Week 5: Part 2: Day 32 – Day 34
13th January, 2017 – 15th January, 2017
Today we were destined for Florence but not before we catch a glimpse of the spectacular Cinque Terre and give Pamela a little surprise on the way. Although we would view some stunning vistas of the Liguria region from the train, to immerse in the rugged coastline, we chose to stop for lunch at Vernazza.
The Cinque Terre, recognised in 1997 by UNESCO, is part of the Italian Riviera. A famous string of five idillic fishing villages that were in the past only accessible by mule tracks. Vernazza is the most northern town, founded in 1000A.D. It is known for it’s olive groves, romantic stone houses, castle, pastel coloured facades, harbour and it’s quaint seaside church.
Although Pamela was unaware, we had planned another stop. Soon we were off the train again, on a short free bus and walked under the ancient arches. She was astonished to be now standing in-front of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. She was thrilled at the sheer size of the Piazza del Duomo and the other lesser-known buildings it contained. We had kept this hush and her look of awe was heartfelt.
The tower used to lean at 5.5 degrees but since it’s restoration now has a lean of 3.99. Of course all the cliche tourist shots had to be taken.
We eagerly went to the office to get the free tickets for the cathedral and without any queues enjoyed the picturesque treasures within, before swiftly returning to the train station and our final leg to Florence.
The day was drawing to a close as we met our host Leo at the station and he led us to his apartment nearby for a multi-course dinner he had prepared and a much needed rest.
On the Saturday morning of Day 33, after a hot breakfast in the city centre, we first caught a bus to start at the famous Piazzale Michelangelo to take in the breathtaking vista. We would spend a full day walking down the hill, along the Arno, across the river, through vast squares, past the museums and galleries, through decorated arcades and laneways towards the Duomo.
“Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio, that bridge which is covered with the shops of jewellers and goldsmiths, is a most enchanting feature in the scene. The space of one house, in the centre, being left open, the view beyond, is shown as in a frame; and that precious glimpse of sky, and water, and rich buildings, shining so quietly among the huddled roofs and gables on the bridge, is exquisite”. – Charles Dickens
The sculptures in Piazza della Signoria are rife with political connotations, especially in relation to the Medicis. We spend a long time in awe at these magnificent sculptures including the famous reproduction of Michelangelo’s statue David. We are pleased that our boys understanding of Roman mythology means they recognised many of the stories and gods represented. Felix even had a chance to be Medusa…
Wandering the winding laneways of Florence finally led us in the evening to the breathtaking Duomo.
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in English “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower” is the main church of Florence. Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style with the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.
The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major attraction to tourists visiting Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed. – Wiki
A fitting end to a spectacular visit to this most quintessential of Italian cities.