to be cooped up in the Opel if it was going to rain. The route hugs the coast of the south of France on the A8 motorway, which turns into the A10 as we cross into Italy on the other side of Monaco. This continues to follow the coast, becoming the A12 which we turn off at Viareggio taking the A11 to Florence. A spirited 5 hour 45 minute run – in theory!
We hit rush hour at Nice, which we survived but then hit the storm from hell as we crossed into Italy. This route was created by the infamous Mussollini and in truth it is quite some feat, as the motorway is just one long run of tunnel then bridge, then tunnel then bridge for relentlesss miles. This time though it was torrenting down and every time you emerged from a tunnel you drove into a wall of water. Our progress slowed dramatically and then the inevitable accident occurred and we came to a standstill. The upshot of this was we finally checked into our hotel at 3.30 in the afternoon after only the briefest of lunch stops. It was in truth quite a hard drive.
The rain had stopped and the sun had come out shortly before we checked into the Hotel Silla and put the Opel in the hotel’s underground car park. Oh My God it was a squeeze getting it down the long ramp and I was dreading the thought of having to reverse back out when it came to check out time! On the way to the room (which was lovely by the way) we spotted the first floor terrace where breakfast was served and we decided that the first job was a beer on said terrace after we had unpacked. Suitably chilled after my beer we headed into town for a mooch.
Click on the picture to see our Instagram photos that we took in Florence
Our hotel was on the trendy left bank five minutes down from the Ponte Vecchio and as we headed to the bridge we grabbed a slice of pizza at a small shop we passed. I opted for a hot pizza with spicy sausage on it and it turned out to be the most delicious slice of pizza I have ever tasted in my life. I was falling for Florence already!
Out of the food shop we carried on for thirty yards then turned right and crossed the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is lined on either side with goldsmiths and jewellery stores and it is buzzing with atmosphere. Originally the shops were butchers but the Medici family didn’t like the smell, so had the butcher shops closed and turned into gold merchants. Just after the bridge we saw a glove shop and spotted some gorgeous gloves that looked like they would fit Mrs P’s hands like a… well er… like a glove. We then spent the next three days looking at every glove shop in Florence before returning to this shop to buy these very sexy black gloves with a red trim!
Very soon we were lost in the middle of Florence and then the rain came back. We headed back to the hotel dressed only in shorts and t shirts, and sheltering under the roof over hangs in the narrow streets as much as possible. We ended up on the Piazza Santa Croce just in front of the large convent and had to make a dash diagonally across the square as the rain hammered down. Boy did we get soaked, but you know all I could think was how great it was to be able to run so fast just 6 months after my liver surgery – honestly we flew across that piazza! Back at the hotel the shower was good!
The evening then saw us back into town shod with jackets and rainmacs, though in truth the rain had stopped by then. As we crossed the Piazza della Signoria a busker was playing classical guitar – O Solo Mio naturally, but then he played the best thing to come out of Spain ever – The Concierto de Aranjuez – which is a composition for classical guitar and orchestra by the Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Written in 1939, it is probably Rodrigo’s best-known work, and its success established his reputation as one of the most significant Spanish composers of the twentieth century. Just saying.
We dined in sight of Giotto’s famous Campanile listening to this beautiful classical guitar. The architecture, the music, the intimacy of it all, 50 Shades of anything can’t hold a candle up to this. Florence had seduced me on my first night!
While dining and looking at the Campanile and the Duomo behind, Peanut decided that we must go to the top of the Duomo, so we got up for an early breakfast the next morning and went straight to the Duomo to find no queue whatsoever – result!. We handed over our 8 euros each and promptly traipsed up the 486 steps to the top. Not a breeze I can tell you, but the views were stunning and the cityscape revealed to us from up here seemed to capture the essence of Florence for me. I think it is this view of the stunning architecture of Florence that we all think of when we imagine Florence. An hour later by the way and there was a 200 yard queue!
Our meanderings took us to the museum where Michaelangelo’s David is displayed so we decided that this would be our bit of culture for tomorrow morning. We lunched at a small cafe a little away from the centre and then spent the afternoon exploring the shops before returning to the hotel at about 4 in the afternoon exhausted. After a shower and a change of clothes we went out for dinner and dined at one of the restaurants in the Piazza della Signoria where we both had a delicious Florentine steak washed down with a bottle of red. Once more the classic guitar played and once more Mr Beastie was smitten with Florence.
Well by next morning all the walking had caught up with us and we failed to get our early start. When we got to the museum to see David the queue already stretched to the end of the building. Our sense of Britishness kicked in and we joined the queue and got chatting to a couple from Melbourne in Australia. This was an interesting diversion as we moved 15 yards in an hour and a half before giving up. While we waited we were constantly asked if we wanted to jump the queue by paying 20 euros instead of 12. It’s the way of the world I guess but I’d rather not see it than have to pay extra to queue jump. It really irritated me! So yes we never saw the original David, but I had already decided that his hand was too big. No doubt then David is an Italian and that was his money grabbing hand!
The plan was to go from there to the bronze David which stands looking over Florence from our side of the river at Piazzale Michelangelo, so we duly headed off back across the river via the Ponte Vecchio. In truth we did not take the most direct route and it sure was steep climbing up there. We had lunch in the shadow of the bronze David, while watching a wedding in the gardens adjacent and looking over to the Duomo on the Florentine skyline. It was a lovely lunch and the surroundings added to my enjoyment as I downed a thirst quenching and well earned lager!
After lunch we headed for the gardens at the Pitti Palace – home to the Medicis- and this proved to be another longer than anticipated trek. The gardens for me were not at their best to be honest. Maybe I was just too tired to enjoy them after so much walking but plants needed watering, hedges needed trimming and beds needed weeding. I have seen beautiful Italian gardens in the Italian Lakes and by comparison these were poor. Back to the hotel for 5 this time and really shattered. It must have been ten miles we covered and I really felt it!
Dinner closer to home seemed sensible and we found a nice restaurant close to the Ponte Vecchio but on our side of the river. I had a steak covered with bacon which was lovely but strange as the rashers were white!
We slept the sleep of the Gods that night and after breakfast the next day we headed back to Port Cogolin. I was starting to worry about retrieving the opel from the garage but phew the garage had a rear door so it was easy peasy in the end. The return drive was as it should be and we got back to port Cogolin at about half three which was much better bearing in mind that we only left at ten.
It was a lovely three days for us mooching about in Florence. In truth I don’t feel like I will have to go back, it doesn’t call to me like Venice does but nonetheless it ticked the boxes with its architecture, its intimacy and the sense of romance it provoked. As a finale at the end of our 6 month plan it was in truth a hard act to follow!
Florence in Black and White and unedited – click the picture for a slideshow.