The final city on our tour of Italy was Florence. The heart of Tuscany and the cradle of the Renaissance. The Duomo is the city’s iconic landmark and one of the Italian “Big Three, the others being the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. So our first destination was Il Duomo (or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore).
Unike the ornate churches in Rome, the interior of Il Duomo is relatively bare, the relative bareness of the church corresponds with the austerity of religious life, as preached by Girolamo Savonarola.
There is an impressive patterned marble floor and the interior of the dome is decorated with an impressive fresco, started by Giorgio Vasari and finished by Federico Zuccari and a number of collaborators in the mid 16th Century.
The lines to scale the dome were long and I didn’t fancy clambering up 463 steep stone steps, so after the Duomo we headed to the Archaeological Museum. The Museum houses an impressive Egyptian collection and also many artefacts from Greek, Roman and Etruscan civilisations.
We also visited the garden of the museum, which shows tombs and burial mounds of ancient times. The Etruscan tomb, looked a little like a hobbit house.
When the museum was created in the late 19th century, its director felt that it would be incomplete without the actual tombs from which many Etruscan objects were removed, so he had a few of these dismantled and put back together right there in the garden of the museum. We were able to see the great variety of funeral monuments used by the Etruscans. There are tumulus, chamber, and “dado” tombs. The garden is open for visits only on Saturday mornings (and only if it is not raining), but if you can get in, it’s worth the price of admission (4 euro).
We then wandered to the Piazza della Signora with the Uffizi Gallery and a copy of the statue of David, the actual statue by Michelangelo is in The Galleria dell’ Academia. For us the copy would suffice.
Eating at one of the restaurants, on any of the principle piazzas of Florence, was going to be expensive, but we ventured into one, negotiated not to pay the 4 Euro cover charge and tried the Tuscan speciality soup called Ribollita (a thick vegetable, bread and bean dish) in a fancy restaurant on the Piazza della Republica.
The soup was very tasty, even if the price of 18 Euro was a little hard to swallow. After eating, we strolled around Florence marvelling at the medieval architecture, we finally slumped footsore in the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, where we watched the world go by and listened to a guitarist singing some popular pop covers.
They say if you stroke the snout of the bronze boar on the south side of Mercato Nuovo, you will return to Florence, we hadn’t thrown a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome but Khato was game to stroke the boar’s snout.
The Saturday we visited Florence was our last full day in Italy. We returned by train to Bologna. On the Sunday morning we had a last look at Bologna and almost got lost on the way back to the hotel. We flew out of Bologna airport after a two hour delay, not that we minded, we got a free snack and had less of a long wait at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen for our connecting flight to Tbilisi, which arrived as is usual in Tbilisi at stupid o’clock (4.30am).