Florence day two

A nice place to eat at Piazzale MichelangeloVista Piazzale MichelangeloLots of dried and cured meatsItalian food marketTripe and other bitsThe ideal car for the Florence streets
A Florence maiden on the Arno riverLeather leather every wereA four point intersection that is normally full of cars and peopleEats and drinks at the Santa CroceDon't askBad constipation
The lovers treeAnother view of the Santa Croce

Florence day two, a set on Flickr.

11/6/2011

Today started with a Buffett breakfast that is not like the sort of breakfast we are normally used to. It consists of a limited selection of cereals, boiled eggs, thin cold cheese and ham slices, buns and breads, dry bread for toasting and lots of crososints, sweet buns and cakes.
After breakfast we headed back to the bus stop that is only a couple of hundred meters from the hotel to get back to the centre of town.
The bus stop is very close to a large roundabout that our bus has to go around before arriving at our stop. While we are waiting for it to arrive a very large tuck arrives at the roundabout to deliver some items. However there is no way he can get to the skinny streets close to his drop off. So he just stops the truck in the middle of the roundabout, gets out and walks with his goods to their destination. Meanwhile our bus arrives and can not enter the roundabout that the truck is blocking. Several minutes go by as the bus driver just waits, but this does not last long and a short blast on the horn occurs, but the bus driver is unaware that the truck driver is not in the drivers seat. Meanwhile more traffic is building up behind the bus and more tooting occurs. Several more minutes now go by and you can sense the frustration building with the local people also waiting at the bus stop. The bus driver now leans on his horn for a very long blast. Impatient cars now start tooting and then moving into the off ramp for the oncoming traffic of the roundabout to get away. You had to see this to believe it as exiting cars meet cars coming on the wrong side and going the wrong way round the roundabout. The truck driver now appears and is running down the street to his truck to the sound of horns and hand gestures from the waiting cars and bus driver. As he gets in the truck the locals are yelling from the bus stop ‘shamo’ ‘shamo’. Finally the truck moves on and the traffic is back to ‘normal’. Just another Florence traffic experience.
Once in town we decide to do the complete circuit of the town on the hop on hop off bus that takes an hour an a half, and then we,visit the central market.
The market is much bigger than we expected and there is a bewildering array of leather and other goods to choose from. The locals keep telling us that the only place to buy leather items in Italy is in Florence as they have the best craftsmen and leather. Sheree is on the hunt for some leather boots, a bag and some gloves. After discussing the price with several merchants, Sheree finally buys some very nice soft Italian leather gloves and we both buy soft leather glasse’s covers that hang around your neck for our reading glasses that we have been constantly been reaching for in our bags. We stubble upon a large indoor food market that smells of fish as you enter and permeates the entire market to a lesser degree as you move in. There are some wonderful and different items in here but nothing that we can take home with us or that we felt like sampling (see pics).
We spent most of the morning and early afternoon in the market and Sheree finally finds a couple of shops next door to each other further down the road, with bags that she likes. Prices are negotiated with both and a decision is finally made. As we walk out with the bag of choice the other lady shop owner gives us a glancing stare from her door and the pervious happy pre-purchase smile is gone. But the smile is all on Sheree’s face with her new lovely soft Italian calf leather, hand made bag and that is all that matters.
Next we visit a museum with the biggest display of stuffed animals from all around the world that either of us have ever seen. The quantity of birds was staggering and yes they had a Kiwi. They also have a huge display of original drawings and waxed human anatomy body parts from the 17th and 18th centuries that are so life like you would be hard pressed to tell them from reality. There where rooms and rooms of these and we found it fascinating but unfortunately no photos allowed.
We had an earlier tea in a nice taverna right beside the Santa Croce Church (see pic) before catching an uneventful bus ride home as we now thought we new the stop to get off. Don’t be silly the bus goes a different way, just to keep us guessing. Thankfully it is earlier and lighter than last night when suddenly Sheree recognizes the stop is upon us and we get off.

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Florence day one

A pretty maiden in FlorenceThe Florence Arno riverCamping in FlorenceViews of FlorenceViews of FlorenceSheree buying a scarf
Views of FlorenceStevens new BBQ apronSteven and a bronze statue of DavidSanta Croce ChurchSanta Croce church gardensInside the Santa Croce
DavidThe golden bridge of FlorenceThe golden bridge of FlorenceThe golden bridge of FlorenceThe busy streets of Florence
Looking back to the golden bridgeThe Uffizi galleryArmanis flat in FlorenceNeptuneThe Duke CosomoInside the Santa Croce

Florence day one, a set on Flickr.

10/6/2011

Our journey from Siena via San Giamano to the out skirts of Florence was fine. However we needed to cross through the centre of Florence to get to the Hotel Diva on the other side of town. Now started the most unbelievable driving experience we have ever had. Rules..what rules? The traffic just did what it wanted. Driving down a two lane skinny street at the speed limit, simply means that traffic just passes you, even if you are doing 30kmph over the speed limit and regardless of what is coming the other way and some times three abreast. A red light just means an indication that you may… need to give way, and a roundabout’s a giant free for all that begs believe how any one does not get killed several times a day.
With Sheree calling out instructions, the GPS chiming in with ‘turn left at the roundabout, then left again, then right. Horns tooting for god knows what and with total panic set in, we were amazed and very relieved that we finally made it safely to the hotel. It was with great relief that we put the car in the car park, under the hotel, and there it will stay until we leave. We will be catching the bus back into town. We had tea close to the hotel at a local restaurant before heading back to bed.
Our room was on the street side so it was a bit noisy, past experience has taught us the benefits of ear plugs so we did manage to sleep ok.
After breakfast we organized the number 22 bus that would take us direct to the centre of Florence. With a little hesitation we did get off at the right stop and were quickly swamped with hawkers for tours and other goodies. We bought a 2 person 48 hour hop on hop off bus tour for €52 that included a 45 minute walking tour of the centre of Florence.
The first trip on the bus took us to the panoramic view at the Piazzale Michelangelo. Here is a large bronze statue of David and the most amazing views over Florence. Sheree bought a new scarf here that you can see her choosing and wearing in the pics. Steven bought a very elegant BBQ apron that you can also see in the pics.
We needed to get to our meeting point for the walk around tour. The next hop on off bus arrived soon and we were on our way learning more on the history of Florence from the audio commentary as we went.
We are a bit early so go for a look inside the very impressive Santa Croce Church (see the pics).
After this we meet up with William our guide for the walking tour, and as it turn’s out we were the only ones for this time slot. So we have our own personal tour and guide. This was a truly enjoyable and very educational experience. We learned so much about the city, it’s history and culture. In the pics you will see Sheree looking at all the jewelry shops on the bridge with houses on it. This was originally the area for butchers and the offal was thrown into the river below. However one of the Dukes wives did not like the smell it made and being so close to their own place. So the Duke banned the sale of meat and passed a law that only gold could be sold there, and so it still is today. This was just one of so many truly interesting history stories.
We visited Micheal Angelos house. and then went to the Uffizi Gallery for our next tour. Guess who the guide was???? Yes William again. He created us like long lost friends and again we had an amazing and educational tour that gave us an appreciation of the fine old paintings and what the artists like Michael Angelo, DeVinci, and Rafael to name but a few and what they were trying to achieve with each painting. It was quite eery to be standing in front of these huge original masterpieces and to understand the painter talking to you through the canvas. We will not look at these paintings with the same eyes again. It makes such a difference when you understand a little about the artists and the detail they put into the paintings. Williams knowledge and understanding was marvelous. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos in these places.
It was now getting late and so looked for something to eat that was not Pizza, pasta or spaghetti. Chinese fitted the bill and we headed for the bus home…..aha… but the stop you get off at, is not the stop you get back on to go home. Steven jumped on the bus to ask if it went past our hotel. The driver was not impressed and said some derogatory comment in Italian and then proceeded to close the bus doors and start the bus with only Steven inside. Steven slammed his foot in the closing door that forced it to reopen. With the driver yelling abuse and the bus about to move on managed to jump off back to a relieved Sheree still standing at the stop.
Finally we found the right place to get on, but now it was getting dark, so this makes it harder to see what stop is our hotel stop. We must have looked like lost tourists with our map in hand and checking each stop to see where we where and what direction we were going in. A helpful local offered some help and we finally got off not far from our Hotel.
It had been a full on and eventful day and we where sound asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

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