23.06.2010 - 28.06.2010 28 °C
In Florence, we slept above Gucci and our windows overlooked Roberto Cavalli, Gianfranco Ferre and Bulgari. And it didn't break the bank to hover just above the lap of luxury.
Our first full day there was June 24, the local Feast Day of San Giovanni. There were costumed parades around town then fireworks over the Arno River that night.
We saw the original David in L'Accademia gallery - they may look the same, but the experience is quite different. The light makes him glow, and details of the sculpture are much more compelling. You can really sense Michelangelo's intense adoration for the male form with every curve and shadow. Well worth it - and definitely worth booking ahead to skip the lineup.
We also toured the fashion museum and the Bobobi gardens at Palazzo Pitti. The latter are huge and built onto a steep hill so it was hard to imagine the Medicis or Napoleon really using all of them for leisurely strolls. The palace itself is not a pleasant looking building - more like a prison.
We also spent a fair bit of time combing through the various markets looking for leather deals. No shortage of leather in Florence! On our search, we found a little handbag shop near the Ponte Vecchio run by a fun Persian Italian named Tony. He was friendly and gave us free spumante and tips on where to eat. We visited again on our last day - I bought a new leather weekender bag from a neighbouring store - and since we were at a loose end, he invited us to lunch nearby. Fantastic meal...I got to share a massive slab of Florentine steak with him, and Diane had some simple yet totally delicious cannelini beans. Our other meals in Florence were great, but this was outstanding. Afterwards, we hung about in the shop and helped sell bags to other tourists while sipping more spumante all afternoon. Unplanned decadence is such fun! But it was short-lived - we had to head to Pisa the next day.
Pisa. Hmm.Wanted to like it, but couldn't. Yes, it's definitely got some worthwhile sights, but overall it left me underwhelmed after so many other great towns. We covered a good portion of it on foot going to and from the Leaning Tower and Duomo, then later wandering about looking for a dinner spot. It was a hot, hazy Sunday so I might have felt different on a busier day...but hard to imagine it.
Lucca, just 30 minutes from Pisa, is a whole different story. Much more gracious and inviting, full of beautiful piazzas and impressive towers. Completely surrounded still by its old wall, bicycles are the more common vehicles in town. And the wall was converted to a parkway popular with runners, bikers and walkers alike.
After a casual stroll along the wall pathway and a last bit of gelato, we headed back to Pisa for our flight to London. We had a few days of sightseeing (and a surreal Canada Day in Trafalgar Square with Sleeman's and a bison burger) before Diane's return to Canada and my sister Robin's arrival - then we were off to Oxford.