Florence, Pisa and Lucca
We're just about done with the Florence area. They day after we hit the Accademia, we took our side trip to Pisa. The square is amazing but the rest of the town, as another Luca Vanzella once said, is forgettable. Of course we had to climb the leaning tower (15 euros each) - the steps themselves lean! Unlike many other towers, you actually get to go to the very top (above the campanili even). Easy to get vertigo up there.
After Pisa, since we still had a half day, we went to Lucca - a walled city with the best preserved walls in Italy. Capital of the olive oil industry. Actually a very nice town - we liked it better than either Parma or Modena. The outer wall is over 100 ft wide at the bottom and the top is a walking/running/cycling route with many trees providing shade.
The Florence culture week thing we talked about turned out to be a really good deal - all the state palazzi are open to the public for free. Yesterday we went to the Piazzale Michaelangelo to get a great view of Florence. The buses to and from there were a bit confusing but we managed. Also, they are serious about having tickets - we saw a teenage girl get a 50 euro fine for not having timestamped her 1 euro bus ticket (good for 1 hour).
Florence from Piazzale Michaelangelo (photo)
Then we went to the Uffizi Gallery (the municipal offices in the time of the Medici's). We had a reservation for 11:15 and when we got there, amid all the confusion, we found that they had had a short 2-hour strike (sciopero) in the morning and so they were behind. We expected a 2-hour wait but we only had to wait about a half hour. The Uffizi Gallery has TONS of important works - Botticelli, Raphael - but after a while, it's all a blur.
Today we hit the Palazzo Pitti (home and main place to collect the Medici's art collection). We toured the Palatine Gallery which has amazingly large rooms each of which is frescoed, gilded, stuccoed, draped and FULL of artwork stacked above and below each other. Many Botticelli's here also. We also looked at the Gallery of Modern Art, which in Florence means after 1600 and before 1900. Then we went out to the Boboli Gardens - huge and hilly. The Medici's sure had a nice garden area. The whole thing was free - due to the culture week - and we hadn't bothered with a prenotazione.
We also went to the Duomo in Florence. This cathedral is very nice on the outside but not so grand inside. It's campanile is the best looking one in Italy (although we quite like the famous on in Venice). It seems there's an inverse correlation between how ugly or unfinished a church is on the outside and how spectacular it is on the inside. We climbed up the 463 steps to the top of the cuppola - designed by Brunneschelli. When Michaelangelo started on St. Peters Basilica in Rome, he said he would make it larger than Brunneschelli's in Firenze but not lovelier. The views of Florence from the top of the cuppola are nice.
Florence from Duomo(photo)
One food note: We went to a restaurant last night called Il Latini (named after the founder). This is a loud, boisterous place that theoretcally has 2 seatings (7:30 and 9:30pm). We got there at 9:30 and there were about 25 people waiting outside the door. The inside appeared to be full. The guy at the door would occassionally let some people in, appearing to giveg preference to young women and locals. We went to the front of the crowd and about the same time a couple from Southern California was telling the guy that they had a 9:30 reservation, we told him the same thing. Presto, the 4 of us get in to sit side-by-each - there's no 2 people sitting at a table for 4 here. This place theoretically has a menu but the main thing is a prezzo fisso meal in which the waiter verbally tells you your options for each course. We had prosciutto, pane, crostini, primo (ravioli/gnocci/soup), secondo (mixed roasted meats - beef, pork, lamb, rabbit) with 4 contorni, dolce (tiramisu/ice cream with strawberries/torta di nonno/pancotta), caffe, 2 dessert wines (vin santo and sparkling asti moscato), biscotti to dip in the vin santo). They serve a house wine that comes in 2 litre flasks and you drink as much as you want. Not too bad for 37.50 euro each. Of course we were stuffed and the meal concluded at 5 minutes after midnight.
lkvanz on 05.28.04 @ 09:52 AM MST [link]