2005 Letter from Florence: When we first thought about coming to Italy in August, we worried a lot about how hot it was going to be. As it turned out, we need not have been concerned. It is warm during the day, but it cools off at night. It has been lovely here. And it has really been bad in southern Germany, which we just left. All that rain has caused lots of flooding there. The environmental factor we should have worried about in Italy was not the weather – it was the tourists. There are what seem like millions of tourists in Florence. In fact, there were so many tourists in Florence… Tell you what. Let’s start at the beginning. We were in Firenza in 1995 or 1996. Last time we were here, we tried to get into the Uffizi Art Gallery but it was Monday, and it was closed. This time we determined that it would be our first stop. We succeeded in visiting the gallery, but it was an ordeal.

We got on the bus at the campground and were delivered to the riverfront about a five-block walk from the gallery. The Uffizi is huge. The entrance was so far away that we could not see it. Not until an hour of waiting later did we find an electronic sign saying that the line was between two and three hours long, except if you had made a reservation beforehand. This was an odd time to tell us. We already had an hour invested. As a result, we decided to stick it out. We did not get into the building for two additional hours and fifteen minutes. Never stood in a line so long before. We will never do it again.

The collection is justly famous and interesting even if you go through backwards as we did. That was because the toilets were at the end and after over three hours on our feet getting to them was of first priority. They were so far from where we entered that we did not want to return and start at the beginning. We cannot say that it was a pleasure to finally walk through. There is very sparse seating throughout. Almost everything was poorly displayed. Lighting was very, very dim, the paintings were displayed behind either glass or plastic panels, and some were so high you had to crane your neck to see them perhaps 10 feet away. There were very few places to sit and look.

When we reached the beginning, we took the lift downstairs and found ourselves in the entrance rather than in the exit. The young lady in charge immediately told us we should go back up and go through the exit – only to be confronted with a very tense and exhausted old lady who said "Absolutely not. I am not walking another step." They let us go out the "In" door!

As we said, there are a lot of tourists in Florence, so there are going to be lines. But a tourist friendly Uffizi could make some changes. At least they could put the electronic bulletin board in a place where it would warn you about the length of the line before you’d been standing an hour.

That experience changed our choices. From that day on, if there was a long line, we went somewhere else. As a matter of fact, instead of viewing more paintings and sculptures the next day, we found a place to cut  Adelle’s hair and discovered a really wonderful food market. Can’t complain about that.

 In the cathedral museum in Florence there is another thing we wanted to see. It was a Pieta done by Michaelangelo when he was 80 years old. Apparently, a piece of the marble broke in the wrong way, and he never finished it…but one of his associates did. This Pieta has Nicodemus as well as Mary and Jesus. The face of Nicodemus is that of Michaelangelo. The statue was among the most beautiful we’ve ever seen, affecting us both.

The campground in Florence is worth a bit of description. It was located high on a hilltop overlooking the city. The view was spectacular.  One could actually walk down the hill, cross a bridge over the Arno, and enter the city. But for older people, like us, there was also a bus that stopped just outside the gate. The campground’s sites were spread among olive trees with lots of olives growing. Our site was shaded by a large one of these. All facilities on the campground were reached by walking and climbing stairs—to the lavatories, the bar, the internet point and the market, which was the best supplied market we ever have had the privilege of shopping in. This fine campground had only two defects. One was the high cost of the internet service and the other was that the electricity was 2-3 amps. That was enough to run our fridge, and our tiny fan. It was not enough to run a microwave or even a toaster.

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Intrepid Traveler
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