Visit Florence by Mouse
Florence (Web site)(locator) is in the Tuscany region, 177 miles northwest of Rome, 163 miles south west of Venice, and 190 miles southeast of Milan. It was the center of the Italian Renaissance from the end of the 14th to the 16th centuries and that remains its legacy today. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are seemingly an inexhaustable supply of beautiful buildings sheltering a huge number of artistic masterpieces of painting and sculpture. Indeed many of the masterpieces are integrated as part of these structures or are on display on their exteriors. As far as we are concerned, it does not take away from their beauty to know that many of the sculptures and bas-reliefs seen on the outside of the buildings are copies. But if you are purists, you can see many of the originals in Florence museums. Michelangelo's David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, for example, is a copy of the original which can be seen inside the Accademia Gallery . Similarly, the marble bas-reliefs on the first story of Giotto's bell tower are copies of the originals that can be seen in the Museum Opera del Duomo. And the exquisite bronze bas-reliefs on the faces of the doors in the Florence Bapistry by Lorenzo Ghiberti, are copies, but the originals can be seen in the Duomo museum.
We visited Florence in 1995 and again in 2005. The latter time we stayed in the Camping Michelangelo, parked amidst olive trees overlooking the city. It is worth knowing about this campground, which, like many others in Italy, has accomodations in tents and cabins for people who are not necessarily campers. The rates were very low for Florence (and pretty much anywhere else, for that matter)--29 Euros per room, 8 Euros to share a room. And there is a nice restaurant with a terrace from which you can see the city below as well as a well-stocked store that has groceries, meats, cold-cuts, and a large wine selection. A bus stop is just outside the gate. The bus runs often and takes you very close to the Uffizi Gallery. We devote one of the photos pages to this campground.
The Uffizi Gallery has one of the best collections of Italian art in the world. It was closed on our first trip to Florence, so it became our first intended stop on our 2005 trip. As our letter reports, our visit turned out to be an ordeal, one that was not without its pleasures, but an ordeal nonetheless. If you want to visit it in any summer, we advise you to buy your tickets in advance, with a specific time to show up. Otherwise you will be in for an unbelieveably long and unpleasant wait in line. Ours was over three hours! It was because of that experience that we decided not to visit the Bargello Museum which also contains great masterpieces of art. That had a huge line waiting to get in also. But we did get into the Museum Opera del Duomo. There are many beautiful things in that museum, but the highlight for us was Michelangelo's (Florentine) Pieta. The bearded Nicodemus figure in that sculpture is said to be a self-portrait.
Even if you do not want to stand in line to get into some of the places you might want to visit, don't get discouraged. Just walking around that city is a delight. We came across a very large market building housing the City Market and spent at least an hour there looking at the food stalls and then had lunch in one of the market cafes. You can spend a good hour looking around the jewelry shop windows on the historic Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge over the Arno River with those shops built on either side of it.
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