It's just after 9.30am, I've been for breakfast and I'm all ready for a day of sightseeing in Florence, but its absolutely pissing it down outside! Not only that, it's almost completely dark and the rain is bouncing off the ground, there's loud thunder and fork lightning. It's the sort of rain I've only seen in the Tropics.
I was expecting beautiful blue sky and sunshine for most of my vacation, since the average temperature in Florence in September is 79 degrees, but hopefully this will be the one and only day of bad weather!
We decided to stay in the hotel for a while in the hope that there would be a break in the rain. Finally after almost an hour the rain eased off enough for us to venture outside. Jeans, a jumper and an umbrella was not what I expected to be wearing for my Florence Sightseeing!
It's about a 20 minute walk from our hotel to the Duomo and if it hadn't been raining we would have taken the picturesque route beside the River Arno. Instead we walked through the narrow streets to get as much shelter from the rain as possible.
We arrived at the Duomo just after 11am and the queue was tiny compared to yesterday. We paid 6 Euros for entry to the Duomo's Cupola (Dome) and started the journey up the 463 steps to the top.
This climb is definitely not recommended if you're feeling tired or in any way unfit. I felt reasonably fit and had been going to the gym and Yoga 3-4 times a week for the last couple of months, but I found the steps pretty challenging. Lots of narrow winding staircases and steps that became more and more like ladders as you climb to the top of the Dome.
Half way up we came to a long balcony like walkway that went all the round the Cupola. This is not the place to go if you suffer from Vertigo! Luckily I don't but stil felt a slight rush of fear when I glanced down and saw the tiny people below. I was glad of the plastic pane in front of my, preventing me from accidentally toppling over.
463 steps later, we reached the top of the Duomo and were rewarded for our effort with a spectacular view of Florence in all directions.
As it was raining slightly when we got to the top the marble floor was a little slippy, which was quite worrying as the barrier wasn't very high. Despite this, I found it less scary than standing on the inside of the Dome.
After taking lots of photos from every possible angle and Stuart refusing the offer of a photo of us together (as he was too scared of toppling over the edge :-) we began our descent back to the bottom.
I don't think I would have liked to do this on a hot July day, as it was stuffy enough on a September day with the rain pouring down outside.
One the way down we walked round the inside of the Dome again, this time on a higher walkway than before. After a quick stop to take a photo and admire the "Last Judgement" frescoes by Vasari on the roof, we quickly continued our journey down the steps. I'm sure that everything was perfectly safe, but walking around the top of a building that was completed nearly 600 years ago made me slightly nervous!
After our trip to the Duomo, we wandered to the nearby Piazza Della Signoria and stopped for a bit longer this time to take some photos of the statue of David and Neptune's Fountain. We also wandered around the outdoor Sculpture gallery, which contains statues such as the Loggia dei Lanzi (1382) and the Rape of the Sabine Women (1583), which was carved from a single block of Flawed marble.
By this time it was absolutely pouring with rain, so we found a restaurant with some indoor seating and had another Pasta lunch.
After lunch the rain had calmed slightly so we took a walk over the River Arno via the famous Ponte Vecchio. This bridge was built in 1345 and is the only bridge over the Arno that wasn't destroyed during the second world war. Originally the workshops overhanging the bridge were used by blacksmiths and butchers, but due to the noise and the smell they were evicted and the bridge is now filled with jewellery shops.
Once over the bridge we wandered through the winding streets and into the Palazzo Pitti. I wanted to visit the Boboli gardens as well as the Palentine gallery and the Royal Appartments, but unfortunately the Boboli Gardens were closed, perhaps due to the excessive rain. We just bought a combined ticket for the Palentine Galleries and the Royal apartments and spent an hour or so wandering through the different rooms and admiring the paintings and the ceilings which were ornately decorated with gold and frescoes. I'm definitely not educated in art, but I really enjoyed wandering around the rooms and imagining the people who once stayed there.
After our visit to the Gallery we (stupidly) bought what was probably the most expensive ice cream in Florence from a Gelateria next to the Ponte Vecchio - 6 Euros each for a small tub! If we had walked a few blocks away we would have got one for less than half the price, but never mind, I enjoyed eating it all the same, despite getting it all over my hands and face.
We crossed the River via the Ponte alla Grazie, which is the next bridge along from the Ponte Vecchio and took the opportunitity to take a few photos of the bridge.
That evening we had a great dinner in a place called La Bussola (58/R Via Porto Rossa). It was slightly expensive at almost 100 Euros for the two of us, but it was very nice. We both had pasta to start with and I had Languistines in a curried sauce with rice, while Stuart had Sole with a side dish of Melanzani Parmigiana, washed down with a half bottle of Ruffino of Chardonnay for me and a half bottle of Chianti for Stuart. A very nice way to finish off a busy day!
You can read more about things to do in Florence here.