Florence – cradle of the Renaissance

We opted for a more direct route to Florence cutting out to the highway from Certaldo instead of going through the scenic hilly roads again. The journey still took us about an hour, and another frustrating hour going round and round the city looking for our car rental outlet as we needed to clarify the dent on our car. We weren’t even sure if the lady understood our problem but we got her to make a mark on the form nonetheless.

We had lunch in a restaurant next door with a Chinese sign. The restaurant is run by an Asian family and the mother was able to understand Chinese. However her son could only speak their native language (Korean/Japanese) and Italian, and he seemed rather proud of that.

Thereafter we headed into the city center and parked along the river Arno and strolled along it until we came upon the Uffizi without knowing. The building itself wasn’t grand or striking. Even though entrance was free due to the Cultural Week, there was an extremely long queue that stretched the whole length of the building, so with much resignation I had to strike it off my list. Through the art gallery we arrived at Piazza della Signoria flanked by the Palazzo Vecchio and the loggia with grand marble sculptures.

This is where a replica of Michaelangelo’s David stands. There were so many people in the piazza I felt suffocated and was soon in a hurry to leave despite the really rich artistic influence that pervaded the area. I guess my superficial appreciation of Renaissance arts simply was not enough to make me tolerate the glaring heat and mass of human traffic. In addition, the streets were paved with cobblestones which took a toll on the pram and it was extremely uncomfortable for Joel and a struggle for me to push. It was already enough to make me cranky.

To compensate for mssing the Uffizi, we decided to visit the Bargello. It was previously a prison which had been converted to a museum displaying many marble sculptures from the less famous artistes and sculptors. The only one I recognized was Donatello. There were many different exhibits but as I am not an art connoisseur I had my fill after awhile. Thank goodness entrance was free. I think compared to paintings, I prefer sculptures. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad to miss the Uffizi after all.

We finally arrived at the Duomo which was undergoing some preservation works. In fact, it seemed that all the famous buildings we visited were under one form of preservation works or another. The size of the Duomo was indeed impressive and I really wanted to go in and have a look at the ceiling painted by Vasari and to possibly climb the 426 steps to the top. However the doors to the Duomo slammed shut in my face just as we arrived to my utter shock. It was only 4pm.

Nothing had worked out since arriving in Italy! I had to content myself with the fleeting admiration of the panels depicting scenes from the Bible carved in gold that adorn the doors of the baptistry. An interesting piece of information is how the Baptistry, Duomo, Campanile and Mausoleum were usually located near each other to commemorate important life stages – birth, christening, marriage and death respectively.  

With a heavy heart and frustration mounting, we sauntered down the busy crowded streets to Ponte Vecchio. I was particularly irritated by the incessant wailing of the ambulance sirens. Was there really someone injured, sick or dying all the time to warrant this commotion?

Noting my disappointment, Theo secretly drove us to a part of Florence he had spotted during the many detours we made. It was not a place I had planned to go or even read about. Up on the Piazzale Michelangelo, we were rewarded with a panoramic view of Florence in which distinctive Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo and the Pitti Palace could be easily admired with one glance without having to squeeze with this overly crowded city. 

My favourite part of Florence is either this square or the river Arno which coursed gently through the city effectively dividing it into two. Perhaps it was the sun, or the disorganization or just the freaking throngs of tourists, Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance with so much to offer just wasn’t my cup of tea.

We had dinner in a Coop hypermart in Empoli centro where I ordered in Italian what I thought was spagetti but turned out to be charcoal grilled chicken. It was still delicious nonetheless. After a tiring and disappointing day, it was just good to sit back and eat whatever that was served.

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