As with Venice, we had previously visited Florence with our children in early 1999. My memories of our previous visit are good ones and have kept coming back as we walked around Florence going past many of the places we visited with our children.
That said, one of the first things we noticed was how much shorter the distance between the Duomo and Piazza Della Republica seemed. So to the distance to the Pitti Palace. Perhaps not having a five year old in tow had something to do with it!
We had stayed in Via Strozzi, adjacent to the Piazza Della Republica previously, this time we are near the Duomo. How the Piazza Della Republica has changed, where the post office was on our last visit, there was the Apple Store. Via Strozzi is now the fashion hub and definitely not the cheap seats as it seemed in 1999! We walked into the foyer where the pensione we had stayed in was located only to see that it was no longer necessary to take the luggage up,for flights of stairs as there was a lift in a completely modernized hotel.
Our visit coincided with the first weekend of the month. In Florence this means that on the Sunday museum entrance is free. Maybe so but I’m not sure that it’s worth quuing for hours to get in if you can afford to pay the entrance fee. I’m glad we opted to visit the Pitti Palace on the Saturday albeit at 10€ each rather than queing for what looked to be a couple of hours to get in for free.
On our last visit we spent a day in the gardens of the Pitti Palace watching our youngest chasing the numerous cats who seemed to inhabit the quite spectacular gardens. This time we went inside.
We wondered whether it might be possible to go back to the Uffizi but one look at the crowds made the obvious!
As a result and consistent with our decision to stay out of museums we walked to Piazzale Michelangelo was worth it. The view in the late afternoon is quite special.
With such a long time away we decided toto take an appartment in Florence using Airbnb. It gave us a washing machine which after 2 weeks travel was a bonus. Also we had our own kitchen and decided to have some evening meals in. We enjoyed walking the markets and buying fresh produce the tomatoes were awesome as were the grapes and pears. the prosciutto and cheese were also excellent. We also tried the boar – it was very tasty but oh so salty! The only downside was the walk up four floors on the narrow staircase with our luggage. Seems I never learn.
One clear difference to our last visit is the army presence. Everywhere there are large numbers congregated there is also the army with their machine guns at the ready. As with Milan it feels both strange new comforting at the same time.
One thing remains the same with this visit to Florence, infact anywhere I go, I have absolutely no sense of direction. Infact it is almost certain that if I suggest a direction the correct choice is the exact opposite!