Florence and her Davids
I got up bright and early in Venice, was pleased to watch a very Venetian sunrise over the rooftops from my windows. I even managed a video call to Australia over breakfast. Then it was time for my case to navigate the four flights of stairs down to ground level followed by five bridges before I got to the station. On the way, I even saw a police boat with sirens going and lights flashing. I stopped on the bridge I was on a filmed it of course!
As the train was Venice to Rome, the train was already there when I got there about 15 minutes before it was due to leave. I was rapt with my seat. Number 3 seat is by itself so there was space next to me for my case and I didn’t have to worry about it rolling around once we hit high speeds. This was a ‘very fast train’; it goes around 300kmph, although you wouldn’t know it as a passenger. One thing I really like about the trains I travelled on was the fact that there was access to a powerpoint for every seat. Very handy for phone and laptop charging.
I arrived in Florence after a couple of hours and got my trusty google maps happening. Later I would come to the conclusion that there were more efficient ways to get to the Ponte Vecchio, but you get that on a big job! I ended up by the river and just figured I would continue along until I found my accommodation, the Pontevecchio Relais, given that it was just past the bridge, it couldn’t be that difficult to find…. Could it?
Yep, it was.
Silly me, again, I was expecting signage. Well something more than a small brass plaque and something on the buzzer button. Fortunately, after a bit of walking up and down, I saw a man coming out of a door roughly where I thought it was. It happened to be the right place! He was lovely, he pushed the correct buzzer for me, opened the main door for the building and showed me to the lift and told me which floor it was on. By the time I got up there, the lady from reception came out to greet me trying to extract my bags from what is also in the running for the smallest lift in the world.
My room was beautiful. It was my splurge accommodation for the trip. My room had a balcony and a view across to the Ponte Vecchio. Even the balcony was ‘just so’. I couldn’t stop taking photos of the views, the room and the balcony. When I left the building and looked back to see ‘my’ balcony, even then I couldn’t resist taking a photo or 9.
First stop of course, was the Ponte Vecchio, itself. There has been a bridge crossing the Arno River there since Roman times. The bridge was destroyed by flood around 1117 and 1333 with only the two central piers surviving. It was the only bridge in Florence that survived the Nazis during WWII, although it did sustain damage on each side of the river. The bridge has jewellery, art and souvenir shops running along each side of the bridge with a stone road between. While I did see a car or two I would consider it a pedestrian bridge. (But just quietly, the relationship between roads, cars and pedestrians in Florence seems ‘complicated’ to say the least)
I just started to wander through the streets until I came to a market that had a bronze fountain of a boar. Apparently this is copy of ‘Il Porcellino’ which was cast in 1998, the original was sculpted and cast in the early 1600’s, following a marble original which is now in the Uffizi Museum. If you rub the boar’s snout, it ‘ensures’ you will return to Florence. As you can imagine, the snout is very shiny, while the rest of the fountain has weathered to a greenish brown colour.
After a stop for lunch, I walked past a chalk artist working on quite a large version of the Mona Lisa on a road…. As I said roads are complicated in this town. Then past the Savoy Hotel and all the ritzy shops. I almost tripped over a gypsy who’s method of operation was to back up to a Bently parked on the side of the road and get in to the foetal position, face down with hands in front of his head holding a plastic cup. I worried that drivers wouldn’t know there were people there when the started their cars.
A little further on was Florence’s Duomo (big church) and then I found the fake David in Piazza della Signoria which is also home to a gallery of classic statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi as well an enormous modern sculpture in the middle of the Piazza that just looks like a great big pile of that spray foam stuff. In my opinion, it looked out of place.
I made my way back to my room, and took it easy for a bit before heading out to see the day’s end. This time, I crossed the bridge (before maybe purchasing some jewellery) and got myself a Sicilian style cannoli. Yum! More wandering found me back at fake David’s square where I had dinner and happen to sit at a table next to a couple from Bendigo. We compared out Italian travel stories.
I organised ticket’s to Michaelangelo’s David online a few months ago. The Galleria Accedemia is closed on a Monday, so I booked for the first session Tuesday at 8.15am. They say to be there 15 minutes early, and not knowing how difficult it was to find, I allowed myself plenty of time. I even had time to have a quick stop on the bridge which is truly magic when it is deserted.
I walked past the chalk Mona Lisa looking a little worse for wear as cars had been able to use the whole road in the absence of the artist and tourists.
Speaking of deserted, when the Uffizi Gallery opened and the people who had reserved tickets were let in, the couple in front of me and I (the first three in the line) got ahead of the rest and we got to see David in a way few tourists do, the gallery was empty apart from us three.
If ever there is an argument for pre-booking, this was it. As I walked away from the gallery, the length of the line to buy tickets ran up the street and around the corner like some exclusive night club.
I returned to my room, got my bags and walked to the station for the last leg of my train journey. This time my route was far more efficient than my walk from the station!