Tuesday October 4 we had a long full day in Florence. We caught the 8:30am train from Montecatini Terme-Monsanto, the same station Michael and I had arrived in. There was a very large group with signs crowding onto the train with us, and we would see them again later in the day.
In Florence we started with the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – aka the Duomo. The greatest highlight and the dominant feature in Florence was the Duomo, also known as the Medici Cathedral. It is the largest masonry dome in the world and took almost a century and a half to build. It is a symbol of the Renaissance in Florence. The lineups were horrendous, and none of us cared to wait in line, so we passed on entering the Duomo and all its accompanying venues.
The streets were packed with tourists and cart-based shops. The street sellers were relentless and hounded you if you even slowed down. It wasn’t possible to stop and look without being accosted… so I didn’t even look. I’m not sure they realize how much their tactics backfire as I would quite likely have considered one of the beautiful leather purses or gloves, or intricate scarves. We also saw several unlicensed street sellers scrambling to collect their wares from the piazza floor and quickly disappear into the crowd before the police could catch them. They were very adept at melting into the masses.
Outside of a political headquarters there was a group of picketing protestors who were on a rotating strike. The group from the train were among them – Marketa even recognized one of women from our visit at the Redi spa the day before. Luckily we had completed our spa visit already as we were not sure what job action was to follow.
Next we ventured over to the central market, where the ground floor was a traditional market and the second floor offered a variety of food and beverage options. We lunched there after much deliberation on what to eat. We, especially lifelong fan Derek, had wanted to see the Galileo museum but it closed at 2pm and we had missed it. Several other museums also closed early or were totally closed on Tuesdays. So having missed the Galileo museum, we headed over the Arno River and up the steep hill climb to check out the House of Galileo. Crossing the river we checked out the Ponte Vecchio. The medieval, arched bridge was the only one to survive WWII and today the enclosed shops are no longer butchers and farmers but jewelers and art dealers. The House of Galileo was a quaint, but non-descript home and apart from us mapping it, you would easily miss it. We continued on to the Bardini Gardens to get a view over the city, but unfortunately the only access was via an exhibit and we could not justify the cost for a quick vista shot.
We headed back to the cathedral for drinks, Aperol spritz for the others and I chose to have a prosecco. After complaining that my bubbly was flat, I managed to get a replacement glass by listening to a lecture that not everyone gets the first glass of a new bottle! But I got a glass from a new bottle 🙂 While there we met a family from Sao Paulo sitting at the next table. When the conversation drifted to politics, we learned they were keen Bolsonaro fans, so we quickly changed the subject and spoke only of touring Italy.
The one museum of interest that we found open was the DaVinci Museum where many of his inventions/ creations had been built and demonstrated. There was also an interactive section in the basement where you could turn cranks etc. to try them out. I especially liked his cooking invention that used heated air currents to turn the spit; the hotter the fire the faster it turned. I had not realized how extensive his war inventions were…
After a gelato, Derek & Marketa headed back to pick up some special salami and Michael and I revisited the Ponte Vecchio for some golden hour photos. Then we all made a mad dash to catch the 7pm train and managed to make it, perhaps because it left a few minutes late. Back at our abode, we had a dinner of charcuterie and Tuscan soup (from the grocery store – ok, but not the best). Derek enticed us all by making a dinner reservation for Thursday at a local restaurant known for its Florentine Steak – so needed to save our appetite for that!