The Italian Job – Day 5

Scorchio in Florence

Leaving La Spezia at 9.15 this morning, we enjoyed a comfortable train trip (1 change in Pisa) to Florence. Stepping out of the train, I was hit by two sensations – 1, the sheer number of people and two, the heat! One of the reasons for coming to Florence in April was because it is too hot to do southern European cities in July and August, but this was scorchio! Unseasonably so, hitting 29 degrees! Still, better the blue skies and heat, than leaden grey and rain. Florence is beautiful, even more so with the backdrop of an azure blue sky.

After checking in (our apartment is a mere 30 seconds from the Cathedral!) we headed to the Mercato Centrale – a big food hall – to grab some lunch. Here, you had to embrace the chaos, it was busy, busy, busy, but did provide the opportunity to try many different types of food.

For me, the Arranchini balls were my favourite.

Refreshed and refuelled, we headed out into the (sun baked) streets to explore the city, and what a pretty place it is. I grew up in the shadow of Wells Cathedral, which boasts the magnificent west front – one of the finest cathedrals in the world, bedecked with, I believe, more stone statues than any other – so sometimes cathedrals and churches can leave me a little “meh – good, but nothing special.” But Florence Cathedral is beautifully different. I spent much of the day thinking it was painted, it was only this evening that it was pointed out to me (by Becky, must give her credit for educating me!) that it isn’t painted, but its colourful facade is made up from different coloured stones. Magnificent, there is no other word for it.


We ambled on from the cathedral and Duamo, looking for some famous coffee and ice cream in the same cup. We arrived at the shop to be met by a big queue (bad) but things got a whole lot worse, very quickly. As ever, Becky spotted a photo opportunity and whipped out her phone to take a pic, but she couldn’t log on to the phone. Her lock screen would flash up momentarily, before vanishing, leaving the black screen of death. We tried what we could, but couldn’t get it to work. Becky was horrified at the thought of not being able to take any photos (or having to use my steam driven, ancient (4 years old!) mobile with a feeble camera), I was worrying about what apps we couldn’t now access (our train tickets, next accommodation etc.) and the prospect of shelling out for a new phone.

Disconsolate, we abandoned the lengthy queue for the special coffee/ice cream, and wandered on, both deep in our disappointed thoughts. We found another cafe, ordered coffee, and looked again at the phone. Long story short, somehow the brightness had been turned right down, so low you couldn’t even see the brightness slider. After a bit of trial and error, we worked out were the brightness slider was and were able to blindly slide it up. Let there be light! Hallelujah! The phone was working again, crisis averted, our travels could continue …

We saw some magnificent marble statues, like this one of Neptune:

… but round a corner, and down a side street we saw this much more modern (2021) statue that was my favourite:

We crossed the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) and climbed the hill to the Piazza Michelangelo and sat on the steps to enjoy a picnic tea, a stunning vista across Florence, and await the sun to set over the city. Sadly, every other tourist in Florence seems to have had the same idea. We (no surprise!) got there early, found our space on the steps, soaked in the sun and enjoyed the ambience. But as time wore on, more and more people arrived – not a problem – and also sat on the steps. With the steps now pretty full, however, many other people – the late arrivals – didn’t seem to see the bank of people sat on the steps and think: “nah, there’s no way through there.” No, steady stream of people tried to pick their way up and down the stairs, carving a thoroughfare through those of us sat taking in the view. (Just to be clear, there was a path to the side of the stairs that people could use)

This was our view when we first sat down:

… and this was the scene when we finally abandoned our spot some 30 minutes before sunset …

We headed back down the hill, enjoying fantastic views along the river and across the city

… before heading “home” after dark, happy and contented after a blisteringly hot day in the beautiful city of Florence.

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