Wednesday, September 26th

At Montevarchi station

To see David is to

understand …

An early morning start got us to Montevarchi easily in time to catch the 9:07 train to Florence.  Purchasing tickets was quite easy at the ticket booth.  The most important thing to remember when traveling by train in Italy is to validate your ticket before catching a train.  Sliding it into the validation machined results in the date and time as well as the station to be printed on the ticket as well as punching a little hole.  Failing to validate your ticket apparently can result in a huge fine if they check.

The very smooth ride to Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station took about 40 minutes.  Following the suggestion from our guide book we exited the station via an underground pedway which avoided dodging all the traffic in front of the station.  We resurfaced right by an information center where we obtained a street map.

First glimpse of Il Duomo

It was about a 10 minute walk down streets lined with shops, hotels and restaurants to the Piazza del Duomo.  To say the cathedral is magnificent is an understatement.  It almost takes your breath away when you round the street and catch your first glimpse of it.  The piazza was fairly crowded with tourists:  one can only imagine the crowds during the summer months.  We took a slow walk around the huge building admiring its various faces.

From Il Duomo it is about a 5 minute walk to Piazza della Signoria where you find the Palazzo Vecchio (old palace, the original Medici home) and of course the Uffizi.  The lineups at the Uffizi seemed to be mass confusion as to whether they were for people with or without tickets and where you actually buy tickets.  We finally found a lineup that seemed to be for purchasing tickets.  It was fairly long and didn’t seem to be moving.  While standing there we could hear the hawker for a tour going through her spiel.  Basically for €33 per person (including the entry fee of €15) you got in “right away”, would have a guided tour then could stay inside as long as you wanted after the tour.  Given the speed with which our line was moving it seemed like a pretty good deal.  “Right away” turned out to be about a half hour wait but in the overall scheme of things it wasn’t that long.  Our tour guide was very interesting and took us through the medieval galleries and Renaissance galleries, all the while explaining the change in style from medieval to Renaissance art.  The tour lasted about an hour and was well worth the €18 charge on top of the admission ticket.

After the tour we spent a while longer wandering through the gallery.  However as it had now been quite a while since breakfast it was soon time to leave and go find some lunch.

Neptune Fountain

The Piazza della Signoria is ringed with restaurants that our guide book described as over-priced.  However they were close and we were hungry so we found a table at one of them.  We enjoyed a very good lunch and yes, it was pricy, but you paid a premium for the view of the piazza.

Ponte Vecchio

After lunch we strolled over to and across the Ponte Vecchio.  Originally the bridge was lined with butchers.  At some point one of the Medici family decided he couldn’t stand the smell and evicted the purveyors of fine meats.  Out with the old and in with the new … the new being goldsmiths and silversmiths.  The bridge is still lined with jewelry shops (and still no meat cutters).

Locks

One thing we didn’t understand the significance of was all of the little padlocks attached to the fence around one of the sculptures on the bridge.  Perhaps someone will be able to educate us by posting an explanation in the comment section below.

At the other end of the bridge was the magnificent Palazzo Pitti.  Originally owned by a rival of the Medici’s, when the Palazzo Vecchio became too small it was time to upgrade and a bargain was struck for the Pitti Palace.

Palazzo Pitti

Returning across the Ponte Vecchio we made our way back to the Piazza della Signoria, found a restaurant with some comfortable chairs, and enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio.

It now being late in the afternoon we headed to the Accademia to have a gander at Michelangelo’s David.  Even though it was around 5:15 there was still a fairly long line for tickets.  We had been standing in line for about 10 minutes when a guide from one of the many tour companies came along to announce that he had two tickets left over that he was willing to sell at face value which included a reservation fee.  He said the Accademia would refund him the ticket price but not the reservation fee.  We were in there like a dirty shirt and latched onto the tickets.  The fellow even took us up to the reservation entrance where there was no line-up and walked us through the security and entry process just to ensure we got in OK.  It was well worth the small premium on the ticket price to get in right away.

From the entryway we turned a corner and there we could see David at the end of the corridor.  What a magnificent sight to be seeing perhaps the most famous sculpture in the world and of course one that I had heard about all my life.  As we drew near to the sculpture I could really understand what all the hoopla is about.  Words really don’t adequately describe the incredible strength yet tranquility of the figure.   The details such as the muscles that appear powerful without being bulging, the veins on the back of the hand, to the powerful tendon at the back of the knee are all just incredible.  We sat and stared for quite a while before reluctantly leaving.  Finally seeing the real David was certainly the highlight of our trip to Florence.

From the Accademia it was back to the train station and home.  After a long day of crowds and walking in Florence, it felt very nice to be back in the solitude of Boggioli.

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2 thoughts on “Wednesday, September 26th

  1. Hi Neil, a little late for a reply but am just skimming your blog of your Tuscan trip for the first time. Regarding the locks, it is a thing to do in some places for a couple to attach a lock to certain famous places as a symbol of their commitment to each other. Eco-friendly tree carving.

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