In years gone by, it was deemed a rite of passage for young wealthy Europeans to take in the ‘Grand Tour’, exploring the art and culture of Venice, Florence and Rome. I don’t consider myself to be anything other than young at heart and only a lottery win would make me financially wealthy, but this was never going to stop me replicating the ‘Grand Tour’.
Having visited Venice, Florence was my next stop, a chance encounter with friendly Brits in Thann (France), returning from Italy and specifically Florence had only served to fire my enthusiasm. They were kind enough to recommend the Camping Village International and to give me a 15% discount voucher as well as a croissant and pain au chocolat for breakfast.
The campsite is about 5 miles (8 km) outside of Florence, the facilities were more than reasonable, but I’d expect nothing less for €25 / night. The some of pitches were a little small, so care has to be taken with longer units.
It is possible to cycle to Florence from the campsite, but the €2 bus ticket makes it an enticing option. Florence is a compact city and I found it easy to walk to most of the main attractions.
My first stop was the Campanile in Piazza del Duomo, where I bought the Il Grande Museo Del Duomo pass (€15) that would allow me entrance to the Cathedral, its Dome (the Cupola was designed by Brunelleschi), Campanile (bell tower) and Baptistry (Battistero di San Giovanni).
The Campanile at 85 m (276 ft) is a trek to the top, if I learnt anything from my tour of Italy, it is that the Italians like their steps and they like them steep.
The views of the city and specifically of the cathedral’s dome are worth the climb, but try not to visit the dome on the same day, unless you have a passion for climbing narrow, steep and busy stairwells.
It seemed rude not to pop into the Baptistery whilst I was there. The first thing you should notice is the replica bronze doors created by Lorenzo Ghiberti, the originals are housed at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
Dante was Baptistised here, along with other famous Florentines. Once inside, the 13th century mosaics adorning the ceiling illustrating the Last Judgement are just wonderful.
I didn’t visit the cathedral or the dome on the same day as the Campanile and Baptistery, as both queues were quite long, you can expect a fairly lengthy wait if you mis-time your visit.
The Cathedral is quite imposing, especially the dome. It again is a steep climb to the top of the dome and it does get very busy. But I wouldn’t let that stop you from visiting.
Florence has many churches worth visiting, Such as Santa Croce. I didn’t manage to time my visit to Santa Croce right and arrived after it had closed, but I would certainly put this on your must see list. It contains tombs and monuments of famous Florentines such as: Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli.
San Miniato is also worth a visit, although it is a little way out of the town, it is not far from either Fort Belvedere or Piazza Michelangelo, both giving magnificent views over the city.
There is no entrance fee to the churches in Italy, nor was the a fee to enter Fort Belvedere, which was exhibiting some of Jan Fabra’s Spiritual Guards. The fort offers panoramic views over the city. Other Spiritual Guards exhibits could also be found around the city.
As you return from Fort Belvedere or Piazza Michelangelo, if you hadn’t already, you should cross Pont Vecchio. The rows of shops lining the bridge helped me draw some comparisons between Pont Vecchio and the Rialto Bridge in Venice, although this may not be immediately obvious.
What visit to Florence would be complete without visiting the Uffizi museum. I purchased the €16.50 ticket from the ticket office opposite the entrance. Pre-booking meant I did not have to line up in what can be a lengthy queue.
I was expecting the Uffizi to be larger than it is, but this is unfair as there are many fine works of art to keep most people enthralled for quite some time.
Portrait Cover – Ridolfo Del Ghirlandaio
Testa di Medusa – Caravaggio
There is a lot more to Florence than what I have described, I spent 3 days here and loved every moment, but next up is Pisa, another bell tower and more steps. But for now, I’ll leave you with some images from Piazza Della Signoria.