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Sep 29, 2005 - Florence and Lucca
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Dad checking out some leather at the Florence Markets Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore Copy of Michelangelo's famous David 

From Rome to Florence was an easy journey for the 5 us (Eric and I, our friend Dave and my parents) with only and hour and half on the comfortable EuroStar train putting us in Florence what was once the epicentre of European art and culture. Today Florence is a Tuscan tourist mecca with art galleries, museums, old cathedrals and no shortage of shopping and dining pleasures. Our hotel in Florence was a close location to the train station and very basic but with the right price for our around the world budget. My parents had a larger nicer room with a private bath and Eric, Dave and I all shared a room that had a shared bath. As I say, basic accommodations, but clean, good location and priced right.

Florence quickly turned into another busy city with plenty of walking and exploring to be done. Our first day we walked all over the city exploring the different piazzas, streets, the Ponte Vecchio, visited the Piazzale Michelangelo for great views of Florence and the Arno River. Our second day we took the local trains to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa where Eric and I attempted to straighten it (see photos) and then in the afternoon ventured out to Lucca a historic walled city that is classic old Tuscan town.

Day 3 was a shopping and relaxing morning for Dave and Eric while my parents and I took in the Uffizi Gallery. Despite arriving at the Gallery before the doors opened we still had to wait 2 and half hours to get in to see the art and sculptures primarily from the Renaissance period. After lunch Eric and I climbed almost 500 stairs up the inside of the dome roof of the Duomo for spectacular views of the city and interior of the church before heading off to the Acadameia Gallery with everyone else to see the famous sculpture of David by Michelangelo - which was much more impressive than I had expected.

On Thursday morning all 5 of us set off to the train station to where we said good-bye to my parents until Sept 2006. Dave, Eric and I set off for the Cinque Terra while my parents headed back to Rome for one night before catching their flights back home to Toronto. It was an absolute pleasure to see them in Italy and have the chance to travel Rome and Florence with them forming fond memories for this section of our journey.

Mom and Dad.....are we going to see you in Sydney in 2006?!?

Travel Tips for Florence

1. Make reservations in advance of arriving for the popular galleries such as Uffizi and Acamadie. It costs about an extra 3 Euros (eg. 9.50 rather than 6.50) per person if you use the reservations system but can save you many hours of waiting. Line-ups can easily take 3-4 hours or more without reservations.

2. Confirm the days the galleries are closed before you arrive. Certain days of the week galleries are closed and you may end up disappointed if this is the day you planned on seeing the famous sights.

3. Climb the Duomo for great views of both Florence and the inside of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The climb is up close to 500 stairs though and the last part is very steep and narrow so make sure you are in shape and ready for the climb. The experience and views are well worth it if you are up for the challenge.

4. See David by Michelangelo, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, at the Galleria della Accademia. Remember to make reservations in advance to save you many hours of waiting in line.

5. Walk the city. Florence is an easy city to walk around and see the sites so pack your map and set off to explore.

6. Visit the Ponte Vecchio spanning across the Arno River - it is the oldest bridge in Florence. Shop the jewellery stores that are primarily owned by descendants of the original 41 artisans set up on the bridge from back in the 16th century and imagine the life and commerce that took place on this same bridge hundreds of years ago.

7. Take the bus from just east of the Ponte Vecchio to Piazzale Michelangelo for a hilltop view of Florence. From here you can easily walk back down the hillside into the city.

8. Take a day trip to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Pisa does not have a lot more to see so a train ride of just over an hour one way will get you into town for a couple of hours to see the sights before heading back or on to another town for the remainder of the day.

9. Visit the old walled city of Lucca with its historic walls still in remarkable condition. Spend a day here or combine it with an outing to Pisa both easily accessible by rail from Florence. If you want a quieter destination to stay rather than the busy, touristy Florence, Lucca could be a great base for exploring the region and then make day trips to see the sights in Florence.

10. Take some time to learn a bit about art and art history if you are not educated in this area. Florence is all about the Renaissance art era and the more you understand the more you will appreciate what the city has to offer.


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