On my third day in Florence I walked out to the impressive Palazzo Pitti, a huge Renaissance palace on the south-western side of the city. It is reached via the Ponte Vecchio, which is lined with jewellers’ shops selling cheap trinkets, and the v. Guicciardini. This latter part of the journey must have been all of 400 m but in the hot sun of a late June morning it felt like hard work. The entrance to the Palace leads one into a courtyard where there is shelter from the sun and along the colonnades around its edges, shops and a café.
From there I headed into the heat again, to explore the fabulously architectural Boboli Gardens. These ascend the hillside behind the Palace in a series of steps and inclined pathways. The views across the gardens and over the river beyond towards the rooftops of Florence are stunning. However, climbing the steep paths was hard work in the mid-day sun! Eventually I had to make a retreat, following the road back to the Ponte Vecchio. From there it was a short walk to the Galleria degli Uffizi, mercifully air-conditioned and offering respite from the sun. I spent several hours absorbing the richness of the work on display, pausing for a brief lunch in the roof-top café.
I made my way out into the sun again to bask in the more gentle warmth of late afternoon, and wandered aimlessly but happily among shops selling beautiful things that were far too expensive for my means. I was somewhat surprised by the scale of upmarket shopping in Florence – to be sustainable, there must be substantial turnover, presumably provided by wealthy tourists.
It so happened that this last day was the feast day of Florence’s patron saint, John the Baptist. I ran into a colourful parade in the city centre, as part of the festivities. My landlady had informed me that there would be fireworks over the river in the evening.
I dined early, thinking to avoid the crowds who were clearly heading towards the river for the fireworks. Few places were open so I took a chance with Trattoria Gabriello, and found myself very pleased with the food. However, after dinner, I wandered down to the river after all and stood for some time with the crowds, enjoying the friendly atmosphere and the street performers.
I had a really lovely three days in Florence. I think that three days is probably about the right amount of time to enable one to get a feel for this beautiful city. Perhaps if I’d had a little more time I would have stayed out of the sun at mid-day, and saved the Boboli Gardens for later in the day. But all in all I really can’t complain.
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