Florence – Day 1
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Crowds, crowds, crowds… we surely have been spoiled so far, but all of that is going to change! This Renaissance city isn’t only high on a “Bucket List”, it is also Easter week, which adds to the chaotic drama… Mamma Mia!
Taking the train from Lucca to Florence is an easy ride, but when you arrive at your destination, you are caught in a sea of people who seem divided into two groups. Group 1: They know where they are going, and you are standing in their way. Group 2: They look rather confused, twist and turn the map of Florence in their hands, and desperately look for pictorial signs. You can guess where we fit in!
Note to travelers:
1. A one-way train ticket from Lucca to Florence costs a little over 7.5 euros/person.
2. Since April 1st, like in Rome, it is more difficult for tourists to easily access popular sites. Reservations are now required at several locations, and since lineups are huge, even in April, you have an advantage if you buy the Firenze Card. We would advise planning your visit carefully to avoid disappointments (also because visiting hours vary from one day to the next).
3. Firenze card logistics: Start at the Uffizi or the Acadamia, purchase your card and make a reservation for both sites. When visiting other sites, you can skip the lines and show your card to receive your entry ticket and get in. The beauty of having the card is that ALL FEES are included, whereas, without it, you have to pay extra for any special exhibits at a particular site. At the Duomo, however, you have to line-up like everyone else after you get your tickets. Remember that patience is a virtue…
The Academia Gallery is awesome and a must-see. It is filled with Renaissance work, and you have a hard time pulling away from those mesmerizing pieces of art! The colossal statue of David (the original) stands alone in all its glory! My favourite pieces, though, were the Gothic Florentine paintings on wood, with a gold background, many of them in ornate triptych compositions. Divine!
Across the cathedral, the Baptistery was very disappointing. Only a section in front of the altar was conducive to feel the grandeur of this place. The somber atmosphere, together with the fact that much of the walls were covered for cleaning or renovations, made the experience almost painful. Even the majestic doors – the South and North doors, as well as the Gates of Paradise – were kept at bay, the originals being in the Cathedral Museum. Raymond felt completely ripped off and was not afraid to let me know… 😠
On the Piazza del Duomo, the architecture of both the cathedral and the dome is really overwhelming! This monumental structure is both magnificent and imposing. With all the houses built so close around it, however, you need a very wide angle lens to capture the beauty of this massive church! As you “click away” with your nose up in the air, you bump into other people or they block your view, you jump to avoid horse-drawn carriages, and you ignore as best as you can the harassing vendors who keep insisting you should buy a selfie stick even if you do not carry a phone… 😡
Dealing with huge crowds, finding our bearings, navigating the intricacies of the tourism system… we arrived home exhausted!
The familiar sight of Lucca’s walls was comforting… Until we do it all over again tomorrow…