The Cathedral in Florence. Quite incrediblly ornate
The skyline of Florence from the Palazzo Pitti
Okay, so before I put Italy back in its box of sunshine and accept the fact that its autumn here in the Netherlands and distinctly chilly, I'll just post a few pics of Florence and Lucca.
I was quite overwhelmed by Florence with its phenomenal art and history. Every street seems to have some great church, museum, gallery, palazzo or historic piazza, and I spent three hours in just one of them. There is so much to see, you could spend a month there and not get round to everything. Maybe there's even too much altogether.
Two views of the Arno from the Ponte Vecchio
The day I went, there were wall-to-wall tourists because the museums and galleries were all free (for the weekend) - just my luck! It didn't help me though because I couldn't get in to the places I wanted to see at first and I ended up at the Palazzo Pitti, which is more of a walk from the centre, but worth every step. What a wealth of paintings and sculptures they had there! To see Titians, Del Sartos and Raphaels that I have only ever seen in books was quite amazing, and the Roman sculptures on display were..well..quite breathtaking.
The highlight, though, was going down a backstreet and into a beautiful church where three young musicians were practising. Maybe I've mentioned this before, but it was so lovely to listen to the organ, flute and clarinet of these three youngsters being played with so much love and joy in such heavenly (Yes, I mean it) surroundings.
The following day I went to Lucca, which is also very beautiful. Surrounded by high fortifications and with its narrow medieval streets leading to the old Roman amphitheatre, now a market place, it is a history lovers dream. The cathedral is magnificent as is the old baptistry with its archaeological ruins on display beneath the main aisles of the church. I thought of Maria when I went there!
When I arrived I had to buy a ticket to go in and see the ruins. I always head for archaeological sites when I know they are there as this was originally my career choice back in my student days. The ladies at the desk asked me where I'd come from, so I told them I'd come from Holland. Looking very crestfallen, they said they had information about the ruins, but only in German, French and English. Would English be alright for me? I answered yes, of course, with suitable seriousness and thanked them kindly before walking away chuckling. As it happened, it wasn't much use as the English was so incomprehensible, I couldn't follow the information easily at all, but it was kind of them to offer, wasn't it? Maybe they'll organise some Dutch leaflets for next year. I wonder what they'll be like...
Anyhow, I explored the rest of the town and liked it very much. It's a bit too touristy -again- for me, which is why in the end I preferred Pisa, but it's well worth a visit.
The medieval streets and Piazza's of Lucca are beautiful
One thing I should say about Italy is that the trains are fantastic - cheap, frequent and everything is in both Italian and English, including all the announcements. Given this, I'm still very surprised at how little English the Italians themselves speak.
One part of the old amphitheatre in Lucca
Well, I think I've done with the Italian blogs now...get back to reality again, VallyP. That Tuscan sun is now just a memory.