After the alpine excitement that was the UTMR, we made our way down to Florence and Siena, for a few days of inner-city art, culture and very exciting food. Armed with tips from some other travellers we’d met along the way, we made it to our spectacular Airbnb apartment, dropped the bags, basked in the air-conditioning for a while, then made our plans to tackle the stunning cities of Tuscany.
We caught a day train out to Siena to look at the famous town square, medieval architecture and old town. Siena is famous for having adopted the Romulus and Remus mythology as part of its heritage, and so walking from the station, we saw a lot of the wolf-and-two-children motifs adorning the city walls. The architecture is breathtaking, particularly the imposing and very popular cathedral. We signed on for a tour that let us walk around the cathedral attic and enjoy the full view across the city skyline.
We then had lunch (pizza and gelato, both superb, both giant) and wandered around the city’s laneways for a bit, before taking a constitutional through the botanical gardens. After that, we walked around the city some more, looping back to the train station and catching a train back to Florence in time for a Florentine bistecca for dinner, which is a massive, expertly cooked rare, flavoursome steak that just knocks your socks off. We had it at an unlikely place named Trattoria Dall Oste which totally lived up to its TripAdvisor hype. Five stars, would do again.
The dominance of Florence’s cathedral is inarguable, but neither does it seem like anything but a huge, benevolent presence in the middle of the square. We’d walked past it a couple of times but were determined to do the line-up galleries of the Uffizi and Academia first, to feast our eyes on the famous artworks. This we did, standing in line from 8am both days to be in the first intake of visitors and enjoy the spaces in relative quiet and spaciousness. I won’t bore you with anything like a complete list, but the famous artworks – Caravaggio, Rubens, Botticelli and Michelangelo’s David – were amazing to see. The spaces themselves that early in the day are also just as enjoyable as the artworks, all light, space and tranquillity.
Florence also had its fair share of great food. We had enormous sandwiches from down near the Uffizi of roasted pork and vegetables, gelato (which was invented in Florence) every single day, and the aforementioned bistecca.
The town itself, filled with flocks of adoring tourists and good-naturedly-grumpy locals circumlocating tour groups, buzzing Vespas and stunning architecture, makes a tapestry of different cultures, all wrapped in the history of the region. It was lovely to just wander Florence, taking in buildings and sunsets, one hand running the DLSR and the other usually holding either an ice-cream or shopping-bag or map.
Which brings me to the architecture in general. Look at the photos and just go, if you haven’t been. Every direction promises delights from the palatial to the parochial, and as places to get lost go, Florence definitely tops the list.