We start the morning on a bus that takes us through the walls of Florence and up to Piazzale Michelangelo, for a what might be the best panoramic view of Firenze. (Click the photo to get to the Flickr page, or here for the large version.)
Back in Florence, we leave the bus (it was only meant to take us to that view point) and continue with a walking tour through some of the streets, across bridges, and past famous shops (of famous designers) and residences, like Michelangelo’s house (Florence really loves that guy). We reach the Duomo, and I am able to get some daytime photos to go with my collection from last night. The difference here is that we don’t have time to circumnavigate the building, like I did last night on my own. Another cool thing is that they do live-action nativity scenes here (also called presepio), with real people and live animals.
The Accademia di Belle Arti houses many works of art from many famed artists, and an extension to the building, called a tribuna, was built for one purpose: to showcase the sculpture of David, by Michelangelo. The sculpture used to stand outdoors in nearby Piazza della Signoria, and so the tribuna was built and the statue was moved for protection. A replica of David currently stands in the original outdoor location, possibly fooling uninformed tourists into thinking they are looking at the original. Photography inside the Gallery is not allowed, and there are lots of security guards wandering (some permanently posted next to very important works) to watch for ne’er-do-wells. It is relatively easy to snap a stealthy photo with a cameraphone, and I could have even managed it with my DSLR, but when someone specifically asks that I not take photos, I respect that request. (Side note: I am looking forward to getting to try out Google Glass.)
The David itself is taller than I expected (17 feet, not including the pedestal), as things that you see in photos often tend to be smaller when you see them in real life (Mona Lisa, US House of Congress). Honestly, I don’t remember specifics for any other works of art in the Gallery, except for a display in the Department of Musical Instruments that held a Stradivarius violin. This is an item that I had heard plenty about, but never seen one in person before.
My all day tour is actually a separate morning and afternoon tour put together on paper, so some in my group won’t be joining me later in the day. There was also an option for including “lunch with drinks in a historical restaurant in the most ancient part of the town” but as I was heavily disappointed in the past by a tour’s included lunch, I’ll never do it again unless I don’t think I will be able to find a place to eat on my own. When you’re in the heart of a large city, it’s easy to find food. I go to a pizzeria (nearby last night’s dinner source) for a rectangle of meatball pizza.
The afternoon portion began with just three of us and the tour guide in bus, taking us to town-on-a-hill Fiesole for a view of Florence, which we couldn’t see anyway because of the fog (some of which also ruined the panoramic view from Piazzale Michelangelo). These rides are quick jaunts, perhaps to give tourists, who may be on tight schedules and only able to see the “best of”, a chance to get out of the city center and see a view of Florence from the outside. After getting dropped off on the outside of town (along the Arno River), we walk past Basilica Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world and less than one kilometer from the Duomo. At the far end of the piazza, we stopped to watch a busker doing a puppet show longer than we stood in front of the church. I would have liked to have taken the time to see the tombs of two of the most famous people buried here: Michelangelo and Galileo.
There is a parade passing through Florence, we meet up with it in Piazza della Signoria, which you may recall now holds a replica of the statue of David in Palazzo Vecchio, and very near the entrance to the Uffizi Galleries. Research tells me the parade was to celebrate the Epiphany (January 6, known to some as Twelfth Night, 12th day of Christmas), or the Cavalcade of the Magi. People from all over Tuscany come dressed in their home region’s colors and costumes (knights, peasants, nobles, etc.).
About another dozen people join our group at the Uffizi, which is so large that we cannot possibly see everything in the 2 hours we have before the galleries close. Maybe they should start the tour earlier in the afternoon. Our guide takes us to specific pieces that she would like to bring to our attention. She does a fine job with the background stories and information. After her tour, she gives us a half hour before the museum closes to go back and look at our leisure. Some of the famous pieces we saw were Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation. There weren’t any specific works that I would call favorites, I was more impressed with the architecture (designed by Giorgio Vasari) and knowing that Michelangelo and da Vinci walked these halls.
For dinner, I opted for a taste of home with a local spin. The Hard Rock Cafe offers the Local Legendary Burger, which is their Legendary 10 oz. hamburger with a local touch, depending on where you are in the world. In Florence, they add prosciutto and provolone cheese. Add fries and that’s a meal.