Niccolò Machiavelli’s Home Town
I was looking forward to our tour of Florence - the hometown of one of my favourite authors. For years whenever I was working out of town I carried a copy of ‘The Prince’ by Niccola Machiavelli with me. Not exactly light reading - but something you can read over and over gaining more insight each time.
The cruise ship docks at the port of Livorno about 90Km from Florence. Livorno is a huge working port, to the point that, on our return from Florence, the bus got lost. Like many cities in Italy, there are many historical sights. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore them.
We decided on the “Italian Shopping & Views of Florence” tour. It was only a six hour tour, which turned out to be just right. My wife had picked up a ‘bug’ somewhere between Corfu and Rome. She insisted that we not cancel the tour, and wasn’t up for anything longer.
As with our trip into Rome, the drive into Florence was uneventful.
Before reaching Florence we stopped at the Pierotucci Italian Leather Workshop. The leather work was amazing. They had a men’s lambskin leather jacket that tempted me. It was 400 - and as much as I tried I couldn’t find a rational reason for buying it.
In Florence, the bus stopped to let us off on the Lungarno delle Grazie, which runs parallel to the River Arno. From there the tour guide led us on a short walk to Piazza di Santa Croce. From there we had about two hours of free time.
Before we left on the cruise I knew most of the major museums and tourist attractions close on Mondays.
I found a great website on things to do in Florence. It had an article called “What To Do in Florence On a Monday”. I planned out a route that would take us to most of open the attractions.
As with many of my plans, life got in the way. I hadn’t counted on the crowds, which limited how fast we would be able to get around. Throwing my plans aside, for our next trip to Florence, we decided to walk around and enjoy the city.
For no particular reason, we started up Borgo dei Greci not knowing where it led. Borgo dei Greci rises and runs into Via dei Gondi before entering Piazza della Signoria.
Lunch in Florence
We were looking for a place to have lunch. And, while there were many restaurants around the Piazza. The Ristorante Il Cavallino caught our eye. There was a bank of propane heaters warming the outdoor seating area. (It is next to the “Statua equestre di Cosimo” - the statue of Cosimo de Medici on horseback by Giambologna.) My wife enjoyed a rich tomato soup will I had the cannelloni - both were very good.
After lunch we started along Via Vacchereccia to Via Por Santa Maria. Shops lined the street selling everything from cakes and pastries to shoes and hand bags. The crowds were more than I was expecting in the middle of October. I can only imagine how crowded it would be in the summer.
We turned down the Via Lambertesca towards the Uffizi Gallery. The Piazzale degli Uffizi runs infront of the gallery. It was at that point I had a ‘brain freeze’. In front of the gallery there are statues of many famous Italians. Having a bit of a 'brain freeze' including - I completely forgot to take any pictures.
There is a short walkway from the Piazzale degli Uffizi to Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici. To the east along Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici is the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Like the Rialto Bridge in Venice, this medieval bridge has shops on either side. Once the home of butchers, it became the home to goldsmiths in 1565. with the building of the “Vasari Corridor” by Cosimo I de' Medici.
The “Vasari Corridor” is an enclosed walkway joining the the government building, (Palazzo Vecchio), at Piazza della Signoria and Medici palace (Pitti Palace). It allowed the Medici family to walk from their palace to their government offices without appearing in public. The walkway crosses the Anro river on top of the Ponte Vecchio bridge. To avoid having to smell the odor of the butcher shops, Cosimo had them replaced with goldsmiths.
The Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici follows the Arno river, running into the Lungarno delle Grazie. ( Where we had started our walk. ) We were to meet up with the tour again at the Santa Croce -- so I decided to take a ‘shortcut’.
Taking these ‘shortcuts’, I inevitably get lost - which I did.
I knew we were close to the Piazza - a few stops to ask directions and we were there.
The Basilica di Santa Croce, also know as Temple of the Italian Glories, dominates the Piazza. The Basilica is the burial place of some of the most famous Italians. It houses the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli among many others. There are tours of the basilica, you need to book a time - you can't walk in.
On the trip back to the ship we stopped at a Piazzale Michelangelo which has a panoramic view of the Arno valley. Built in 1869, with a replica of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ added in 1873.