The joys of Florence!

A busy few days — and very slow wifi — have kept us all from blogging. On Saturday morning, we left Rome and caught a 11:45am high-speed train to Florence, the landscapes of central Italy zipping past at us at 250 km/h, to arrive in the city’s main train terminal an hour and a half later.

We had to drag our small suitcases across the cobbled streets and sidewalks and over a bridge to our next AirBnB, where we were met by Giulia, a hospitable local woman who had renovated the apartment for rent with her family. It was down a side street, a few minutes from the main tourist areas, and a delightful mix of funky (exposed brick, wooden ceilings set off by splashes of colour throughout) and functional (making good use of a submarine-like space that might have otherwise felt claustrophobic).

We were mere steps from anything we needed — and many things we didn’t know we required… like the first evening, when music and revelry drifted through our open window, so Briar and I went out to discover a jazz festival concert in the neighbouring square.

The next morning, we got up early (for us!) to make use of the 9am reservation at the Uffizi Gallery. AJ wasn’t feeling well — perhaps undone by the air pollution in Rome and a sleepless night in the new bunkbed — so he stayed back to sleep in.

Briar, Jenny and I wandered with a few thousand other tourists the art-packed rooms of Italy’s most famous art gallery. The highlights were the Botticellis, including his mega-famous Primavera, although we had more space to admire the rows and rows of ancient statues collected there. The gallery included the only complete oil-on-canvas work by Michelangelo as well as a fascinating illustrative progression from the flat, heavily symbolic, and deeply religious medieval works to the humane, complexly perspectived and vividly alive Renaissance paintings that defined the Florentine style. Briar soon ran out of energy, so we finished up in just under two hours and wandered back over the bridge to check in on AJ.


He was revived enough to join us for an afternoon visit to the Accademia — a gallery more or less devoted to one work: Michelangelo’s David. And worth every minute there (even with the crowds). The “aura” of David, as you enter the hall and see him/it from a distance for the first time, can’t be diminished by the endless images and reproductions we’ve all seen over the years, the cartoons and cameos. The sense of awe grows even more as you approach and look up at his confident gaze and casual, yet ready pose. Selfies were being taken furiously around him, but he took no notice. He had a more important task at hand. (Full disclosure: I made sure to get a pic with my namesake.)

After leaving the gallery, we walked through the throngs of tourists in downtown Florence. Past the Duomo, through the Gucci shop (Briar’s request), over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, past the Pitti Palace (where we would traipse through the Boboli Gardens the next morning), past more churches than we could count and enough gelaterias to set our appetites alight… and back to the quiet sanctuary of our mini-apartment in the delightful Oltrarno neighbourhood.

Our final day, we slept in till 11am. No galleries booked, to the kids delight. We let AJ and Briar choose our destinations. Briar led us to the Boboli Gardens… although was disappointed to learn it was the site of a maze… past tense. Then we walked along the Arno to a park with an outdoor pool, bought our tickets and our mandatory swimming caps, and enjoyed a cool dip and some lengths in the 30C afternoon heat. Finally, we capped it off with a meal — ordered entirely in Italian!  — at the La Casalinga trattoria, famous for years among locals for its traditional fare.

And, yes, the pasta is on a whole different plane of pleasure here in Italy! And so is the gelato…