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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beautiful Tuscany

Wednesday 5th September.

Sadly time to leave Rome.

It had again rained quite heavily during the night and the skies were very grey. Marianne was full of apologies for the weather but we assured her that we had seen many things during our short stay with her. She had been the perfect hostess and we enjoyed our stay at Oasis in Harmony immensely. We had plenty of room and the whole apartment on airbnb with self catering is great to keep the costs down, get the washing done, unpack the cases for a few days.

We left with rain falling and headed out of Rome on the A1. First stop was Tivoli where we toured the Villa D’Este which we had seen on an SBS program only about three weeks before we left on our journey. This villa is well preserved and in fact only int eh 1990’s did they discover more mosaic tiled floors when attempting repairs. The most impressive thing about this villa was its gardens and waterfalls. Great opportunities for many photos.

After a coffee, we then set off for our next accommodation near Florence. Villa Salauna is about 16 kms from Florence in a very small village, however the resort is 4 kms out of the village and we settled in very quickly. There are two swimming pools and we’ll have to see what time we have for that. We are here for 5 nights and trips planned into Florence by train, to San Gimignano and Sienna as well as to Prato. We went back down to the local area, checked out the train and parking arrangements, walked along the main street which is very quiet and not much happening before returning to the Resort and enjoying a beautiful dinner in the restaurant.

Thursday 6th September
Temperature – mid 20’s, very comfortable

Time to learn a new public transport system. We drove to the train station and purchased our one way ticket to Florence. We hadn’t read the timetable and waited about 45 minutes for the train. It only takes about 15 minutes to Firenze    Station and from there we purchased a daily ticket for all buses. We found a number 14 bus but had no idea which direction we were headed. The map we had was great and the landmarks were identified. We got off when we saw the sign to the Galleria Dell Accademia. Entry tickets were €11 each and as we found in Rome, there are many ticket sellers for the museum outside trying to sell tickets at inflated prices to jump the queue-€20 each for entry or €29 for a tour with a guide. The queue was expected to take an hour but in fact we waited 1 ½ hours, but passed the time chatting to two young girls, both students in front of us. One was from San Francisco and the other from the UK. We discovered they were staying in a youth hostel for €17 each for a 4 bed dormitory – not bad for staying right in Florence. We eventually gained entry to the museum which was reasonably impressive and the musical instruments were amazing dating way back to the 1500’s. As we approached one of the galleries, there were unfinished sculptures by Michaelangelo as well as the huge and impressive David. 

It is true that he has to be seen in this setting which was purpose built to “show him off”.  Everything in Florence is in easy walking distance so after visiting the Accademia, we walked towards the Duomo finding time for an expensive coffee stop along the way at about 2.45pm. The Duomo is a massive and impressive building from the outside but unfortunately very plain inside. We haven’t decided whether to walk the 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome but are tempted by the views that we’ll get once we arrive at the top. Will look at this challenge on Saturday.

There seemed to be crowds of people in piazzas today. Leather and souvenir shops were right along the way. We soon arrived at the Piazza Della Signora and Palazzo Vecchio where a replica of the David stands tall and from where we could take photos.
We continued around the corner to Galleria degli Uffizi and noticed many artists at work. Some paintings were fabulous and others not quite to our taste.  On to the Ponte Vecchio where there are myriads of small jewellery stores with all their gold before calling it quits for the day. We then had to locate a bus travelling in the direction of the railway station and then the quick journey home. We arrived at the station, purchased tickets then realized that the next train on the Livorno line was about 50 minutes away. There were again people rushing in all directions as this is the only train station connecting Florence to other capital cities and regional areas. No seats to be found but McDonalds with 100 seats upstairs. So a drink and a sit down was very welcome whilst waiting for the train.  It looks like buses are the go for around the perimeter of the city but walking is the best way to soak up the atmosphere and everything is close to each other. We plan another day in Florence on Saturday to do the Palazzo Patti on the other side of the river from the Ponte Vecchio.

Villa D'Este & foountains and gardens


Ponte Vecchio

Waiting in line for Galleria Dell Accademia

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